What happened to... Champ Man legends?
This decade has brought us into the world of football management with games like Championship Manager leading the way. Cited in 35 divorce cases over the years, the likes of Andrea Pirlo have been known to use the simulations to get the lowdown on opponents and information about players has never been so readily available. However, while the newer editions of these games are incredibly realistic, there have been a few star players that have enjoyed a less-then glamorous career since. Here, we take a look at what has happened to some of the best.
One of the most promising talents to have emerged as a teenager, Samba's stats were enhanced by the 132 goals he scored in 32 games as a youth and he became a favourite of Champ man bosses while at Millwall. In reality, he was chased by some of Europe's elite, with particular interest being shown by Liverpool, but he did not make a first-team appearance. Indeed, the size and strength that had made him such an imposing frontman made less of an impact when he reached his late teens and left the Lions to pursue a career in Spain with Cadiz. Failing to make an impression he hit the headlines again when he joined Ian Holloway at Plymouth Argyle in August 2006, but was forced to go on loan to Wrexham to get games and ended up at Finnish side FC Haka - where he was released in February 2009. Taken on trial at Portsmouth at the start of this season, the Gambian international is still looking for a club, and is still only 24 years old.
Tonton Zola Moukoko
The brilliantly named Tonton is arguably the best player in the history of the game. Well, the Championship Manager game anyway. His Swedish/Ghanaian background made him an interesting buy and Derby would let the attacking midfielder go for around £500,000 if you could find him in the search engine. In reality, little is known about the star, who left the Rams to play in the lower Swedish leagues for sides like Carlstad United and now plys his trade in Finland for second division side Atlantis FC Helsinki. While his name ensures that he still gets calls to this day enquiring why he does not play for a European giant, he has made it clear that he would like to return to Derby one day and make another go of things at Pride Park. If he had made it England it's quite possible Lionel Messi may not have won this year's World Player of the Year award.
A classic case of signing a player based on their stats in the game, Everton suffered the embarrassment of picking up 'Baka-joke-o' for £4.5 million from Montpellier in October 1998. He made little impression and netted just four goals in 23 games before the Toffees offloaded him to Marseille a season later ' incredibly making just a £500,000 loss. He actually hit the net a few times while back in France, but was sold to Osasuna before returning to FC Istres and then tried his luck in Italy with Livorno and Messina. Moving to Greece in 2007, he played for Larissa and PAOK before signing for promoted side PAS Giannina in July, where he has become a fans' favourite.
As a youth at Dinamo Minsk, Tsygalko could be signed for a pittance (as long as he could get a work permit) and would score goals by the bucket load. The Belarusian striker actually spent five years in Minsk having come through the ranks and moved on to Naftan Novopolotsk in 2006. Spending just two years more in Belarus, he decided to try his hand in Kazakhstan with Kaisar Kyzylorda, then Armenia with Benants Yerevan in the summer of 2008, but unsuccessfully. Last seen at FC Savit Mogilev in 2008, the club was dissolved and thrown out of the Belarus league and he is now believed to be back in Minsk. His twin brother Yuri, while not as good as 'Maxim' in the game, forged a career as a goalkeeper and made one appearance for the national team in 2003.
A tenacious central midfielder, Kerr was always available for a cheap fee as he played for Falkirk and was keen to move on to a bigger club. His real performances for the Scottish side drew attention as he made his debut at the tender age of 17, going on to become a vital part of the team, and he made over 100 appearances for the Bairns in three years. In July 2003, he was picked up on a free transfer by Dundee United and initially starred in a campaign that saw the side finish fifth. He stayed at Tannadice for five years before choosing to leave on a free at the end of 2007-08 season, when he joined Aberdeen. Quickly establishing himself, Kerr rose to captain the side and, while he has not quite reached the potential that he showed in the game, he has forged a reputation as one of the most reliable midfielders in Scottish football.
A right-back of consistency and grit, you could pick him up for around £30,000 and know you would never need to sell him. In real life, Burnley did just that and signed him from Cheltenham Town in July 2004. A true professional, he played in over 200 games for Cheltenham before moving to the big-time and made his full international debut for Northern Ireland in 2002 against Poland. For his first three seasons as Turf Moor he was a regular in the side, but picked up a serious knee injury against Crystal Palace in 2007 and his participation has been limited ever since. Yet to make a start in the Premier League, his brother Shane is carrying on the family tradition and has been at Cheltenham since 2000.
One of the best tacklers around, Said made a name for himself at Al Ahly in Egypt and the same Everton scout who spotted Bakayoko was probably responsible for bringing him in on loan in 2003. Reality set in though, as he did not make a single appearance for the Toffees, claiming that he had to return to his home country to care for his sick mother. He transferred to Al Ahly's rivals FC Zamalek upon his return and became one of the key players in the side. He impressed for his country in the 2006 African Nations Cup success and chose to move to Turkey, joining Caykur Rizespor soon after and was then signed by Ankaragucu in light of his performances. However, he chose to return to Egypt in 2008 and joined Ismaily before moving off a year later to join Libyan side Ahly Tripoli. Recently linked with a move back to Zamalek, the 30-year-old may yet have a role to play in domestic Egyptian football.
Tommy Svindal Larsen
Another star midfielder, Larsen represented one of the bargains of the century as he was part of the Scandinavian market that also brought the world Stefan Selakovic and Kennedy Bakircioglu. Described as "God's gift to football" in the 90s, the Norwegian was at his best while at Stabaek, but began his career at Odd Grenland and also played for Start. His big move came in 2001 when he headed to the German Bundesliga to play for Nuremburg and he was also capped 24 times for his national side before retiring from international football in 2007. Now back at his first club, Odd Grenland, he has become a vital player with his experience and leadership playing a major role in their rise up the table this season.
Shakhtar Donetsk was always a great place to pick up some players and, along with midfielder Assane N'Diaye (who tragically died in February 2008), Aghahowa was the star of the side. His pace and power saw him hailed as a real prospect and he was actually called up to the Nigerian national team on the back of his performances in Ukraine. He earned a move to Wigan in 2007, but failed to score a single goal in one and a half years at the club and signed for Turkish club Kayserispor in June 2008. Failing to impress, he was released and has now returned to Shakhtar, where he has recently claimed he wants to get back into contention for the Super Eagles' World Cup campaign in 2010. An honourable mention here must also go to Agahowa's Nigerian team-mate Taribo West. The dreadlocked left-sided centre back, always a steal on a free transfer, would be a solid presence in any defence. In reality, he has been a journeyman to say the least - playing at the top level for Inter Milan between 1997-1999 before going into severe decline, ending up at Iranian side Paykan via Derby County, Partizan Belgrade and Plymouth Argyle.
A solid defender from one of the earliest editions of the game, Dolan actually began his career at Chelsea as a trainee before moving to Millwall. His performances as a youth initially made him a promising prospect but, after breaking his leg, he struggled to get back into the side and he began the downward slide after joining Leyton Orient in June 2005. Failing to establish himself, he spent time on loan Stockport County and Fisher Athletic before landing a contract at Conference side Canvey Island. He was relegated with Canvey and joined Basingstoke, where he starred in the FA Cup victory away at League One side Chesterfield in November 2006. Named the Supporters Player of the Season in 2007-08 he captained the side, but injury limited his impact and at the start of this season he left the club to concentrate on family commitments.