This article originally appeared on VICE Sports UK.
The debate over the realism of the Football Manager series is an odd one. The data is now used as an integral component of scouting departments at major clubs, while the ever-refined formula brewed over a decade produces the most lifelike experience imaginable.
To be fair, for every Nigerian wonderkid that never was, they've been right about a hell of a lot more; Theo Walcott's rapid flickering between world-class superstar and League One-level clogger is about in tune with how he's seemed to be playing. But then your pal's telling you about his upcoming Champions League Final with Alfreton Town, or James McLean's agent enquires whether you'd be interested in having him over at Ibrox, and you start to get skeptical.
Now, we notice, Sports Interactive have put their cards on the table about an equally murky debate: the 2022 World Cup. From what we've seen, you'll be informed that the tournament has been moved "due to club protests about scheduling", with China seemingly the alternative destination.
We can pretend for a little while that the reason for this is not simply that Sports Interactive couldn't be arsed modelling in a winter World Cup, and that in their quest for realism, they have decided that this is in fact the most likely (or at least one potential) outcome.
The only problem is that the result of this would have to be the full extent of FIFA's sleaziness being revealed, and Football Manager has generally shied away from that sort of thing. You won't, for example, see your league campaign interrupted by your captain being hauled before an FA panel for racial abuse, or have the option to take your young starlet aside to demand an explanation of why tomorrow's Sun is leading with screenshots of him and his 15 friends getting rimmed by a prostitute on the club's pre-season tour to Dundee. Those sorts of things, understandably, don't exist in Sports Interactive's fantasy world.
There's also been some examples of the company fearing litigious clubs and players over the years. You could, at one time, see players sent off and given lengthy bans for losing the plot on the pitch and lashing out at opposition players, but this would only ever happen with regenerated players rather than real-life stars. If the game's stats really are so widely used, you wonder how long it is before someone decides to sue SI for loss of earnings because they only gave him a 7 for workrate.
Presumably, the SI team are assuming that FIFA have bigger priorities at the moment.