Football Manager 2013 has been released today, and as usual the fans are rushing to find the best bargain players to fill out the ranks of their favourite team. Luckily for you I've had my hands on the review code for a few days now, and I've been able to track down some of the top cheap players for you to keep an eye on. Unluckily for me I won't be able to use any of them, as my beloved Aston Villa have started the season with a transfer budget of sod all. Looks like it's all loans for the villains this year.
Anyone who watched Russia's 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic back during Euro 2012 will remember Dzagoev. Russia's star playmaker was at the heart of the fantastic fast paced passing football they played that day. Russia may have disintegrated after that performance, but that hasn't stopped Dzagoev from maturing into one of Russian football's biggest stars, and in FM13, you can get him for nothing. When the game begins Dzagoev has only six months left on his contract, offer him a good deal and his services will be yours come January. The more impatient can get him right away for a mere £4 million, still a great bargain.
Oh how Craig Gordon's star has fallen. Once the most expensive goalkeeper in England, the Scottish keeper's perpetual knee problems have seen him fall out of favour before ignomoniously being released on a free. Despite all this, he remains a solid and reliable player, so long as he stays fit, and for the grand price of £0, a great bargain.
This exuberant Israeli is capable of playing all across the midfield, using his prodigious dribbling skills to strike at the opposition from left, right and centre. Melikson is one of those great improvisers, all flair and technique, capable of creating a goal from nothing. Beware his poor stamina and work-rate however, which could see him fade away if the game starts going against him.
Some footballers are subtle, intelligent, masters of passing and control. Libor Kozak is not that kind of player, he's the other kind, the six foot four behemoth whose game revolves around strength, size and determination. Kozak is out of favour at Lazio and transfer listed, meaning you can pick up the perfect target man for the budget price of £1.7 million.
If you're looking for a younger keeper than Gordon, Sinan Bolat is your man. Priced at a very reasonable £1 million, this young Turk could potentially guard your goal-line for the next ten years, and he has a Belgian passport too, guaranteeing easy transfers within the EU. There's only one problem, he begins the game with a serious cruciate ligament injury, meaning he won't be available until January.
The spectacularly named Kermit Erasmus is a talented forward who is equally at home up front or as a playmaker. Kermit isn't particularly fast, strong or good in the air, but he is a clever, creative player, well suited to playing in a deep 'shadow striker' role, dropping a little deeper to link up with his strike partner, just think of him as the South African Denis Berdkamp. Plus when he misses, you can legitimately shout "You muppet!" at the screen.
Every Football Manager edition needs a young, mono-named Brazilian genius, and Adryan undoubtedly this year's version. He turns eighteen just as the game begins, but he already has the talent to play a role in the top leagues in the land, and will only get better with time. Nurture him well, and in a few short years he'll be one of the best playmakers in the world.
While many of my recommendations are young unknowns, Florent Malouda is likely to be a name you'll recognise. The French winger has been a vital part of Chelsea's fortunes for the last few seasons, but it seems they've repaid his years by putting him on the transfer list. How ungrateful. Thankfully he still has a couple of years of top teir football in him, and is willing to transfer for as little as £1 million, making him the ideal way to add an experienced veteran to your squad.
Does your team need a tough tackling anchor man? A deep lying pass-master? An energetic attacking midfielder? Albin Ekdal is all these things at once, offering everything you could ever need in a central midfielder. Ekdal's greatest strength is his versatility, his ability to both attack and defend with equal competence means he can fill any role in a midfield three, even shifting between them for injuries or substitutions, putting far less strain on your back-up players.
David Mendes Da Silva is that rarest of things, a centre back who can actually pass the ball, rather than hoofing it optimistically in the direction of his teammates. In addition, he can also be deployed as a defensive midfielder, but lacks the creativity to be effective further up the field. Still, having a defender who can help you build from the back is a massive boost to any team.
Ryan Donk is a Dutch centre-back named for the onomatopoeic sound of heading the ball Donk! You'll cry as this reasonably priced rock of a defender clears you lines yet again. Donk! You'll call as he buries a corner into the the opposition net. Donk! You'll say as your palm hits your face when you realise you can't stop. Donk! You'll cry as you beat your head furiously against your desk in order to escape the mind-worm I have now implanted within brain. Donk!
Back in 1994 Jack Charlton ventured the idea that the fullback was the most important attacking player in modern football, and Jesper Juelsgard is certainly a player built with this philosophy in mind. His tackling may be decidedly mediocre, but the young Dane is fit, fast and focused, three of the most important attributes in a modern fullback. He's also an adept passer and crosser, not to mention a dead ball specialist. Just make sure you have sufficient cover at the back, because Jesper is built to bomb down the wings.
Poor Giovani dos Santos. He was raised in the same youth system as Lionel Messi, and both players were hotly tipped for greatness. But while Messi stuck with Barcelona, broke into the first team and became one of the world's greatest players, Gio instead took a chance and moved to Tottenham Hotspur, but failed to settle in, and his career has struggled since. However the Mexican winger is still only 23, and for only a couple of million, you can grab him and try and give him a second chance to show off that Catalan style.