Football Manager 2020: Read our review for the best new features, wonderkids, free transfers and best clubs to manage

Alex Keble's review of the latest Football Manager game

To celebrate the release of Football Manager 2020, Alex Keble had a sneak peak to bring you a complete user guide with the best new features, clubs to manage and wonder kids to sign.

The game has just been released but the beta version has been available to explore for two weeks now - which is more than enough time to get to grips with the new features on this year’s game. It really doesn’t take long these days to settle into its rhythm.

With Sporting Life featuring in the new version for the very first time, here’s our review of the latest edition of the Sports Interactive franchise, plus everything you need to know to get started, including advice on which club to manage and which players to buy.

Best Clubs to Manage

Manchester United: Locked in semi-permanent crisis, Man Utd need restoring to the top of English football. There’s a big budget to do it, too, and unlike in real life Ed Woodward won’t get in your way. This is the perfect challenge to get to grips with the new game.

Sunderland: Last season’s unexpected failure to secure promotion from League One makes Sunderland, historically one of the biggest clubs in English football, an attractive prospect for anyone hoping to awake a sleeping giant in this year’s game.

AC Milan: One of Italy’s most prestigious clubs, AC Milan haven’t been in the Champions League since 2013 and have made a dreadful start to the new season – collecting just 13 points from 12 games. It shouldn’t be hard to improve on that, but returning Milan to the summit of the game won’t come easy.

Bolton: For those looking for a serious challenge, Bolton Wanderers start the 2019/20 campaign with -12 points. There’s no money and very little quality in the squad; restoring this once-great club to the Premier League would be very satisfying.

FC Andorra: Entering the third tier of Spanish football after paying a huge sum of money to replace CF Reus Deportiu, it would be quite the story if a club from Andorra made into the top tier – especially since they’re owned by Gerard Pique.

Danny Cowley a Football Manager fan

(video no longer available)

Top Wonderkids and Free Transfers

Here’s a short list of some of the best players we’ve played with on the game this year, excluding superstar names or anyone far too expensive to buy.

Wonderkids: Malang Sarr (DLC), Gian-Luca Itter (DL), Max Aarons (DR), Sandro Tonali (DM), Hamed Junior Traore (CM), Arne Maier (AMC), Romario Baro (CM), Diego Lainez (LW), Rober (RW), Thiago Almada (AMC), Amine Gouiri (ST), Erling Haaland (ST).

Free transfers: Lucas Silva (DM), Philipp Wollscheid (CB), Efe Ambrose (DC), Ivan Strinic (LB), Wilfried Bony (ST), Mile Jedinak (DM), Stefano Sorrentino (GK), Bicho (AMRLC), Giulio Donati (RB), Ricardo Montolivo (CM), Diego Poyet (DMC).

Best New Features

1) Club Vision: Managers are now expected to adhere to long-term club policies, including a ‘club culture’ and a ‘five year plan’. It’s a welcome addition that adds realism, both chaining users to board expectations and providing extra breathing space for long-term rebuilding jobs.

2) Development Centre: This feature is an attempt to improve developing youth prospects, but despite its high billing this is essentially just a way of viewing more information on a single screen, albeit with minor advances in viewing the progress of the youth team as a whole.

3) Graphic Improvements: One of the biggest changes, according to their own press release, is improvements in graphics: more realistic player anatomy, greater texture (shoelaces are now visible), and better light on the pitch. Very exciting.

Football Manager 2020 review

FM 20 is a very good game, or shall we say is still a very good game. Little has changed since the last edition.

Sports Interactive’s flagship new feature is a ‘Club Vision’ section, reflecting the growing importance in modern football of a ‘Way’; of managerial projects being defined by long-term stylistic goals alongside cold hard results. But the change, though welcome, is only really a minor tweak of previous incarnations and makes very little difference to the overall feel of the game.

And that’s the problem with FM20 in a nutshell. One is left with the sense Sports Interactive believe their game to be near perfect, needing only very minor tweaks to stay relevant. For all the build-up, for all the PR releases drip-feeding new features over the six weeks prior to its release, Football Manager hasn’t really changed in four or five years now.

The lack of women’s football is a glaring oversight, while it remains surprisingly difficult to integrate the Prozone statistics into tactical analysis. Users could do with more in-depth, specified tactical summaries from coaching staff to process the reams of data, because at the moment the game still feels oddly chaotic.

Football Manager addicts will no doubt enjoy the latest instalment of the series; it is still the most detailed managerial simulator on the market. And yet… what used to mark this game out was a thirst for innovation, a constant reinvention of the core features that made each fresh release a genuinely exciting moment in the calendar.

The game has frankly gone stale, perhaps reflecting the limits of the current match engine (tactically, nothing has changed this year) but more likely reflecting the lack of competition elsewhere. SI could do with being jolted into action as FIFA were when PES first rose to prominence, forcing EA Sports to scrap what they had and start afresh.

It’ll be painful, but it’s time for the developers to throw out the templates and build again – because a glorified data update really isn’t enough to show for 12 months work and a £39.99 price tag.

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