Developing players is an integral part of any FM career.
You could go ahead and only buy players at their peak, but that’s both expensive and inefficient.
Instead, you should focus on developing your best prospects and recognising when older players have passed their peak.
By paying attention to player growth, not only will you save money, but you will actually turn in a huge profit.
Take Erling Haaland as an example. In 2017, he was worth a measly £180K. On July 1, 2022, he joined Man City for a whopping £54.00m, a price tag even below his real market value of £135.00m.
There are a lot of details to pay attention to when developing players, especially youngsters.
If you don’t do things right, you might run the risk of stunting your youngster’s growth forever. That’s why I think it’s important to talk in-depth about the process. Every skipped step will impact growth negatively, and that’s just plain bad.
So, let’s take a detailed look at how development works in Football Manager, when and why players stop developing, and the best ways to help players who aren’t developing as they should.
Develop, develop, develop!
When do players stop developing on Football Manager?
Simply put, players stop developing when they reach an age between 25 and 29. After that, their attributes will start to slowly decline until they retire.
Before delving further into the topic, let’s talk about two important stats: Current Ability and Potential Ability, often abbreviated in CA and PA respectively.
Both values stand between 0 and 200, the latter being the maximum a player can reach. These are hidden values, meaning you can’t directly check them in-game.
For example, Lionel Messi has a CA of 195. Anyone with a higher PA could become even better than Messi.
You can only see these values through an editor, which is a powerful tool that allows you to modify your game’s database.
Personally, I suggest giving the in-game editor a try. It can help you discover a lot of hidden attributes and ratings. It’s a sort of Gameshark – oh, the nostalgia – for FM.
With it, you can also change things like championship rules, player attributes and whatnot. I don’t use it all the time, but it can be pretty fun.
Remember that a player’s CA and his star rating aren’t the same things.
The former is simply a value, while the latter is a relative rating that fluctuates depending on a number of factors, the main one being the quality of the rest of the squad.
For instance, here’s Romelu Lukaku’s star rating. At Chelsea, he has a four-star ability rating. If he were to play at a lesser club, for example, Bournemouth, he’d be a five-star player for sure.
A player’s CA can vary throughout his career, while his PA will be a set number from the start of the game.
It’s important to note that PA means how good a player could become, but not how good he 100% will be.
Some players, especially youngsters or newgens, aren’t assigned a PA, but a “PA range” instead. This is called negative PA, and it can go from -10 to -1.
A player’s PA could be any number between a set of values determined by their negative PA. For example, a player with a -10 negative PA could have his PA set between 170 and 200.
This means that a player could have 200 PA in one save and 170 PA in another. Negative PA manages to change who the best youngsters are from save to save.
Why did Sports Interactive add this feature?
First of all, it spices things up. Not knowing for sure which youngsters to develop adds an interesting risk factor. Secondly, it allows Football Manager to judge youngsters more fairly.
If your players just aren’t reaching their potential, you can find out some methods to help them do so here.
How to help players who are not developing?
So, you finally know when players stop developing and you’ve figured out most of the jargon behind developing players.
Well, now’s the time you learn how to actually develop players.
#1 Improve your club’s facilities
This tip works best if you’ve already been managing a club for a while and have an established relationship with the club’s board. Additionally, healthy club finances will surely help.
Improving your club’s facilities is the key to better development, both for first-team and youth players.
All training will be more effective the better your facilities are.
As such, your player’s attributes will improve faster and, more importantly, will have a chance to develop even further.
In fact, if your club doesn’t have adequate training and youth structures, you risk stunting your player’s growth.
To ask your board to upgrade your facilities, you need to go to “Club Vision” and click on “Make Board Request”.
Then, by hovering over “Facilities”, you’ll be able to ask the board to improve your youth or training facilities.
#2 Get the best Head of Youth Development you can find
If there’s someone on your staff team you need to be able to blindly trust is your Head of Youth Development.
Heis the man in charge of developing one of your most precious assets: your youth players.
Hire someone who can’t do their job properly, and he will seriously damage your club’s youth teams and, as a consequence, your club’s future as a whole.
You should hire a HoYD who fits your style of play. Each candidate has a different personality and coaching style.
You can see a potential HoYD’s preferences on their profile page before you hire them.
For example, this is Chelsea’s Head of Youth Development. He’s called Neil Bath, and he is a stunning lad. His preferred tactical style is Route One, his preferred formation is 4-4-2, and his playing style is standard.
As such, he loves training crossing, heading, technique, free kick tacking, jumping reach and all other important attributes when playing a tactical style based on crosses and quick counterattacks.
#3 Learn how to train your players
If you want to learn how to develop players effectively, you should learn how to manage your training sessions.
You could leave them to your assistant manager, but that’s usually a bad idea. As good as he might be, personally taking care of this will yield much better results.
Usually, all you want to do is set up a training schedule tailored to your squad’s needs.
For example, say you’re playing a classic 4-4-2 Diamond Narrow, and once you win the ball, you want your whole squad to move up as one unit and break the opposition’s defence.
In that case, you should focus on training sessions like “Play from the back”, “Ball distribution”, “Attacking Patient”, “Teamwork” and “Attacking Movement”.
Using the same module and tactics, when your side loses the ball, maybe you want your players to immediately get stuck in and be aggressive. Since you know a long cross might put you in a bad situation, you also want your defenders to train their heading prowess.
Looking at that, you should probably include “Aerial Defence”, “Transition – Press” and “One-On-Ones”.
Since I love you, here are some more training wisdom pills:
- Keep an eye on your training intensity, or else you might risk injuring players.
- Try reading the training session card to understand which attributes you’ll actually be training.
- Don’t forget to schedule “Overall” training sessions during the week, especially if you’re not sure what you should train.
- In the pre-season, focus on physical training and schedule some “Match Practice” sessions to improve sharpness.
#4 Let your players on the field more often
Match experience is crucial to a young player’s development, especially once they turn 18.
That’s when training will become less important than actually being on the field with the big boys.
But, what if these youngsters aren’t good enough to play with your first team?
Easy, send them on loan!
You have a couple of options. If possible, I prefer loaning them to clubs playing in lower divisions.
Naturally, I would never include a mandatory or optional future fee in the loan agreement, since I want the player to come back to my team once he gets some experience.
Additionally, I prefer locking in the playing and unused wage percentages to 100% in all my loan offers. You can do that by clicking on the little lock near each of the two voices.
Moreover, don’t be scared to send players on loan for a couple of seasons in a row. All you have to make sure of is that they gradually get to play with better and better players.
If you can’t get loan offers for your players, you might want to send them off to a “feeder” club.
A “feeder” club is an affiliated club from a lower division, that allows you to send off younger players to them for training and match experience.
To do so, you need to right-click on a player’s name, go to “Squad”, hover on “Move to Affiliate”, and then you can select the affiliated club you’ll send your player off to.
I suggest choosing an affiliate with decent training structures that plays in a respectable league.
You won’t get any money from a feeder club, but that’s not a problem. Your main goal is to develop players, after all.
#5 Learn how to set up mentoring
I have no idea why people don’t take advantage of mentoring as often as they should. It’s a crucial feature if you want to take your players, especially younger ones, to the next level.
If you didn’t know, you can create mentoring groups where your veteran players can vet youngsters, hopefully improving their personality and player traits.
All you have to do is go to “Training”, click on “Mentoring” and create some groups.
You’ll probably know that each player has a personality and some player traits, both of which can change during their careers.
There are numerous personalities in the game. Some, like “Mercenary”, “Unsporting” or “Spineless” can only be given to newgens. The most common personality at the start of the game is “Balanced”.
Player traits define what a certain footballer likes doing when he’s on the field For example, a midfielder with the “Arrives Late in Opponent’s Area” trait will wait for the perfect moment before entering the area.
I prefer adding five people max in a single mentoring group. Usually, I add an older player with the traits and personality I want who will work as the “mentor” and three to four younger players who will be the “mentees”.
If possible, I’ll try to put mentors and mentees from the same social group. Additionally, mentors should be higher up in the squad hierarchy compared to the youngsters they’re mentoring.
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