Football Manager 2021 is here and the show goes on with the world’s best football management simulation game, despite the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Choosing a team to take over on Football Manager is exciting and who you choose depends on what sort of challenge you are after.
To help you, Goal brings you 10 of the best teams to manage on Football Manager 2021…
A veritable institution of European football, Ajax have earned their place among the continent’s elite, but it has become increasingly difficult for the Dutch masters in the Champions League.
Ajax have won the European Cup/Champions League on four occasions, but their last time lifting the trophy was in 1995, when Louis van Gaal’s side overcame AC Milan in an exciting final.
The expectations are, naturally, to continue dominating the domestic scene, but a Champions League triumph would exceed even the wildest dreams of the club in the current climate.
It is attainable, however, with the club boasting a considerable transfer budget of £45 million, along with players such as David Neres and Edson Alvarez, as well as wonderkids like Ryan Gravenberch.
With Euro 2020 coming up (albeit in 2021 thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic), taking the reins of England provides a different sort of challenge.
While they won the World Cup back in 1966, the Three Lions have never won the European Championship and when better to change that than the tournament where the final is being hosted at Wembley?
With stars such as Jadon Sancho, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in attack, as well as rising stars like Jack Grealish in the ranks, England are well placed to mount a challenge.
Indeed, the work that has been put in by the Football Association over the past 10 years or so means that England’s ranks are positively swelling with talent that should help the team challenge for glory.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is one of the best full-backs in the world (if not the best), Marcus Rashford is maturing into a key player at Manchester United and Phil Foden is tipped to replace David Silva at Man City.
Gareth Southgate managed to guide the country to a fourth-place finish at the 2018 World Cup in Russia – can you do any better?
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has returned to repair AC Milan’s reputation and restore its status as one of the powerhouses of world football, but the Rossoneri need a manager to take them over the line in that challenge.
“It was a big challenge to come back here to try to change the mentality, to try to change the situation and to make the players understand what Milan was about,” Ibrahimovic said recently.
“The Milan I know, the Milan that the whole world knows.”
It is a long time since the San Siro club have scaled the heights of domestic football, never mind European football and they have been forced to live in the shadow of Juventus (known as Zebre in FM21).
Indeed, a decade has passed since Milan’s last Scudetto and they have toiled in the Europa League, failing to truly resurrect their former glory.
However, a formidable squad has finally been assembled, with the likes of Sandro Tonali, Theo Hernandez and Brahim Diaz offering youthful enthusiasm to complement Ibrahimovic’s vast experience.
Should you need to bolster the panel, a decent transfer budget is available, though it is likely that you will need to dip into the loan market first.
The enduring appeal of managing Bilbao outfit Athletic Club lies in the challenge of cultivating a team of only Basque players and attempting to upset the Clasico cartel of La Liga.
While Barcelona and Real Madrid will mine South America and the rest of Europe for gems, you have to rely mainly on your youth system when managing Los Leones and, though difficult, it can be highly rewarding.
Athletic have not won La Liga since 1984 – also the last time they won the Copa del Rey – and they have never been crowned European champions (Marcelo Bielsa’s team lost the Europa League final in 2012).
Though the targets are limited, a not insignificant transfer budget of £22 million is available if you can identify worthy Basque players to sign.
However, the squad is already in pretty healthy shape with the likes of Inigo Martinez, Inaki Williams and Iker Muniain in the ranks.
Things have not been the same at Manchester United since the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The question is: can you do what Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal, David Moyes and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer couldn’t?
The Red Devils have had five different managers (including Ryan Giggs) since Ferguson passed the torch and none of them have been able to deliver Premier League glory.
Van Gaal won the FA Cup and Mourinho won the Europa League, but those pieces of silverware alone won’t cut it at Old Trafford; you have to win the league and Champions League.
The good news is, in addition to having a very decent squad, United have a massive transfer budget of £52 million to play with – the biggest in the Premier League and one of the biggest in the game.
Believe it or not, Sunderland are not just reality TV fodder for Netflix, though recent seasons have been very difficult for everyone associated with the club as they tumbled down the divisions into League One.
The Black Cats are six-time English champions and two-time FA Cup winners, who have historically been one of the best-supported teams in England, so the challenge here is to return them to the top table.
With players such as Aiden McGeady, Lynden Gooch and Conor McLaughlin in the ranks, there are plenty of senior internationals in the squad and enough quality to mount a promotion charge in the first season.
However, be under no illusions: a major rebuilding job is on the cards at the Stadium of Light.
With a team captain called Max Power, though, anything is possible, surely?
The time has come to end Bayern Munich’s hegemony over German football and finally give the people of Germany’s capital a team to be proud of.
Taking over Hertha Berlin represents quite a challenge, not only because of Bayern’s strength, but because you must first catch up with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Hertha have only been German league champions twice and both of those occasions came back in the 1930s. It has been a fallow field at the Olympiastadion since then, with very little to cheer about.
A transfer budget of £22 million (which is second only to Bayern’s) will help you on your way, but you will have to be shrewd and bring in the right players.
A solid core of talent exists there too, including players such as Krzysztof Piatek, Matheus Cunha and Dedryk Boyata providing a good platform from which to work.
It’s always sunny in Wrexham? Maybe not yet, but it could be if you usher in a new era of unbridled success at the Racecourse Ground, with a place in the Premier League being the ultimate goal.
There is the added intrigue of Hollywood sparkle at the Welsh club nowadays after they were taken over by Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
While Reynolds and McElhenney are expected to inject cash into the club, it will be a while before you will have a transfer budget worth shouting about, but you’ll be able to call upon the likes of Fiacre Kelleher (brother of Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher) and Guyana international Anthony Jeffrey.
The pair explained that their aim is to “grow the team, return it to the English Football League in front of increased attendances at an improved stadium while making a positive difference to the wider community in Wrexham.”
Are you up to the task?
David Beckham could never have imagined Inter Miami’s first season in Major League Soccer panning out as it did, disrupted by a global pandemic, but he will be aiming to gather momentum from here on in.
Some major stars have joined the roster in Florida, including former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain (who is reunited with his brother Federico) and World Cup winner Blaise Matuidi.
The star power of Higuain and Matuidi is complemented with the talent of players such as Wil Trapp and Rodolfo Pizarro, as well as Generation Adidas youth prospects like Robbie Robinson.
Obviously, the dynamics of managing in MLS are entirely different to those you can expect in Europe, with things such as the MLS Draft and the Conference play-offs to look forward to.
Once you have figured out the domestic scene, the next challenge is to win the CONCACAF Champions League – a competition that has only ever been won twice by clubs from the United States.
Rangers have been forced to watch on through gritted teeth as their eternal rivals Celtic lay waste to all before them in Scotland and the Bhoys are chasing 10 league titles in a row.
Your job at Ibrox Stadium is to halt Celtic’s procession and re-establish Rangers as the dominant force in Scottish football – something that has not been the case since the 1990s.
Rangers actually boast quite a strong squad by Scottish Premiership standards, cobbled together over the past few seasons by Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard.
Experience comes in the form of Jermain Defoe, Steven Davis and Scott Arfield, with the likes of Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent, Glen Kamara and Ianis Hagi providing flair and technique in abundance.
Should you not be content with your squad, Rangers’ wage budget this season is comparable to Celtic’s and, with Europa League football on the cards, you should be able to attract talent.