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Football Manager players are exploiting a bug in its naive AI to buy the best players in history for less than 1% of their value

The thing about football (or soccer, for our cross-Atlantic cousins) is that it’s just as much about the art of the deal as it is about the art of the beautiful game. The sport’s best and brightest are traded between clubs for price tags in the hundreds of millions, and assembling a dream team requires haggling, cajoling, and leveraging whatever angle you have to get the best players at the best price.

Unless you’re haggling in Football Manager 2024, that is, in which case it’s simply a matter of exploiting the poor AI with a very specific set of contractual terms that it will always, always accept, trading away players who should be worth nine-digit sums for the pittance of €2.5 million.

The glitch was brought to light by Football Manager players on Reddit, who noticed that the game’s AI seemed set to always accept a very specific set of transfer deal terms no matter how valuable the player in question was. Below, for instance, is one player nabbing Erling Haaland (who my football-understanding colleague Rich Stanton tells me is the best footballer in the world) for—you guessed it—a mere €2.5 million, plus six monthly instalments of €200 and 10% of the next transfer’s money (meaning when this player comes to sell Haaland, 10% of that fee will go to the club he’s currently buying Haaland from).

Haaland, if you’re not familiar, would ordinarily go for around €350 million or so, so that’s a saving of around 99.3% for the buyer, there.

It’s a real sly trick, and you can get very mean with it. Some players report that, in addition to the buckwild terms of the transfer, they’ve gotten other clubs to continue paying a portion of their players’ wages even after they’ve traded them away, which is really adding insult to injury.

Of course, just because you’ve bought a player at some insultingly low fee doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily play for you. If you buy them, you’ll need to negotiate their contract, and players are yet to find some precise combo of contractual terms that players will always accept, so the bug’s power is a little limited. There’s club reputation to take into account, too: a player as glamorous as Haaland isn’t going to play for Kettering Town FC. More’s the pity.

It’s a funny bug, and kind of inexplicable. Some players theorise it’s actually a dev tool to let Sports Interactive test players in clubs that can’t afford them, but it could just be a very funny quirk of the AI, kind of like that guy who badgered an auto-dealer chatbot into selling him a Chevy for $1.

One thing’s for sure: the secret’s out. It’s probably a matter of time before the bug gets patched, so if you want to assemble a glittering team of footballing greats for roughly the cost of a flat in Central London, you’d better get a move on.

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