Football Manager is one of the most popular football games on the market, and since its inception in 2005, there have been 13 additional instalments to the series. It provides players with the ultimate experience, the dream of football fans the world over, which is to manage a team to greatness.

The game is so detailed and, at times, scarily accurate, that real-life clubs and managers have often turned to it for tips. In fact, sports data company Prozone uses stats from the computer offerings to help clubs with their recruitment in the transfer market. Here, we take a look at some of the occasions that the Sports Interactive game has been absolutely spot on.

Arjen Robben at 16

Nowadays, there are few people who haven’t heard of the legendary Dutch winger, Arjen Robben. The fierce speedster made a name for himself as a crucial part of a Bayern Munich side which has absolutely dominated the Bundesliga since the turn of the century, to the extent that few would see the value of betting on a winner each season.

There is no doubt that Robben is one of the best players of a generation, but there is a slight chance he may not have been noticed if it wasn’t for Football Manager – or more accurately, the franchise’s predecessor, Championship Manager. It was the management game that spotted the player when he was 16 years old at Groningen. The developers gave him a rating of 19, which encouraged Chelsea scouts to investigate him further. The rest is history.

Could Alex McLeish have Signed Lionel Messi?

Messi has continued to dominate La Liga top goalscorer markets

When Alex McLeish was in charge of Glasgow Rangers, he was seeking to sign young, talented players who could go on to great things. It was during this time that McLeish’s son Jon claims to have gone to his father with some advice on who he should look to acquire. Apparently, the young Football Manager-obsessed football manager’s son had unearthed a 13-year-old Lionel Messi on the game. Jon told his dad that he believed the Argentine could go on to great things, but the Rangers manager ignored him, saying it was “just a game”.

What a major mistake that turned out to be, as the gifted player went on to be one of the best footballers ever. In fact, Messi has continued to dominate La Liga top goalscorer markets throughout his distinguished career. Now, imagine what he’d have been like in the Scottish Premiership.

Deco’s potential

Although Deco’s performances were hit and miss for some time, Football Manager still labelled him as a future superstar

When Brazilian midfielder Deco joined Benfica at the age of 19, he didn’t even make the first team. Instead, the Portuguese top flight club loaned him out to second division side Alverca. Although Deco’s performances were hit and miss for some time, Football Manager still labelled him as a future superstar. The game once again turned out to be spot on, as Jose Mourinho later signed the technically-gifted playmaker for Porto.

Deco made 154 league appearances for the Portuguese giants and was a key component of the Champions League winning side of 2004. After that, he went on to win the tournament again with Barcelona in 2006. It is clear that Benfica should have shown more faith in the late bloomer.

The Football Manager developers seem to have struck on the perfect formula for uncovering gems and predicting the footballing future. When placing bets on real-life occurrences, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad idea to run some simulations in the game first.