Youth development in Football Manager. There’s nothing quite like that notification that the latest crop of youngsters could be a Golden Generation for the club. Perhaps closely followed by your scouts bursting into your office excited by the gem of a Youth Player they’ve just found in some obscure league that you don’t even remember sending them to in the first place.
For me youth development in Football Manager is what keeps the game alive; certainly at Stade Rennais where we seem to get Golden Generation after Golden Generation! What’s more, is we’re now seeing the fruits of our labour by having a first-team squad consist of 50% Academy Players while still winning titles.
When these players inevitably outgrow us, they’re being sold for well over €100m each which gives us the funds to reinvest into the facilities and Youth Teams and so the cycle begins.
Whether you download players found on a Football Manager wondered list, manually scout for your own gems or concentrate on your own Academy Players, we all need to develop these players once they get into the Youth Teams before they’re ready for the first team.
Read on to find out how I setup to achieve success with youth development in Football Manager.
Introduction to Youth Development in Football Manager
Having highly rated Youth Players is pointless if you do not develop them. It takes a lot of hard work to sculpt a diamond and the same can be said for Youth Players. Sure, you can leave them in the Youth Teams with no specific training, give them matches when they hit 18 and they’ll probably reach their potential or get close to it. What they may not achieve, however, is the player you want or expect them to be.
It takes Determination, Ambition, and a good chunk of Professionalism to become elite, but before we can even start to think about player development in Football Manager, we need to go back to where it all starts.
In this post, I will be covering how you can set up your club to have the best chance of producing high potential Newgens and then how you can develop these players once they hit your Youth Team.
For the purpose of this post there is some terminology that I want to explicitly state:
- Academy Teams – I shall reference the teams you cannot see in game, e.g., the under 12s, the under 13s etc. as the Academy Teams.
- Academy Players – I will reference the players you cannot see, e.g., they’re not yet Newgens in the game, as Academy Players.
- Newgens – Despite this weird obsession with calling them regens, the players generated by the game are Newgens. You will see these players appear in your reserves or under 19s etc. in the same month annually, e.g., sometime in March for England.
How Do You Get the Best Youth Intake in Football Manager?
Youth development in Football Manager starts at the Academy Teams. You need to make sure you have the right foundations in place if you want to bring through that elusive Golden Generation, and that means building the right facilities and getting the right staff.
I’ve written about facilities before but I think it’s quite a pertinent place to start things off. Your club has many facilities at its disposal, but the facilities I want to focus on here are the Youth Facilities. The Youth Facilities are only available to Academy Players. The Youth Facilities affect both the Potential Ability and Current Ability of Newgens produced at the club.
It goes without saying that all other squads use the Training Facilities, even the reserves and under 19s etc. Your Youth Facilities will be one of the following levels:
- Below Average
- State of the Art
When it comes to upgrading Youth Facilities, it’ll generally take longer and cost you more the higher you develop them, e.g., moving from Excellent to Superb will require more effort than moving from Poor to Basic. Depending on the club you are at, the board might not agree to upgrade your facilities to State of the Art, either. Sometimes they’re happy with a lower level which is relative to your stature in football. To request the board upgrade your facilities head to:
Finances > Make Board Request > Facilities > Improve Youth Facilities
Youth Facilities in Football Manager are only a part of the process in progressing Academy Players. Having great Youth Facilities doesn’t guarantee excellent Newgens. So what else can we do to improve the chances of producing a Golden Generation?
Much like real-world football, Youth Recruitment plays a big role in the quality of the Academy Players you have at the club because your reach is much further. When looking at Youth Recruitment see it as the more money you spent, the further afield you will look for Academy Players to join your club. A club with exceptional Youth Recruitment is far more likely to find and bring in highly-rated Academy Players than a club in the same area who have low Youth Recruitment.
Generally speaking, your Youth Recruitment level will determine where you are in the pecking order for Academy Players in the nation you’re managing in. If you have the same level as another club then your reputation will come into play. This doesn’t mean that you cannot produce high-quality Newgens, by the way, it just lowers the chances that you will produce top-quality talent.
A higher Youth Recruitment rating also makes it more likely that your staff will find players worth poaching from other Academy Teams.
The quality of your Youth Recruitment affects both the Potential and Current Ability of Newgens produced at the club.
Junior Coaching is simply how many Junior Coaches you have and the quality of them.
The quality of your Junior Coaching affects both the Potential and Current Ability of Newgens produced at the club.
Head of Youth development
Selecting a Head of Youth Development in Football Manager is another key area you should pay attention to. If I already have one at the club when I join I check their Personality first and foremost, but also some of their attributes like Working with Youngsters, their Determination and their coaching ratings. These for me are secondary to their Personality, however.
Contrary to a lot of myths in the Football Manager community, no one at Sports Interactive has ever stated that a Head of Youth Development’s reputation is important for Youth Development. A club’s reputation can impact upon Newgen quality, but at the time of writing, their reputation does not affect the Potential Ability of your youth players.
The Head of Youth Development is the main guy responsible for bringing Newgens into your youth teams, assuming you have not given this responsibility to another staff member. When looking for a Head of Youth Development in Football Manager I will head to staff search and filter by Model Citizen personality.
Read more » Staff Responsibilities in Football Manager
Staff > Staff Search
Why Model Citizen Personality? There are hidden attributes for players and staff, these attributes are:
- Ambition – affects a players drive to achieve success
- Loyalty – affects the likelihood that a player will want to leave the club at some point
- Pressure – affects how well a player remains calm under pressure
- Professionalism – affects a players attitude, including their approach to training, matches and behaviour.
- Sportsmanship – affects how likely a player is to bend the rules, e.g., taking a dive to win a penalty
- Temperament – affects a players discipline when things go against him
- Controversy – affects a players tendency to be outspoken, either to the press when they disagree with something or directly to you
I’ve highlighted the key areas required for good player development. A player with high levels of Determination (an attribute you can already see on a players profile), Ambition and Professionalism are more likely to succeed than those with lower levels. A Head of Youth Development with a Model Citizen Personality will have >12 Ambition and >15 Professionalism. Given that the Head of Youth Development in Football Manager can pass on attribute traits to youth players, it goes without saying that you really want someone who can pass on as many good attribute traits as possible.
Another attribute of the Head of Youth Development that can influence the type of player coming through from the Academy is Coaching Style.
Without getting too detailed, each position has various templates from which the game selects and models a player. These templates will determine what type of player is produced. One of the many aspects that can affect the template used is your Head of Youth Development’s Coaching Style. For example, a Head of Youth Development with a Technical coaching style is more likely to produce Newgens who are more proficient in the technical aspects of their game. These templates are also used to ensure players of certain nationalities play a certain way, e.g., full-backs from Brazil and Italy do not generally play the same way, so these templates help to bring out typical styles for each nationality.
At Stade Rennais I have Truls Jenssen (above) working for me in the Head of Youth Development role. He is a Model Citizen with good levels of Determination and excellent Working With Youngsters. I also know based on his Personality that he has high levels of Ambition and Professionalism. So far, if you have been following along with my save, you’ll know that he has brought through a plethora of talent. I have around 5/6 starters from the youth team currently in the first XI. These are players who have come through from the Academy Teams.
So to recap. The Head of Youth Development in Football Manager is responsible for bringing through Academy Players into the Youth Teams (as Newgens). He can influence the players he brings through by imparting some or all of his Personality to these players. He can influence the type of player they are, e.g., technical, and he can influence the position in which they play based on their preferred formation.
On the very rare occasion, he will also influence the outstanding Newgens that can come through, who are usually once in a generation type player.
Understanding the Star Rating System
Before we get into developing your highly rated youth players I want to just touch upon an often misunderstood area of the game. Star ratings.
There are two types of rating for a player: Current Ability (often referred to as CA) and Potential Ability (often referred to as PA). Behind the stars there is a rating ranging from 1-200 with 200 being the highest rating a player can have. Theoretically, the higher the score the higher the number of stars. However, the star rating is only the staff members opinion of the players ability relative to the rest of the team (yes, your team, not the league or other players around the world, just your team).
One of the biggest complaints I see from players is around the star rating of their Newgens when they first come into the club and the Head of Youth Development’s opinion of their Current Ability and Potential Ability.
Firstly, the Current Ability and Potential Ability ratings are just opinions, they’re not exact. Whoever is judging the potential is just guessing. Oftentimes, for younger players, you will see both black and gold stars as part of the rating. The reason for this is that the coach doesn’t feel like they can accurately predict the Potential Ability of the player, which is understandable really. If a player has a potential of three gold stars and one black star, then the staff member will be making an assessment that they’re about 3-4 star potential, but they cannot be sure.
So my advice?
Do not pay too much attention to the initial assessment of your Newgens. Treat each Newgen as if they had 5 star potential. You might be surprised by the results.
I’ll give you an example.
In March 2026 the latest batch of Stade Rennais Newgens had just come into the Youth Team. Looking at this batch what would be your initial assessment?
You’d probably be underwhelmed, right? Most people would look at this batch and probably feel a little short-changed when they have the best staff and facilities in the league. However, this initial assessment is just the assessment made by my Head of Youth Development.
When a player is just 14-15 years old, it is very hard for your coaches to have a good handle on a players Potential Ability. It is a guess at best, based on the player’s Current Ability relative to their age (the coaches don’t actually know the exact Potential Ability of a player, and we can only view it by using editing software). So bear in mind that early reports on players can and almost certainly will be slightly inaccurate. Your coaches will better judge the Potential Ability of players the older they get.
One year on and Masson is now judged to have the Potential Ability to be one of the best players at the club, having the potential to exceed the Current Ability of Jérôme Onguéné. It has been worth setting him specific training and mentoring to improve him. With more work, he can become a very good player. His potential has increased from a range of 3.5 stars to 4.5 last year to now being between 4 and 5 stars.
Obviously a lot can happen in a year. Players come and go from your squad so these ratings will fluctuate as your squad grows and changes. The relative ratings will be affected by other players development, new signings coming in and players leaving the team. If you sign a world-class striker this will obviously affect the ratings for young strikers as they have a better player to live up to.
Here’s a real example: Daniel James at Swansea would have had a high Potential and probably Current Ability rating. This is because comparative to the players he was playing with he was seen as a good player. However, move him into the Manchester United squad and the benchmark just got a whole lot higher. So in Football Manager terms, his star rating from one team to the next will change, and the same happens when new players are signed, there’s a new benchmark set for which other players in your squad are judged against.
As I progress my save, I hope that Masson can become even better. Even if he doesn’t, however, we should have a player who we can later sell on to bring some money into the club. Developing youth players for sale, later on, is a great tactic for bringing in much-needed money if you’re a club who isn’t blessed with the riches of a billionaire owner or competition prize money.
What You Cannot Influence
There are other factors at play in determining the quality of players entering your Youth Teams. While a massive slice of luck plays a part, there are also two hidden values that you cannot see. First is the Nation Youth Rating. This affects the potential maximum quality and quantity of Academy Players produced in your nation. Countries like Argentina, Brazil and Spain have the highest ratings so naturally will produce more high-quality Newgens then nations like Norway and Bulgaria, for example. This doesn’t mean that Norway cannot produce the next world superstar, by the way, that is still possible.
The other factor at play here is Game Importance. Similar to Youth Rating, this value affects the quality of the Newgens produced by that nation. A nation with high Game Importance and high Youth Rating should theoretically produce more high qualify Newgens than a nation with low ratings.
Youth Development in Football Manager – Training
I wanted to cover the above because it’s really quite important since some clubs don’t have the luxury of signing youth players to develop and have to rely on their own Newgens produced at the club. Their Youth Facilities, Youth Recruitment and Junior Coaching will determine how their Academy Players progress in Academy Teams until they appear in-game as a Newgen.
Whether the club has developed the player through the Academy Team or another club has produced the player, having a high potential is meaningless if you do not develop that potential into actual ability.
How to develop players once they’re at the club and you have more control? There are a number of things you can look to do like giving them a specific training regime, adding them to a mentoring group and setting them a training focus.
Below I will run through the steps I go through when developing players. You don’t have to do all of these, but it’s useful to think about them when you’re looking at youth development in Football Manager.
How to Decide a Players Best Position
This is not imperative when you get your first look at the Youth Players. But when players are younger it is much easier to shape them into the player you want them to be. Their positional flexibility makes it easier to learn a new position quicker, as long as you train the position and play the player there. Because a player will have available much of their Potential Ability to grow, you can pick the attributes important to their position and role and train them better than if they were already a fully developed player.
One of the first things I will do is check the wingers and see where their best position is. Because I play with Inside Forwards, I will always make sure I’m training my wingers on the opposite side of their strongest foot, e.g., if a player is left-footed but their stronger position is on the left-wing, I will make sure I train them on the right-wing from an early age. This is because I like them to cut in on their stronger foot. I will also try to teach them to strike the ball with the outside of the foot for when they do go on the outside of a player, they then have the option to cross with their stronger foot still.
Players will be more open to the demands of positional and role changes at an early age. Think of it like this, you have two players below: Player A (the top row) has a high Current Ability (the blue bar) relative to their Potential (the red section). Their room for growth is much smaller than Player B, who has a lot of the Potential Ability (the red section) available to develop.
If you want to improve Player A they can only really improve a little more, so as each of their attributes increase slightly, less of their Potential Ability is available to use up. Player B, however, has a lot of Potential Ability available to use up for attribute growth. If you want to develop Player A to play a new position or improve his weaker foot, for example, then something has to give. When retraining positions, you will sometimes find that a player loses familiarity with a position they were already comfortable in, or some of their attributes begin to decline.
This is because you can only use up to the Potential Ability for this, you cannot go above it. Each attribute uses up Potential Ability, along with other things like how strong they are using each foot etc.
This is why it’s important to make a decision relatively early on the future of the player. Do you have a striker who would be a better fit on the wing or a midfielder who would make a better defender? Make the decision early enough so you can develop the right attributes while they still have plenty of room for growth.
At Stade Rennais I had a good striker come through, but with really poor Finishing and Composure, I need to make a decision on his best role. I don’t think he will cut it as an Advanced Forward, so my initial thoughts are that he would drop to AML as an Inside Forward. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below if you’d do something different here?
How to Decide a Players Future Role
Once I have their position decided, I will then look to see which role would suit them. For example, I play with two central midfielders, a more expansive number 10 and a more dynamic number 8. My number 10 plays in the Advanced Playmaker role and the number 8 a Box To Box Midfielder role. I will look to make a decision early on as to which role the player fits into. Typically this will be by eyeballing their attributes and seeing which ones fit, but a quick way to do this is to look at which role comes ahead of the other when training.
Under 19s (or the squad the players are in) > Training > Individual
I like to use the detailed view, but you could also use the list view if you prefer. Looking at Jean-Haide Suzanne below. By selecting the position they’re playing in the Box To Box Midfielder comes ahead of the Advanced Playmaker role so I would use this as they require less development to get full role suitability..
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but if I’m struggling to pick a role for a player, I will usually pick one that they’re closest to being most suitable for. Especially if their Potential Ability isn’t that high as they won’t have a lot of room for development.
How to Decide a Players Positional Unit
When you set up training (or when your Assistant Manager sets up training) some of the sessions split out the players into different units. This will mean they receive less of the attention than others, depending on the unit they have been assigned to. They will also develop different attributes.
For example, General Attacking training splits the group into two units; Outfield and Goalkeeping. The outfield will receive 80% of the focus and Goalkeeping just 20% — other sessions like Defending Disengaged will split out into three units; a primary unit of Defensive where 60% of the focus is, then a secondary unit of Attacking and Tertiary unit of Goalkeeping. The latter two receiving 20% focus each.
It’s important to put the players into the right Units to ensure they receive the correct focus during training. Let me explain with an example. I always put my Wing-Backs into the Attacking Unit. Why? Because in training sessions such as Defending Disengaged the following attributes are trained for each Unit:
- Defensive: Marking, Tackling, Anticipation, Concentration, Positioning, Teamwork
- Attacking: Dribbling, Finishing, First Touch, Long Shots, Technique, Anticipation, Off The Ball, Vision
- Goalkeeping: Command Of Area, Communication, Handling, Reflexes, One On Ones, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Positioning, Agility
I use Complete Wing-Backs with an Attack Duty. Their primary role in my tactic is to get high and wide and be a creative outlet. I need them to have good dribbling, a great first touch and good vision etc. so it makes sense they’re in the Attacking Unit.
How does Mentoring Work in Football Manager?
It is my understanding that players cannot affect another player in a mentoring group in the Youth Teams if they are under 17. I believe this because no player under 17 has any influence on the group they’re in. So how I go about setting up mentoring is simple. I add everyone to a single group first, check the influence and then split them up. This becomes more important with the reserve teams where the influence can be a lot stronger between players.
You want to avoid someone with low Determination having a higher influence than someone with high Determination as it can have a negative effect; meaning the player with the higher Determination begins to lose Determination rather than the other way around.
With mentoring I’m primarily looking to improve Determination and hidden attributes. Secondary to this is the passing on of player traits. I usually manually train these (see a later section), so I don’t worry about these too much at this stage.
I have 12 players with light influence and 10 with no influence. In order for this to work you need at least three players in the same group. I will usually assign 1 player with influence to 2 players without. I will pick the player with the highest Determination to work with the closest two in order to keep their Determination fairly similar.
John Jackson has the highest Determination of those older than 16 so I will create a group called “John Jackson – 15” with 15 being his Determination. I will then add two players under 17 years old as close to his Determination and create the group. I will then work down the list, making sure that the players with no influence have a lower Determination than the player with influence.
I will do this for the Youth Team and the Reserves to make sure we’re working on improving the Determination of players before they get to the First Team. When I’ve finished, it will look something like this.
I can then check on the players in these groups to see how their Determination is improving over time. Once players hit 18 I usually promote them to the reserve team to make use of the players with higher Determination there and the better level of football available. I will make them available for the Youth Team games in case they cannot get a game in the Reserves as I still want them to be playing football at some form of level.
This is about as scientific as I get with mentoring. I just make sure that the biggest influencer has the highest Determination.
Youth Development in Football Manager – Player Pathway
I might write something more detailed on this in the future, but for now I will keep this relatively simple.
One thing I like to have in the back of my mind is the pathway to First Team football for each player. Some players at the club are being developed for sale. Others are being developed to see if they can reach their potential and become a useful player at the club. There are really only those two scenarios. Players at Stade Rennais hit four phases of development for me.
Phase One – Promotion to the Under 19s
When players are between 14-17 years old they will leave the Academy Team and be promoted to the Youth Team, at Rennes this is the Under 19s. They will work within their mentoring groups and assigned to their positional units for training. They will be working hard on developing their Position Familiarity and Role Suitability. They will be playing Under 19 matches in the position and ideally the role that they could be used in at the First Team.
I keep an eye on player development about once a month to make sure players are progressing as sometimes things don’t always go to plan with player development so you need to keep an eye on it. At this point, I would like to reference this brilliant post by my good friend FM Rensie who writes about the players who don’t quite adapt so well to training.
Read more » Player Development When It Doesn’t Work
You can also use the Development Centre to keep an eye on these players. There is a section for players who need attention. This can be useful feedback if they’re not adapting as you would expect. We cannot always have green arrows in training.
As you can see there is a lot of feedback to go through here. Usually about once a month I visit the Development Centre after settings myself a recurring reminder to visit it.
Home > Notebook
This is really useful. I have a few recurring notes here, with one of them to visit the Development Centre. I will also note the players from the previous month in here who needed attention so I can see if they’re still an issue. Here is an example below of how that note looks in-game.
Having this reminder is a good way for me to keep check on youth development in Football Manager.
Phase Two – Promotion to the Reserves
At the start of each new season, any players in the Under 19s who have turned 18 are promoted to Stade Rennais 2 for the upcoming season. Each season when players return for preseason training I will make sure that their development is going according to plan. I will reset any mentoring groups and make sure that newly promoted players are in the right groups according to their current development.
Their positional and role-based training is setup, their positional units are assigned and the mentoring groups are created. In this position, I would be expecting a lot of game time with the reserves as I like to keep a relatively thin squad here, but I will make players available for the Under 19s to ensure they’re getting game time still.
It’s also worth keeping an eye on the team report to check out where you are covered for players in terms of their Potential Ability.
Team Report > Squad Depth > Show Position Overview (Potential Ability)
This will give you a good idea of where there are gaps in the players coming through the youth teams so that you can concentrate spending in areas you need it. For me, there’s little point me signing strikers with high Potential Ability since we can only play one in this system and we have 5 with great potential.
The only slight area of concern might be at AML, but we have two great prospects there so right now there’s little need to sign new players here. I could always look to retrain a striker, perhaps.
If I did want to find players in the AML slot I could always ask my scouts to find them from here:
Select the brown 5 on the AM(L) box > Scout – Attacking Midfielder (Left) > Select the options applicable.
For me it would probably look something like this.
Phase Three – The Development List
Any high Current Ability players still in Stade Rennais 2 who are not quite ready for First Team football are added to the Development list where they will be sent out to play games at a higher level than we can give them in the reserves. Any players who still need specific development, e.g., I want to work on some specific attributes, will stay with the second team and work there in their units on the training we set them.
For development loans, I don’t ask for any contribution to the wages, but the minimum requirement is that the clubs taking my players offer a Regular Starter player status and that their training facilities are at least Average. What we are looking to achieve is maximum growth in the shortest time so that we can start to use players in the First Team.
I have Romildo Alves Dos Santos as my Loan Manager and his job is to find suitable clubs to send these players to. He will also keep me updated on their progress.
Phase Four – Promotion to the First Team
This is the big one. If you get through all of the above then chances are you have enough potential and the right amount of ability to be making an impact with the First Team. I will generally have a good idea of who might be ready for promotion by reviewing the Development Centre and keeping an eye on the staff recommended First Team Candidates. This is a really useful feature as sometimes if you have a lot of players it can be hard keeping track of everyone’s development.
Below is the development of Amadou Barry, at just 19 years old he is already valued at €57m and has a Wonderkid description. This is the result of four years of development and he is now in the First Team having gone through the same process as every other Youth Player at the club.
I like to delegate a lot of the work to my staff so I will use their feedback and give these players some minutes to see how they cope.
There’s no point employing staff if you’re not going to listen to them and take their advice.
So they key take-away points from this post that I think are quite key with Youth Development in Football Manager, which of course are my own views and not those founded on any inside knowledge are:
- Youth Facilities and Junior Coaching should be improved as much as possible as they directly impact the quality of the Newgens coming into your Youth Teams.
- Youth Recruitment should be increased to bring in players from further afield, thus having the pick of the bunch when it comes to getting players into the Academy.
- Your Head of Youth Development plays a role in sculpting the type of players you get through to your Youth Teams. While he doesn’t influence every player, it’s important for me at least to make sure he has a great Personality above all else. Model Citizen is the one I’d be looking for here.
- A coaches view of a player’s Potential Ability can also change. Don’t be too quick to let players go because their only have three-star Potential Ability. Give them the same attention as if they were five stars rated and you might get a surprise.
- When players are under 18 their training is key to their development. Quality training with the best facilities and best coaches you can afford will help their progression. Determination, Ambition, and Professionalism are important to development.
- When players reach 18 then game time becomes more important, but do not neglect their training. They still have a lot of development ahead of them. Seek loan moves for players who are ready to step up and player at a level relative to their ability.
This isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, but it is a set of rules I follow which have enabled me to produce players like Gilles Schmitt from my Academy who was sold for €150m and Ênio who we sold for €165m. See below for the progression of Schmitt from the day he arrived up to the day he signed for Manchester United.
With all of this being said, there is still a huge slice of luck when it comes to getting quality Newgens from your Academy Team and Youth Development in Football Manager takes time and effort, but the rewards are worth it. If you’re interested, I wrote about finding Wonderkids and high-quality Newness in Football manager. You can read about that here:
I’m always very keen to hear about how others approach Youth Development in Football Manager so if there’s anything different that you do in your Football Manager 20 careers, please do drop me a comment below and let me know! I hope that this was somewhat useful. I will be looking to do more non-save related writing over the coming weeks so look out for those posts.
As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
Until next time.