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The term ‘Wonderkid' derives from the German word ‘Wunderkind', which is defined as a child prodigy,

one who succeeds in a competitive or highly difficult field or profession at an early age

One of the most exciting aspects of playing the latest instalment of the Football Manager series for the first time is finding out who the latest wonderkids are and seeing if you can capture their signature before anyone else in order to build a trophy-winning team around them. Football Manager have predicted plenty of future wonderkids correctly but they do, on occasions, get it completely wrong, but that only helps create these FM cult-heroes.

We're going to take a look back at some of the former wonderkids from Football Manager and Championship Manager games of the past, the ones that will forever remain in our memories even though they didn't quite manage to do the business in the real world.

Wonderkids of the Past

Freddy Adu

One of the most infamous CM and FM players of the past. Dubbed the next Pele, Adu scored four goals at the 2003 FIFA U17 World Championship aged just 14 and between 2004-2006 netted 11 goals and 14 assists for MLS side D.C. United. That form earned Adu a 2-week trial at Manchester United but the young American failed to live up to the hype and the Premier League club decided not to sign him.

2007 saw Adu make the move to Benfica but the midfielder only made a handful of appearances before being loaned out to numerous clubs without success. A move back to the MLS with Philadelphia Union developed in 2011 where his form picked up but left in 2013 Adu was on the move again first travelling to Brazil, then Serbia, followed by Finland and eventually back to the USA with Tampa Bay, but all stints proved underwhelming and the once star of FM is now a free agent at the age of 31.

Ryan Gauld

Featuring on FM14, Gauld was a young Scottish playmaker that you could sign for next to nothing and after impressing in the real world, the starlet moved to Sporting Lisbon. Gauld only made two senior appearances for the Portuguese club before being loaned out to the likes of Vitoria Setubal, Aves, Farense and back to Scotland with Hibs. Gauld is now 24 and plies his trade with Farense whom he signed for permanently in 2019.

Maxim Tsigalko

For those of you who didn't play Championship Manager 01/02, you are forgiven for not knowing the name Maxim Tsigalko, but for those of you that did play that instalment of the franchise and still don't know who this is, shame on you! Maxim, or Maksim as he is actually called, was a young Belarussian striker that you could buy for around £1m and would guarantee goals.

However, following a decent start to his real-life career at Dinamo Minsk, Tsigalko never made it to a major European side and his career was blighted by injuries, injuries that would, in the end, see the striker call time on his playing days aged just 26.

Yaya Sanogo

Sanogo was a striker at the top of many FM11 players' wishlist as the French youngsters' finishing made him one of the hottest prospects in the game. However, after eventually leaving Auxerre for Arsenal in 2013, the real-life Sanogo couldn't hit a barn door.

The Gunners loaned out the striker to Crystal Palace and Ajax where the striker still failed to score a single goal, eventually ending his baron run whilst on-loan at Charlton in 2016 where he netted three times in eight appearances. The Frenchman then returned to his homeland with Toulouse between 2017-2020 scoring 12 Ligue 1 goals in 63 appearances before leaving on a free transfer.

Anthony Vanden Borre

If you were in need of a right-back on FM07 then most of the time you wouldn't have looked any further than Anderlecht's Anthony Vanden Borre. Even in his teens on Football Manager, the Belgian full-back was world-class, ready to command a starting position at most clubs and he could fill in at centre-back as well. In real life, Vanden Borre moved to Serie A side Fiorentina for just £2.4m but only made a handful of appearances before being sold to Genoa.

The Belgian couldn't hold down a first-team spot and ended up going on loan to Premier League side Portsmouth making 19 appearances in the top flight of English football before eventually returning to Belgium with Genk and then Anderlecht. Now 32 and with 28 senior international caps under his belt, it is safe to say that this wonderkid never really lived up to the billing.

Cherno Samba

In Championship Manager 01/02 there really was only one king of the goals and his name was Cherno Samba. Many an FM fan will tell you stories of their saves with Cherno Samba, with some claiming that the English teenage striker scored 60+ goals a season. With that in mind, you can understand while Premier League club Liverpool came sniffing after the Millwall youngster in real life, having a £2m offer turned down in 2002.

Samba left The Lions in 2004 despite never making a first-team appearance, opting to join Spanish side Cadiz where once again he failed to play. A loan spell at Malaga's B side saw the striker net 11 goals in 18 appearances earning him a transfer to Plymouth Argyle. Having netted just once in 13 league games for Plymouth, Samba failed to score at his next three clubs and ended his career at FK Tonsberg where he scored 3 goals in 11 games. He might not have done the business in the real world, but FM fans of the past will forever remember the name Cherno Samba.

Other Names Worth a Mention

There simply wasn't enough room to write about all of the famous wonderkids and where they are today, but some names worth mentioning that only just missed out on this particular list are…

Kerlon (FM06), Carlos Fierro (FM13/14), Khouma Babacar (FM10), Doria (FM14), Lucas Romero and Gaston Gil Romero (FM14/15), Tonton Zola Moukoko (CM01/02), Mark Kerr (CM01/02), Lulinha (FM08), Michael Duff and Kennedy Bakircioglu (CM01/02).

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