Welcome to our definitive list of Football Manager 2021 teams to manage. If you have not yet found out which club to manage in Football Manager 2021, for the FM21 beta or which Let’s Play series to go for, you’ve come to the right place!
Here we have compiled our recommendations of challenges to try out in Football Manager 2021; from the perfect clubs for a youth development save to clubs to manage in Europe looking to restore the glory of a sleeping giant in FM21.
If you’re looking for more clubs to manage for a long-term save in FM 2021, I can recommend last years edition of top 10 clubs to manage as there are a number of clubs perfect for hunting for promotions or specific rebuilding challenges.
These teams are all perfect challenges once your first beta save and ‘getting familiar with Football Manager save‘ has been abandoned and you’re looking to start your official FM21 save.
Continue to discover our recommendations of teams to manage in FM21.
FM21 Clubs For A Youth Development Save
[ITA] Brescia Calcio – Serie B
Established: 1911 (109 years ago)
Stadium: Stadio Mario Rigamonti (Capacity: 19,500)
Nickname: Le Rondinelle or I Biancazzurri
If you are an Italophilia like me, then an Italian save is always one to consider for each new edition of Football Manager. Italy’s history, culture, cuisine and landscape have always attracted me.
Based in the wonderful Lombardy region, only an hour drive from Bergamo we find the town of Brescia and its football club Brescia Calcio. After a short stint in the Serie A last season, they were relegated back to Serie B ahead of 2020-2021 season.
Their previous league history is in fact quite interesting. In 2009/10 they earned a promotion to Serie A before finishing in the 19th place. Exactly the same thing that happened in the 2019/20 season. In fact, no other clubs in Italy has ever spent more seasons in Serie B! Their 18 consecutive seasons in Serie B between 1947 to 1965 is a record.
Despite celebrating their 110th anniversary next year, the club’s trophy cabinet and achievements aren’t many. 4 Serie B champions and a runner-up in the Inter-Toto Cup (2001) is not much to be proud of.
What they can be proud of is their history of developing one of the greatest deep-lying playmakers of all time; Andrea Pirlo, with his successor, Sandro Tonali already making a name for himself. Whilst Pirlo, Tonali and actually Marek Hamsik began their career at Brescia, former legends have either ended their career or had short stints when their career is coming to an end.
1993 Ballon D’Or winner Roberto Baggio, reckoned to be one of the best managers in the world the last 10 years, Pep Guardiola, and prolific goalscorer and nomadic striker Luca Toni have all wear the Brescia jersey. Even Gheorghe Hagi played two seasons for Brescia in between his Real Madrid and Barcelona period, which he might be more famous for.
The current squad features a number of interesting players. From the out-of-favoured Mario Balotelli, who might leave before FM21 release to Finnish goalkeeper, and former Fulham academy player, Jesse Joronen. With an average squad age of 25.7 and bolstering 27 players in the first team you’ll have a great option to sell players and form your squad into your liking.
By putting faith at Mattia Viviani – a deep-lying playmaker with much potential, centre-back Andrea Cistana, Slovak attacking midfielder Nikolas Spalek and continue the development of current Italian Under-20 international Andrea Papetti and latest Brescia debutant Andrea Ghezzi you’ve got a force to be reckoned with.
Junior Coaching: Adequate
The Challenges / Objective:
Your task would be to honour Pirlo and Baggio by using a tactic with both a Trequartista and a Regista (or deep-lying playmaker).
By focusing on signing Under-21 talents from around the globe and look to develop player’s using their academy with the objective of developing the next Pirlo and Baggio, it can turn into great fun!
An objective must be to turn the club into one of the greatest stepping stone clubs in Italy. If you sign a player from abroad, you could set a rule that you need to sign an Italian Under-21 player at minimum 50% of what you paid for the foreigner.
The long term vision for your save is to establish Brescia as a Serie A club and compete against rivals Atalanta to develop the most players for the Italian National team and its Under-23 and Under-19 teams, whilst also winning the clubs first major trophy!
Can you take home their first Coppa Italy trophy and get Brescia to qualify for a major European competition within 3 years?
[FRA] Le Havre AC – Ligue 2
Established: 1894 (126 years ago)
Stadium: Stade Océane (Capacity: 25,181)
Nickname: Le club doyen
From one historical region to another. We cross the border of Italy and stops at Normandy in France where we find the oldest football club in France – Le Havre Athletic Club or simply Le Havre, which was originally founded in 1872 by English University graduates.
Le Havre is somehow the French equivalent of a Brescia save and goes out to all you Francophiles out there!
French football has in recent years become a powerhouse for producing top-class talents. While there are many excellent French youth academies, like Stade Rennais, Auxerre, LOSC Lille, Paris SG, Marseille, Nantes and Olympique Lyonnais, one that’s often overlooked is the academy of Le Havre.
Their historic and tradition with producing great talents are highly remarkable – often producing youth that’s poached by bigger teams before they even get their first-team debut. To give you a brief overview here’s just a few of the many top-class footballers the minor French club has produced or been a stepping stone club for;
Ferland Mendy (Real Madrid), Benjamin Mendy (Man City, Paul Pogba (Man United), Riyad Mahrez (Man City), Lys Mousset (Sheff United), Lassana Diarra, Steve Mandanda, Dimitri Payet, Guillaume Hoarau, Jean-Alain Boumsong and Zacharie Boucher.
Le Havre is an established Ligue 2 club. Even though they had a short spell in the Ligue 1 at the 2008/09 season, they have established themselves in the top half of the French first division. The last three seasons they have ended at 4th, 7th and 6th place.
Le Havre’s last major trophy was winning the Coupe de France in 1959, whilst also winning the equivalent of Trophée des Champions in the same year.
The Challenges / Objective:
Your ambitions for this save is to lead the club to Ligue 1 as quickly as possible. On the way you need to promote at least one Under-19 player each season, perhaps starting out with promising midfielder Abdoullah Ba, and provide them with regular first team football. Your transfer policy is to look for ‘out-of-favoured’ wonderkids and Under-21 talents that are not yet received the chance to get their first team debut.
Whilst focusing on developing French talents and compete against Lyon, Rennes and Marseille at producing international stars you could have an objective of developing the next French player to receive firstly the World Cup’s Best Young Player award and secondly either the Golden Gloves, Golden Boot or Golden Ball award – continuing the traditions set by Fabian Barthez, Kylian Mbappe, Zinedine Zidane and Just Fontaine (1958).
Expect limited resources to work with and a smaller transfer budget and fewer options to improve your squad less transfers in the higher end of the fees paid.
Recommended by @FMUnion
[HOL] FC Groningen – Eredivisie
Stadium: Hitachi Capital Mobility Stadion (Capacity: 22,525)
Nickname: Trots van het Noorden
While most look to the big three, Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV for a Dutch youth development save, I would like to pinpoint a club outside the top 10 clubs in Holland with the most trophies but who got a fairly large fanbase.
FC Groningen was founded in 1971 but wasn’t able to leave a remark on the Eredivisie until the beginning of the 80s. Debuting in the 1983-84 UEFA Cup beating At. Madrid in the first match showed glimpses of what to come.
Between 1986 and 1991, Groningen regularly qualified for European football and their round of 16 finish in the 1988/89 UEA Cup stands today as their best finish in a European competition. The same year they reached the KNVB Cup final but lost to PSV.
Despite battling for a top 10 finish in the Eredivisie for the last 20 years, the 2006 3rd place, a feat also managed in 1991, stands today as their best Eredivise achievement. Their only major trophy was won only 5 years ago when they won the KNVB Beker beating PEC Zwolle 2-0.
FC Groningen is a club with a growing history and who got lots of potentials. The Pride of the North is not unfamiliar with youth development. A long line of Dutch football legends and great footballers have been brought through the Groningen Academy since the 90s.
Though Ronald Koeman enjoyed most success at Ajax and Barcelona, he and his brother came through the Groningen Academy. Arjen Robben, who is now back at his roots and the current world’s best defender Virgil van Dijk are two of the biggest players coming through the Groningen conveyer belt beside the Koeman brothers.
The club hasn’t only been a stepping stone club for Dutch players (Hans Hateboer, Daley Blind, Juninho Bacuna and Arnold Kruiswijk, but also a range of international stars. Luis Suarez, Dusan Tadic, Marcus Berg and Ritsu Doan.
The Challenges / Objective:
The objective with a Groningen save is to keep developing Dutch talents from within the Academy looking to season in and season out produce Dutch newgens that can star on the international scene – competing for the highest awards.
The challenge will be to keep hold of your best talents until they turn 23 and form a dream team that can compete to become Dutch Champions and eventually lift the UEFA Champions League trophy.
On your hunt for glory, you’re restricted to only buy Under-21 talents from Eastern Europe (Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and etc) or Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) continuing a transfer policy that has worked wonders so far!
[BEL] Royal Antwerp F.C. – Jupiler Pro League
Established: 1880 (140 years ago)
Stadium: Bosuilstadion, (Capacity: 16,144)
Nickname: The Great Old
Competing against Anderlecht, Club Brugge, KAAGent and Standard Liège at producing the best Belgium talents must be an entertaining challenge.
Outside the top 5 Belgium youth academy clubs, there are quite a few interesting clubs to turn into a world-class producing talent factory. Both Royal Charleroi Sporting Club and KAS Eupen might be of interest, but I’d like to turn my focus at the oldest football club in Belgium, Royal Antwerp.
Nicknamed the Great Old, Antwerp is based in the Flemish region towards the borders of Netherlands. While KAS Eupen is based in a province of a German-speaking population, the common language of Antwerp is Dutch or a mixture of French and Dutch aka Flemish. The province of Antwerp has a population of 1.8 million people which makes it ideal for producing and developing local talents.
Unlike the remarkable feats of Anderlecht or Gent, Antwerp’s history of producing top talents is delicate, as they have produced none Belgium starlets that have taken the European stage.
Last season, despite the weird turn of events with the pandemic putting a stall on many leagues around Europe, Antwerp achieved one of the best seasons in this century – winning both the Croky Cup and qualifying for the Europa League group stage after ending at fourth place in the abandoned Belgian First Division A.
Despite entering into their fourth consecutive season in the Belgium top flight and having of the biggest fan-base in the country, the club has under-achieved for a major part of their 140-year club history. they have won three Belgian Cup trophies and four Champions, but it’s been years between each honour.
The Challenges / Objective:
Bolstering a squad of 20 different nationalities and key players in the peak of their career, the income from continental football and past seasons achievement might be a great chance to rebuild the club and lay the foundation for developing your own home-grown talents.
Ideally, you’d like to get rid of any foreigners within the squad to pave the way for future Belgium newgen talents.
Your task is to rely on the youth coming through your own academy – working with what the youth intake gives you and incorporating them to the first team squad as early on as possible.
The ultimate goal is to feed Premier League with Belgium talents coming through your Academy!
If you should sign any players to bolster the squad, you should ideally focus on Belgium Under-20 players – poaching newgens from the other Belgium clubs.
Due to the close location of Antwerp to France and Netherlands, you can give yourself the freedom to sign French or Dutch talents at a maximum age of 19 if you find it hard to find suitable Belgium U20 players.
Additional Recommended Videos
Sleeping Giants in Football Manager 2021
Restoring the glory of a sleeping giant in Football Manager 2021 is a great challenge that will definitely test your managerial skills. Following you’ll discover some sleeping giants in FM21 that let you hunt for promotion and their first champion’s title for decades!
[GER] Hamburger SV – 2. Bundesliga
Established: 1887 (133 years ago)
Stadium: Volksparkstadion, (Capacity: 57,000)
Nickname: Die Rothosen
The history of German football is in fact dominated by one club; the Bavarian powerhouse Bayern Munich! With 30 Championship titles, twenty Cup pokals, six Champions League trophies and numerous runner-ups, it seems difficult to end their spell. Throughout history, there is no shortage of clubs that have tried; Schalke 04, Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart, 1.FC Nürnberg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Since I’ve covered 1. FC Kaiserslautern last year, I’ve set my eyes on Hamburger Sports Verein or simply HSV this time.
The current 2. Bundesliga team have struggled both financially and on the pitch for the last 10 years. 18 managers within the last 20 years, not been able to win a trophy for 17 years and haven’t participated in European competitions since 2009/10, their fall to the first division are miles away from where they want to be.
Going into the third season in the 2.Bundesliga, everything that is left for die Rothosen fans is the recollection of their former glory.
One of three German clubs who has won the honourable UEFA Champions League trophy, a feat acquired within their golden period.
Between 1975 to 1987 a total of 18 trophies were added to their trophy cabinet. A double in 1982-83 stands today as the last time they became Bundesliga Champions.
Under the tutelage of legendary managers and players like Ernst Happel, Branko Zebec, Kevin Keegan (Ballon D’Or winner 1978 and 1979), Felix Magath and Horst Hrubesch HSV competed at all fronts within their golden era; ranking up three Bundesliga Championship trophies, two DFB-Pokals, one European Cup Winners’ Cup trophy and a European Cup trophy (the equivalent of Champion League), as well as participating in the UEFA Cup and challenging Bayern for the Bundesliga trophy.
Ernst Happel remains HSV’s most successful manager with two Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal and one European Cup trophy.
Now it’s been 37 years since their last Bundesliga trophy and the club focus more on grassroots football and developing their own talents rather than restoring their glory.
In recent years the HSV academy has been a regular supplier of German talents that has made a remark on the Bundesliga. For years they have produced Bundesliga regulars and been a stepping stone club for many great players. From Son Heung-min and Shkodran Mustafi to Jonathan Tah and Fiete Arp, HSV is one of top 10 best German talent factories.
The Challenge / Objective
Featured in the Bundesliga from 1964 to 2017, it’s definitely the time to get HSV back to where they belong by keeping hold of your best talents and replicate the feats by club legend Ernst Happel!
Your objective is to get HSV back into the Bundesliga as quickly as possible and become a force to be reckoned with.
Your task is to make Joshua Vagnoman into a club legend and turn Xavier Amaechi into your own Kevin Keegan – a profilic striker!
The current squad got a number of highly promising players that are only waiting for you to turn their career around!
Can you dethrone Bayern Munich and their dominance by replicating a minimum of 15 championship titles in 20 years whilst also battling for Champions League trophies year in and out?
Recommended by @deRaamFM
[ESP] Deportivo de La Coruña – Segunda División B Gr.1
Established: 1906 (114 years ago)
Stadium: Abanca-Riazor, (Capacity: 32,660)
A regular La Liga participant between 1991 to 2001, the relegation to the third tier of Spanish league system makes Deportivo La Coruña as a great ‘restore the glory of’ challenge for FM21.
The Branquiazuis, or the blue and whites, have for most of their history been an elevator team between the first and second tier with a handful relegations to third tier, which they quickly bounced back up from.
Located northwest of the Iberian Peninsula in the historical community of Galicia, Deportivo La Coruña made a name for themselves nearly 20 years ago. Battling against the two Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona for the La Liga Champions League Trophy and Copa del Rey.
Led by Javier Irureta, Super Depor were created and Deportivo became a force to be reckoned with in Spanish football. He guided them to their first ever league title and bringing Deportivo into the latter stages of the UEFA Champions League.
Whilst their semi-final end in 2004 stands as their best CL achievement, the Super Depor amazed pundits around the world with a highly international squad. Creative and technical gifted Brazilians (Rivaldo, Bebeto, Djalminha and Mauro Silva) was accompanied by Moroccan Noureddine Naybet, Dutch prolific striker Roy Makaay, Bulgarian Emil Kostadinov as well as Diego Tristán, Fran and Juan Carlos Valerón, Albert Luque and Víctor Sánchez, who were all Spanish.
Deportivo’s last trophy was acquired 2002 where they won the Copa Del Rey and the Supercopa de España. Since then, the club has been in a major decline which the 19th place in the Segunda Division 2019-20 proves.
The Challenge / Objectives
Your task would be to eventually look for cheap Brazilian wonderkids and other FM21 bargains that can lead the club to new glories. First, you need to rebuild the club and improve on the clubs training facilities to enhance the chances of being self-sustained by homegrown talents in the years to come.
The objective is to get back-to-back promotions within a 5 year period and look to develop a newgen who records the most goals and appearances for the club – overcoming the achievements by Fran (435 apps) and Roy Makaay (96 goals).
[ENG] Nottingham Forest – Sky Bet Championship
Established: 1865 (155 years ago)
Stadium: City Ground, (Capacity: 30,446)
Nickname: Forest, The Reds
If HSV doesn’t fancy your interest, perhaps the English equivalent Nottingham Forest might. As one of 7 clubs who have won the Champions League twice in a row or more (1978-79 and 1979-80), the challenge of restoring the glory of Forest could be an entertaining one.
Battling for mid-table positions in the Sky Bet Championship for the past 20 years and haven’t competed in continental cups for years, their 14 major trophies stand as a recollection of past glories that seems impossible to recreate for many years to come.
Their golden era coincided with Brian Clough entering the club as manager. Only a year after taking over Brian Clough led Forest to promotion to the top division. 5 years after being relegated from the top division, Clough won the 1977/78 First Division as a newly promoted club – a feat that has never been accomplished since, in additional to beating Liverpool in the EFL Cup (Carabao Cup), who were in their golden period as well.
In December 1978 Liverpool ended Forest’s 42 matches unbeaten league run, a record who stand until Arsene Wenger’s The Invincibles. In the following seasons, Nottingham Forest won the Champions League trophy twice in a row beating both Malmø and Hamburger SV.
In a short period, Cloud led Nottingham Forest to 7 titles within his first period at the club. 10 years later Clough added the last two trophies to the cabinet winning the EFL Cup twice in a row.
Since then, Forest was for a short while an elevator club moving up and down between Premier Division and First Division before eventually ending up as an established Championship club.
The Challenge / Objectives
Forest has only recorded a top 10 finish within the Championship twice in ten years. Your objective is to restore the glory of Forest by first making them into a leading Championship club aiming for a top 3 finish. Then the aim must become Premier League Champions for their second time in their history.
An objective could be to surpass the 42 matches unbeaten run and get the club qualify into European tournaments.
By focusing on producing English talents, the task must be to develop a newgen who ranks up the most appearances for the club – currently standing at 692 appearances (made by Bob McKinley).
[ENG] Portsmouth – Sky Bet League One
Established: 1898 (122 years ago)
Stadium: Fratton Park, (Capacity: 20,620)
When looking at sleeping giants for Football Manager 2021 we can’t avoid including Portsmouth. A club with a long and proud history where the first major trophy won in 1938/39 (FA Cup) and the last trophy 2007/08. That’s nearly 80 years between the first and last trophy won!
The FA Cup win was a twist of faith for Portsmouth despite earning the rights to play in European competition for the first time. Whilst the club’s ambitions were high at the time, bolstering a squad of Younès Kaboul, Nwankwo Kanu, Peter Crouch, Sylvain Distin, Glen Johnson and Niko Kranjčar, the financial situation proved otherwise.
With huge wages and major transfer fees played for players it shouldn’t go more than 2 years before the club was forced to accept a bid from foreign investors and by 2010 the club were forced to go into administration with approximately £135 million in debt!
The financial problems resulted in point deduction and transfer embargos. And when the on-pitch results didn’t deliver, Portsmouth had to take the hard step down to first Championship, then to League One before starting from scratch in League Two with a squad filled with amateur players.
The Challenge / Objectives
The history of Portsmouth is unfortunately not unique, but quite interesting. As a club who aims to get back to former heights, this is your chance to come in with your ambitions and visions to restore the glory of Portsmouth in Football Manager 2021.
The objective is to make them financial selfstainable letting you build a new Stadium or acquire the funds needed to buy players at a higher standard.
It’s important to note the great affection value for the fans and pundits over Fratton Park. The club has played on the ground since 1898, which creates an atmosphere and history to the games that outlives any new stadiums.
Let’s not fall in the same trap as before, but your aim for this save should be reach for back to back promotions from League One to EPL in three years!
Why not follow in the footsteps of Harry Redknapp and get Portsmouth back in the Premier League to fight for the club’s third Championship title and FA Cup trophy, before eventually aiming for a manager position at Spurs?!
[ITA] AC Milan – Serie A
Established: 1899 (121 years ago)
Stadium: San Siro, (Capacity: 80,018)
Nickname: I Rossoneri
Perhaps a challenge more suited for the FM21 beta or as a short career of 3 to 5 years, but talking about sleeping giants in Football Manager 2021 we can’t come away from AC Milan.
For the past 9 seasons, Juventus has dominated Italian football, but in second place comes A.C Milan with 18 champion titles joint with Internazionale! The 2020-21 season marks the 10th year anniversary for their last Serie A title.
Up in the years, AC Milan has ranked up 7 Champions League trophies, 5 Coppa Italia titles and 11 other European international cup trophies including the FIFA Club World Cup 2007 trophy.
Under Silvio Berlusconi’s reign, AC Milan became an Italian powerhouse led by Arrigo Sacchi and bolstering legends like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Alessandro Costacurta and Frank Rijkaard. The club has seen some of the biggest players in the world taking on the I Rossoneri shirt and stepping onto the honourable San Siro stadium.
Now the memories of George Weah, Kaka, Robinho, Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi and Andrea Pirlo to name a few are all just that. Memories.
Now the club is in the transition to a new era.
They’ve already started the climb for the top 3 of Serie A. The current squad features a mix of wonderkids and players with a growing reputation. Football Manager 2021 is your chance to have your say in the all-time greatest AC Milan XI by developing your own legends!
Meanwhile hunting for success, your objective should be to produce the next hall of fame players, competing to overtake;
- most appearances (currently held by Paolo Maldini 902 appearances / 647 in Serie A)
- most league goals (Gunnar Nordahl – 210)
- most league goals in a season (currently held by Gunnar Nordahl – 35)
- most points in a season (82)
[DEN] Vejle Boldklub – Superligaen
Established: 1891 (129 years ago)
Stadium: Vejle Stadium (Capacity: 11,060)
Nickname: De Røde (The Reds) or Jyllands Rubin (Ruby of Jutland)
Celebrating their 130th anniversary in 2021, Vejle BK promoted to the Superliga ahead of the 2020-21 season. Even though the club has a long and proud history, the club has spent most of the last ten years in the Danish first division.
We have to go back to the ’70s and ’80s for their last golden era.
Between 1971 to 1984 eight of eleven major trophies were secured. Their first Danish Championship since the ’50s came in the debut season of Allan Simonsen, while the last championship came in the last season John Sivebæk played at the club before eventually leaving for Manchester United.
Allan Simonsen was later on named the 1977 European Footballer of the Year ahead of Kevin Keegan and Michel Platini! The Danish striker who played for Borussia Mönchengladbach at the time helped the Germans to their first and only European Cup final (now CL) but lost to Bob Paisley’s Liverpool.
Even though three participations in the UEFA Cup in the ’90s – the last in 1998-99 – the club has had a hard time replicating the feats of the early 70s and 80s where they regularly competed in what is now known as the Champions League.
Whilst the current Vejle squad features players from 18 different nations, their historical traditions on producing talents are remarkable. The latest talent to emerge is Wahid Faghir a striker of Afghanistanian descent, who might be the next Danish striker to take Europe with storm!
The Objective / Challenge
The major challenge with managing Vejle BK is to turn the newly promoted Superliga club into the biggest club in Denmark bringing F.C. Copenhagen down from their throne.
By continuing focusing on rebuilding the club, a project under the Moldovan co-owner, Andrew Zolotko, in 2016, your task is to eventually develop the next Danish European Footballer of the Year and continue to feed Europe with Danish internationals, like Thomas Gravesen who played for Everton and was part of the famous first Galácticos era of Real Madrid.
In your quest to retain the Danish Championship title your transfer policy might be to restrict yourself from buying players over the age of 21. A rule could be that whenever you sign a foreigner you’re forced to spend at least 50% of the transfer fee paid on signing a Danish Under-18 player, who will be part of the first team as well.
Follow the Passion4FM team on Twitter for more coming Football Manager 2021 related content!
Until next time, thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: Information contained within the screenshots is subjected to change for FM21. All illustrations within this article are gathered from Football Manager 2020.