Every year there’s a new wonderkid on Football Manager that you’ll often see become a world beater in real life – but sometimes the scouts at Sports Interactive get it wrong. In this case, it seems that this Finnish star wasn’t meant to shine.
Words by Regan Foy (@FindFoy) // Follow us on Twitter (@claretandview)
Football Manager is one of those games that football fans can sink hours upon hours into due to the general realism the game offers and the thrill of unearthing the next gem.
There’s a story out there that former Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish, whilst he was in charge of Rangers was recommended to sign a certain Argentinian superstar called Lionel Messi by his son. Alex asked where he’d got this information, and when he revealed it was a game, he just dismissed it.
Word on the grapevine travelled relatively fast a year or so later that this “Messi” was the real deal, and McLeish asked if they could take him on loan before his enquiry was met with a firm ‘no’.
That’s the most high profile case – but there’s been a fair few transfers over the years that have been the direct result of the work of Sports Interactive – due to their extensive scouting network that’s now used by clubs worldwide, as well as Sky Sports News.
Mika Ääritalo Just Didn’t Catch a Break at Aston Villa
Finnish forward Mika Ääritalo signed for Aston Villa at the age of 17 in 2003 from TPS Turku – with Villa beating a host of top European clubs to his signature.
But after two years at the club, Mika made no appearances and returned back to Turku without any kind of development, and spent ten successive seasons there – appearing 196 times and scoring 49 goals.
In the 2008 instalment of the game, Ääritalo was now 22 – but still had a lot of time for development both in game and in real life.
Considered a ‘wonderkid’ in that version of Football Manager, Ääritalo became a fan favourite with players who would sign him and turn him to a world beater.
According to the Birmingham Mail back in 2008, that fateful year, Mika Ääritalo had his heart on a return to Villa Park after going from strength to strength and being picked for the Finnish national team by then manager Roy Hodgson.
In his conversation with the Birmingham Mail, the forward that was signed by Graham Taylor thanked the likes of Kevin MacDonald for helping him.
Whilst Ääritalo was considered a better player in his native Finland when he returned – so he had developed – could Aston Villa have put a little more time into the forward and turned what they thought was coal into a diamond?
With Mika Ääritalo, his career has never really took off, only playing a total of six first team games outside of his native countries’ leagues – and perhaps that’s where a player with so much ‘potential’ fell short.