Maxim Tsigalko CM 01/02: A tribute to the original ‘cheat player’

Mention ‘Maxim Tsigalko CM 01/02’ to any Football Manager aficionado of a certain age, and a wry smile is guaranteed to break out over their face.

Those who played Championship Manager 01/02 back in the day know him as one of the greatest strikers in the history of the franchise. Maxim, real name Maksim Tsyhalka, sadly passed away at the end of 2020 aged just 37, but he is still remembered as a cult legend, and one of the few professional football players that is remembered more for his imitation in a popular video game than in real life.

Here, we remember an icon of the definitive football management simulation series in existence, and also give some advice as to how you might even craft the next Tsigalko on the present FM edition.

maxim tsigalko first stats
These are the initial stats for Maxim Tsigalko in CM 01/02

How Maxim-mania began

Maxim shot to fame amongst the Football Manager community in 2001 when he first appeared in CM 01/02 as a young talented striker at the Belarusian side Dinamo Minsk. Right from the off, those who stumbled across Maxim knew they were onto something special, as the 19-year-old started off with some fantastic statistics – as follows:

  • Finishing: 20
  • Determination: 18
  • Balance: 18
  • Acceleration: 17
  • Flair: 18
  • Pace: 17
  • Technique: 17

Remarkably, he was available for just around £1m. Players up and down the country soon cottoned on to Maxim and just how good of a striker he was, but they might not have realised just how much he could develop. Players making more goals than appearances is rare unless you are Ronaldo or Messi,, but Maxim Tsigalko was doing it way before that dominant duo – albeit on a virtual plane.

Players would share their stories of Maxim with other fans of the franchise and even produce photos to prove they weren't being dishonest. I had heard stories of Maxim scoring over 100-goals in a season for some players, though I never experienced that myself and didn't believe the tales until I saw this photo.

When Maxim reached his full potential, around the age of 25, his stats were better than those of every other striker in the game. Maxim had 20s for Acceleration, Creativity, Finishing, Off the Ball, Pace and Technique, not to mention 18s and 19s for Agility, Balance, Determination, Flair, Influence and Jumping.

He scored goals aplenty for club and country, never letting down a single Football Manager player. Some players still play CM 01/02 simply to manager Maxim and dominate European football, such was the power of this unknown striker from Eastern Europe.

Tsigalko's full stats at age 25

The man behind the Maxim Tsigalko CM 01/02 phenomenon

A certain Antonio Poutillo was given the responsibility of choosing the stats for Belarus players in CM 01/02 and he stated, in an interview with Gazzetta, that it was no accident that Maxim was a star prospect in the game.

“I loved Tsyhalka very much. He was quick, had a sense of goal, and in the small classes, he shone…. I put him in a high degree of reputation (so that he would be loaded up into almost all databases)”

Maxim Tsigalko's one and only international goal in two appearances for Belarus came against Uzbekistan in a 2003 friendly that ended in a 2-2 draw. Maxim did pick up some honours during his career, claiming the 2004 Belarusian Premier League title and the 2003 Belarusian Cup.

Following the news of his untimely passing on the 25th December 2020, floods of tribute videos were posted online, with all coming from fans of the Football Manager series that remember Maxim Tsigalko with such fond memories. Even established newspapers such as The Express released stories on the player's passing, commenting on his fame in the popular football management simulator.

In this save from a Portuguese CM 01/02 user, Tsigalko's average rating is also extremely good, growing year on year.

Real life fails to measure up to FM stardom

Of course, his real-world career was rather modest, but it might have been very different, since Maxim was a great prospect in Belarus and even went on to score for his country at senior level. Maxim made his senior debut for Dinamo Minsk in 2001 and played for the club through to 2005, scoring 24 league goals in 53 matches.

Maxim moved to Naftan Novopolotsk, Kaisar, Banants and Savit Mogilev, but injuries halted his development and the goals soon dried up, causing the player to retire from the game aged just 26.

Maxim received some money from football but ended up working as a construction builder for just $20 a day, but the heavy lifting caused the former international footballer serious health issues. Tsigalko didn't know how popular he was on CM 01/02 until it was too late, he had hoped to have made some money from his fame but he wasn't negative about it.

“I first learned about how good I was at the game when a Russian journalist told me so, and I was really shocked. He told me that I am the most popular footballer in the game… I didn't know the game existed, so I just laughed. Later on, I realised that I could gain much money off it, but it was too late.”

Maxim Tsigalko CM 01/02
Tsigalko died in December 2020

How to find the next Maxim Tsigalko

Online gaming community members are a different breed, pulling off feats once considered impossible in front of thousands on their Twitch channels. And even though the FM brand has evolved its technology and honed its approach to scouting, there is an army of dedicated fans who will stop at nothing to break the game as they did when 01/02 was first released.

There is already a vast amount of information online about unlikely FM heroes, including our own guide to FM 24’s hidden gems, but there are some others worth mentioning here too.

Get lucky with Regens

Regens are players that aren't in the game from the start, and they aren't real players obviously. They don't count as wonderkids in the usual sense, and finding them is simply pot luck – or a by-product from the luxury of having the best scouting network.I will admit to having discovered a few Maxim-style regens in FM games, but from personal experience, none have (or will) ever take the place of the £1m Belarusian goal machine.

Consider individual merits

While it will require near lottery levels of luck to have a teenager or early twenty-something packed with 19 and 20’ ratings across the board via Regen, looking at young players averaging 15+ in vision and finishing might be a good starting point. Of course, they’ll need top-notch backroom staff nurturing their talents to get them into the high teens, if not a 20. While other areas might still fall way short of Tsigalko’s ridiculous ratings, there is a chance that a high rating for finishing will achieve effects reminiscent of the Belarusian beast’s prowess in 01/02.

Focus on specific areas for backroom staff

Speaking of ratings, they are also hugely important in terms of hiring the right backroom staff to nurture the next Tsigalko. Choosing those coaches with ‘model citizen’, ‘professional’ or ‘model professional’ personality types is an important part of maximising the effectiveness of training sessions. The best results are seen when employing coaches with at least a 15 rating in determination, level of discipline and motivation.

Create the ideal training regime

The ‘next Tsigalko’ need not be an outright striker. Even a modern-day winger or number ten can be converted into a decent striker, provided that you set their individual training intensity to double the default amount. A winger with lots of pace and vastly improved finishing is a dangerous weapon indeed.

Rest is also important here too. Overworking a promising player can lead to injury and a dip in form, stunting their development. ‘Double Intensity’ should only be employed if a player’s condition is 80% or above, while any players with less than 60% should be put on ‘no pitch or gym work’.

Will There Be Another Maxim Tsigalko?

The Football Manager series has come on a long way, especially in terms of how they do their scouting. Of course, every new version of the game always has its fair share of ‘wonderkids’, and the current one has been no different.

The likes of Endrick and Lamine Yamal are certainly in that category, and the latter has backed that up in real life very recently, stealing the show against France in Spain’s victorious Euro 2024 semi-final.

If you fancy signing Maxim Tsigalko but don't own Championship Manager 01/02, the game is available to download for free, legally, at FM Scout. I'd recommend doing this and making your own Maxim Tsigalko memories.

A lifelong Evertonian, James started writing for an Everton fan site in the mid-2000s and then developed his own blog covering football transfers from across Europe's big leagues before becoming a regular match preview and betting tips writer for Biggest Free Bets. James moved to Free Super Tips next, and then Racing Post, where he worked as a full-time betting tips writer for a few years. Following that, James joined Football Whispers in December 2020 and has been a permanent fixture ever-since, currently covering the Premier League amongst other things