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Why I love the surprisingly tactical thrill of cheating in Football Manager

fm 2022
(Image credit: Sega)

Very few football fans will be familiar with the career of former Barcelona manager Bart Celona. Only those who lived within the savegame of my Championship Manager 2 career were there to witness his brief but eventful three-week stint at the giant, during which time he broke concurrent transfer records on several unheard-of English teenagers from York City and brokered staggeringly generous deals on Barca players going the other way. 

As the years went by, it wasn't so easy to cheat at Champ Man. It's always been possible to conjure up a new manager and add them to any club in the world, but over time their rampant recklessness was tempered by higher-ups. Try to siphon away Real Madrid's fortunes and boards got involved, casting a suspicious eye over the transfer targets of their newly appointed Ray Almadrids, and stepping in to block moves that they deemed ‘unrealistic'. 

Of course, that only made the cheating more delicious. It's one thing to player.additem your way to riches in Skyrim, ticking up an arbitrary number with a console command, but breaking the game in Football Manager requires a level of lateral thinking that goes way beyond finding the command that makes your number of goals go up.

fm 2022

(Image credit: Sega)

The classic cheat move, series-long, is save-scumming. I found myself doing this in the particularly unpredictable Football Manager 2005. Here's how it works: let's say you're particularly aggrieved by the way Arsenal beat your Middlesborough side—two late penalties, for goodness sake.

You reload the game, set up your team the exact same way, and expect the match engine to right the wrong. Instead you're beaten 4-1. The only option now was to create a new manager at Arsenal with an insulting name, play Henry in goal, and a 2-2-2-4 outfield formation filled by youth goalkeepers. The resultant 11-1 win did feel a bit hollow, but three points are three points.

And that rather circuitously brings us up to modern-day Football Manager 2022, a game so wise to my ploys that I have to devise outlandish schemes to put one over on it. Of course, I could buy the game editor as DLC, or FMRTE, instead. I would never condemn anyone for renaming one of their youth players after themselves and editing all their stats to 20. But it's a different kind of cheating. What's always interested me is cheating within the rules.

You're managing in the Bundesliga, slowly building a contender with Mainz. But every time one of your signings reveals himself to be of real quality, Bayern buys him. You've tried a few times to just reject their transfer bid and leave it at that, but Bayern never does leave it at that. It's a rich club, and it can afford to keep raising its transfer bid until your own board are convinced to force it through at all costs. Your bosses insist that the deal is too good to turn down, so Mainz stays exactly as good as it was before you joined. You know what must be done.

fm 2022

(Image credit: Sega)

Bayern fans are baffled to see a totally unproven manager appointed the following day. Guy Enmunich is cagey about his approach in the press conference, but proves himself quite decisive in the coming days, releasing 16 players on free transfers. Most of the previous starting 11 are shipped off abroad and are priced to sell.

Enmunich quickly reinvests his newly generated transfer funds, into—of all places—Mainz's current crop of youngsters. They've shown little sign of promise thus far, but that hasn't stopped Bayern from shelling out over 100 million Euros in total on nine bemused teenagers.

There's a bit more business to be done with Mainz—four players only recently signed to FCB from Mainz make their way back there—and then, just weeks into his tenure, Enmunich retires from football.

Bayern are now screwed for years to come. All their best players are gone, they've spent the proceeds on useless youth prospects, and their new manager's actually playing them in the first team, what with all the money that was just spent on them. You couldn't even call it revenge, really—but give me a spreadsheet and some players with numbers above 15 in their stats, and this is the level of monstrousness I'll succumb to.