Whenever a promising player moves from a small club to a big one in real life, it’s a bittersweet moment for Football Manager fans.
That feeling was even greater when Benfica completed the signing of Andreas Schjelderup from Nordsjaelland, who was on January 12 at the time of his transfer “the player with the most signatures” in FM23.
But what made him so popular in the game? And how good is he in real life?
Starting with the game, David Lind, Football Manager’s researcher for Nordsjaelland, explains what has made Schjelderup so popular: “The majority of FM users prefer to sign players with more ‘green attributes’ – like 16 (out of 20) and higher. Schjelderup has almost all the ideal qualities for an inside striker.”
(Before we continue, in case you’re wondering who to sign now that Schjelderup is no longer a bargain, according to Lind these players have great potential at FM23: Mario Dorgeles, Oscar Schwartau, Filip Bundgaard and Hugo Larsson .)
The fact that Schjelderup played for a team in the Danish league also helped, as many clubs were able to sign him for a relatively low fee without much trouble.
That availability extended to the real world, too, where he was firmly on the radar of some of Europe’s biggest clubs long before virtual Schjelderup made a name for himself on FM23. A few years ago, Schjelderup had tryouts with Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Juventus but in 2020 he opted for a move to Denmark instead.
Recruiting Schjelderup was a breeze for Flemming Pedersen, Technical Director at Nordsjaelland and Right to Dream Academy when they signed him from Bodo/Glimt as a 16-year-old.
Since joining Benfica – who face Club Brugge in the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 game tonight – in January, He has not made any first-team appearancesbut his track record suggests it won’t last long.
“We thought he would need 12 months to adjust before we put him in the first team,” says Pedersen of Schjelderup’s time at Nordsjaelland. “Six months earlier than planned, he was in the first team in January 2021.”
Based on early evidence, Football Manager’s prediction that Schjelderup will thrive at the highest level will bear fruit. But how do researchers at FM determine how good, bad, or not a player will be?
“We rate each player individually based on how we see them on the pitch,” says Lind. “How they play, how they move, how they interact with their teammates and other players, and how they behave on and off the pitch.
“It’s very difficult to determine a player’s potential, especially at that age, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. Will they get hurt? Do they get bored of gaming? Will they fail?
“So you’re making calculated or miscalculated guesses based on your sightings and games you’ve seen. We observe and evaluate them like a normal, real football scout.”
Video footage of Schjelderup dancing past defenders with ease will likely have factored into Football Manager’s decision to rate him. His fearless playstyle and dedication fueled his growing reputation.
“He’s so good at working with himself,” says Pedersen. “He uses a virtual reality headset to warm up his brain with different football situations before training. He is a very, very good friend with his teammates, but also very calm and very disciplined.
“We’ve seen young English players get tempted by material things, girls come into the picture and all those things. Andreas doesn’t need to show himself. He has so much integrity, he never shows.”
With Smarterscout we can see how it works in real life. Smarterscout gives players’ games a range of ratings from zero to 99, backed by real data and advanced analytics. These ratings relate to either how often a player performs a certain stylistic action (e.g. number of shots per touch) or how effective they are at it (e.g. how well they convey the ball up) compared to others who play in it position.
The Pizza chart below, adjusted to Premier League standard, shows he dribbles a lot (85 out of 99 carry & dribbling volume) but still manages to maintain possession at an above average level (66 out of 99 ball retention). .
He also favors short, easy passes (83 out of 99 connection play volume), but again makes up for this with above-average metrics for creativity (55 out of 99 expected goals from ball development). However, it shows that there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to high balls and flanks. A rating of 30 out of 99 for Expected Goals from Shot Creation shows that his actions don’t always help to create scoring chances.
“He can make mistakes and grow. In today’s game, most young players don’t have that much time at bigger clubs,” says Pedersen of Schjelderup’s move to Benfica. “Other clubs were interested in Andreas but Benfica were a smart choice – the style of play will suit him.”
Pedersen explains how Nordsjaelland has contributed to the development of Schjelderup’s potential: “We are constructive and critical all the time, because in our experience that makes you better.
“After every game the players see some images where they are successful and then they see a lot of images where we think they could have done better: ‘Even if you scored a good goal and curled up and the far post was there any better option there?’.”
Schjelderup has played for Norway’s youth national teams but is yet to record one senior international. Erling Haaland and Martin Ödegaard are the figureheads of Norwegian football, so where does Schjelderup fit in?
“There are some similarities between Ödegaard and Andreas,” says Pedersen. “He can reach at least the same level as Odegaard.”
The list of players destined for high potential Football Manager who ultimately failed to meet those high expectations is extremely long.
So there’s still no certainty as to how good Schjelderup can be when he reaches his full potential in real life.
According to Pedersen, however, he could reach the highest levels: “He will definitely play for a Champions League team and hopefully be part of the team that also wins this trophy.”
(Other Contributor: Mark Carey)
(Top Photo: Lars Ronbog/FrontZoneSport via Getty Images)