In this blog post I have created a fictional story of how I revived a declining superstar who was struggling under the physical demands of elite football. While the story is fictional, the training methods and development for retraining players is 100% real (in Football Manager terms at least!)
The year is 2025 and Oliver Jensen has taken over the vacant managers position at AS Monaco. The failed experiment involving an expensive (wage wise), yet declining superstar was the final blow to Marcel Koller’s reign at Stade Louis II.
Taking over at AS Monaco, I want to drive home a possession oriented system and in order to do so, I need an orchestrator at the base of my 4-3-3 to direct proceedings on the pitch. There is no better defensive midfielder role for a high pressing, possession hungry system than the Regista, which literally translates to director.
Looking around the squad there were no options. I needed someone and fast.
We’ve all been in this position. We have a gap in the squad that needs filling and naturally the first thing we do is head on to the player search screens or scout report screens and search for someone who might be a good fit. For the most part this is absolutely the right thing to do. You search by position and role and see who fits your budget, assuming you don’t have any youth prospects who can come in and do the job.
So far nothing controversial here. However, there are cheaper alternatives to this approach. Retraining players you already have or retraining declining superstars who you can collect for free as their elite clubs start to let them go.
RETRAINING PLAYERS IN FOOTBALL MANAGER 2020
Andrea Pirlo. One of the greats. Originally an attacking midfielder, he moved further back into a deeper role from a more advanced position and it is here where he shined. I need a player with the same gravitas for this experiment. Someone unfamiliar with the role and position to prove this could work. Neymar at Monaco was perfect.
Neymar is 33 years young and moved from PSG to Monaco on a free transfer. When looking at retraining players, however, it is not always immediately clear what sort of role a player could do if, like me, you have your player overview set on Profile rather than Attributes.
If you’re retraining players already at your club, from the players profile, select Development > Training and then select the ‘required role’ from the position/role/duty dropdown within the training menu to see a highlight of all attributes suited to the role. However, this will not show a breakdown of key and preferred attributes. You can also use the Attributes view, rather than Profile view of the player. Select the player > Overview > Attributes
If a player doesn’t have any familiarity within a position on the pitch you cannot highlight the attributes required of him on the profile screen to be able to do a role that you might want him to do. For example, if a player’s positional familiarity is anything less than competent for a particular position on the pitch, you cannot see the roles he could be suitable for.
I’m not going to do the obvious, like retrain a striker to play on the wing, or a winger to play as a wing-back. I wanted to take a physically declining superstar and turn him into a rejuvenated player in a position you probably wouldn’t have though about playing him in.
At the age of 33 Neymar has lost a lot of his physical ability, as you would expect of a player at his age, but his Technical and Mental attributes are still excellent. He has all the key attributes required to play the role of a Regista: First Touch, Passing, Technique; Composure, Decisions, Flair, Off the Ball, Teamwork and Vision.
Being able to see the Technical and Mental ability in a declining player gave me a couple of glorious years with one of the greatest ever players. I had Messi as a Regista at Barcelona for a couple of season back in FM17.
Would you turn down the opportunity to sign this player on a free transfer because his physical attributes are on the decline?
You look at wingers and you want Pace, you want Acceleration, you want Agility and Stamina. Sure, this player has lost a lot of that, but look at his other attributes: First Touch 17, Passing 16, Technique 18; Composure 19, Decisions 15, Flair 19, Off the Ball 19, Teamwork 10 and Vision 16.
His teamwork is a little low, but everything else is golden. Nobody told Pirlo while he was in his mid 30s that he was past it. Neymar can do a job. And that’s the great thing about the Regista role, you don’t really need a great set of physical attributes to play it well.
WHAT IS POSITIONAL FAMILIARITY AND ROLE SUITABILITY
Let’s take a step back and just cover a few of the basics before we proceed. On a players profile, the green dots on the pitch indicate a players positional familiarity. The green dots against the list of roles below this is his role suitability. They are not the same thing.
Simply put, positional familiarity shows how familiar a player is with a position on the pitch. It is not affected by their role; it is an indication of how effective they can be in that position.
Under positions, the green dot on the pitch in the CM and DM position above indicate the players positional familiarity. This player is a natural in the centre of midfield and in the defensive midfield positions. Their familiarity can range from:
A players performance in their new position should improve as they become more familiar there, since positional familiarity affects some of their mental attributes during a match. What we are aiming for here is to get the player accomplished in their new role, ideally natural if the player is versatile enough and not too old, for example. There will be little noticeable difference between accomplished and natural, and it’s extremely difficult to get someone to natural anyway.
After a few days training, most players should move from ineffectual to makeshift.
The other green dots to pay attention to are those under Role and Duty alongside each role available for the position selected. These dots show how suitable a player is for the role selected. For example, the player below is most suited to a Box to Box Midfielder role in the centre of midfield.
Further down the list we can see that the above player can also play some other roles, but is less suitable for them, for example, the Mezzala isn’t as suitable for this player; this is because the attributes the player has that are required for the Mezzala role aren’t as well rounded as those he has that fit the Box To Box Midfielder role. This doesn’t mean that he cannot play that role, it is purely a visual representation of his suitability for the role.
Unlike positional familiarity, the green dot doesn’t affect match performance or their mental attributes during a match. Role suitability is, however, affected by positional familiarity. This is because a player who is not natural in his position will not be able to perform to the best of his ability as if he were a natural.
To quote a twitter thread by Seb Wassell:
Use Positional Familiarity to judge how familiar a player is with a position, and thus if their attributes will be affected when playing there.
Use Role Suitability to judge how well suited a player’s attributes are to a role. This already takes position into account.Seb Wassell
You can see the whole thread here
TRAINING PLAYERS FOR NEW POSITIONS AND ROLES
So for this subject I decided to stay in a country I’m familiar with. France. For those who have been following along with my save you will know I’ve had a torrid time against PSG this year!
I decided to fire up a new save and to holiday to the start of the 2025/26 season and take over AS Monaco. My test subject is no other than Neymar. At 33 years old he still has so much to give the team who he joined for free last season. He might not have the explosive pace and acceleration that he had in his youth, but he can certainly be a quality player for us.
Given his extraordinary Mental and Technical attributes I think he would make an excellent Regista. Time to see what we can do.
Development > Position/Role/Duty/ > Regista (Support)
His training is setup for a position he is Ineffectual at. It takes a few days of training for him to become makeshift in this position. Not enough to open up any suitable roles, but that’s okay; we already know that he can play this role.
I setup my team training to double intensity when a players condition is >90% so this should help get him up to speed here. Training > Rest. You need to ensure the player training intensity is set to automatic for this to take affect.
Because I always take things too far when I write these sorts of posts, I decided to build a calculator (quelle surprise) to show me the key and preferred attributes for every position and role in the game so I could see where best to move him. So I had a little helping hand in knowing he would make a perfect Regista.
The two roles are very similar in terms of the attributes required to fulfil them. I decided to index the attributes and slightly weight the key attributes so that those players with higher average key attributes had a higher rating than those who had a higher average preferred set of attributes. I then set an index rating based on the attribute colour values in game
For me I always set the excellent attributes at 14+, 12+ for Good, 6+ for Average and anything below that low. So my index rating will take the same approach, for example, attributes are scored between 1-20 so the excellent threshold is 14 which is is 70% of 20, so if my players attributes average >70% of the maximum possible, I would grade them as excellent and so on.
Being able to swap the roles in the calculator would then tell me where his attributes amount to a good or excellent fit for the role I want to retrain him in.
As you can see he has all the attributes required to be an outstanding Regista. Balance and Teamwork aside, he could be pretty special, and if his opening game in preseason is anything to go by, where he walked away with 2 goals, an assist and a 9.2 rating after 60 minutes, then we have some player on our hands.
By the end of his second match he had moved up to awkward and was proving to be very effective in this role and position, despite the descriptions. We had six preseason matches, where Neymar would play as many matches as possible in this position.
By December Neymar was a natural in the defensive midfield position. I was quite amazed at this as I didn’t think he would get there so quickly, but with lots of games and training he was able to get up to speed in his new position very quickly. This immediately allowed us to see what we already knew, that the Regista role was perfect for him.
As expected, some of his attributes have declined. This is due to a combination of age and retraining. When a player is at his peak (maximum PA), there’s no further room for him to develop so something has to give. Attributes are weighted differently for each position, e.g., shooting has a higher weighting for a striker than a defender. A weighting just means that the attribute uses up more of the available potential ability when a player is developing or retraining if it is more important to the position.
As an example, let’s pretend that a player has a CA (Current Ability) of 80 and PA (Potential Ability) of 150 (the maximum is 200), he can grow by a further 70 points. As attributes increase from 1-20 they eat into the available potential, but will do so at different rates depending on how important that attribute is to the position. For example, finishing for a defender wont use up as much of the 70 remaining points as it would do a striker the opposite is true of say tackling in the same scenario.
When a player is already at their potential, e.g., their CA and PA are the same, then something has to give. Many things use up PA, like being two footed, being being able to play many positions, their attributes etc. so you will see a decline in other areas in order to see improvement in a new position.
With Neymar moving from an attacking position down into defensive midfield, it stands to reason that some attributes would be weighted differently and thus would be lost due to the shift in weighting. This was noticed almost immediately. His physical decline can almost certainly be put down to age.
Age was not a barrier to performance, however. Neymar topped the assist charts in the league and was up there with the best in terms of his overall rating.
As you can see from the above, Neymar was only second to Lyon’s Doku for assists p/90 with one ever two games. He also chipped in with 3.91 key passes p/90 and 0.38 chances created.
A very productive season from a defensive position. In the league, he contributed 20 assists and 16 goals in 36 games. That’s a goal or assist in every single match over the course of the season. Below is a comparison to the league average for those in the midfield or defensive midfield positions.
Granted, playing as a defensive midfielder if you setup correctly, you can boss the pitch and create a lot of key pass opportunities, but from this deep that can affect pass completion percentage, however, with Neymar it didn’t seem to be that bad at 83% of all passes completed.
I decided to run this save for another season just to see if he would keep up this level despite his age. I kept the same tactic and used Neymar as a Regista again. Now turning 35 it was a good test that his physical attributes wouldn’t affect his performances in this role.
Disclaimer: Neymar was on corners, free-kicks, and penalties. Why wouldn’t he be with the Curls Ball trait, 20 for Technique and 16 for Free Kick Taking and Corners. What happened next was nothing short of magical, from a 35 year old. Last season he finished with a goal or assist every league match. This season he bettered that. 36 games, 16 goals and 23 assists. He also chipped in with 188 key passes (3.88 p/90) which just shows the creative output he was having from such a deep position.
His form was so good that there were calls for him to be reunited with the Brazil squad!
Granted, I’ve taken a world class player, albeit at 33 years old; but the two seasons he has had at Monaco have far surpassed my expectations. Across all competitions he has 36 (22 penalties) goals and 48 assists in his 99 matches. His 100th would have been a Champions League final match if we were not knocked out by Manchester City in the final few minutes of our away leg.
I don’t think there’s anything particularly groundbreaking here and I’ve taken one of the best players in the world for this experiment, but he was a free transfer and his wages are not really as much as you might think.
I’m hoping that by showing you this, it will perhaps open some eyes to the development possibilities around some older players and perhaps prompt you to give a chance to those players who are entering the twilight of their careers. This is also suitable for younger players, too, who you believe can do a better job elsewhere in your system. Particularly useful when you take over a new club and you have players in a position you don’t use.
That about wraps things up. If you have any other methods for retraining players, please do let me know. I’d love to hear how you do it.
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.