Countless hours are set to be lost all over again after Football Manager 23 was officially released this week, and with it a comprehensive list of the top-rated players in the latest version of the long-running managerial simulation franchise.
Using the global scouting network employed by FM23's producers, Sports Interactive, every single player in the game's vast database is given a rating from 1-200 for their Current Ability (CA) and Potentially Ability (PA). CA is the attribute assigned to any given player who dictates how good they are at present, while PA governs how much better players could conceivably become under your management.
A look at the players with the highest CA ratings in the game makes for interesting reading. The highest CA rating of any player in the game stands at 189, though only nine points separate the top spot and the rest of the top 10.
There are certainly some big names populating the list, though some are situated a little farther down the pecking order than you might expect. Here are the main takeaways.
All hail King Kevin
Kevin De Bruyne possesses the highest rating of any player in Football Manager 23 with a CA value of 189/200. The Manchester City playmaker is just one ranking point ahead of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe, who is tucked just behind in second place with a CA of 188.
Top 10 full of talent
The FM 23 ratings podium is completed by Robert Lewandowski thanks to the Barcelona striker's CA value of 186. Meanwhile, three heavyweight superstars jointly share fourth place between them in Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah and 2022 Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema, all of whom have a CA of 185.
Harry Kane (183) is next up while Virgil van Dijk and Thibaut Courtois share eighth spot with a joint (both 181). All three boast a higher rating than seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi, who is 10th overall with a CA of 180.
Cristiano clinging on
Cristiano Ronaldo fans will have to keep scouring way down the ranking to find their hero. In fact, the Manchester United forward has only made it into the top 100 thanks to his comparatively low CA value of 158/200.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is joint-98th overall, a position he shares with 10 other players who have the same CA rating: Yves Bissouma, Ben Chilwell, Matthijs de Ligt, Memphis Depay, Diogo Jota, Keylor Navas, Christopher Nkunku, Nicolas Otamendi, Mikel Oyarzabal and Nicolas Otamendi.
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City stacked with stars
Man City are effectively the strongest team in FM23 as the reigning Premier League champions have more players with a CA rating of 158 or more than any other side.
In total, City have 14 players on list between De Bruyne (189) at the top and Riyad Mahrez (160) in joint-83rd. Erling Haaland (185), Bernardo Silva (176), Rodri (175), Ederson Moraes (175), Ruben Dias (174), Aymeric Laporte (168), Joao Cancelo (167), Jack Grealish (166), Ilkay Gundogan (165), Kyle Walker (164), Phil Foden (163) and John Stones (161) are the other City players to make the grade.
Chelsea are next with 11 players on the list, followed swiftly by reigning European champions Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich with 10 players apiece Liverpool and and Barcelona are just behind with nine and eight players respectively.
Manchester City (14)
Real Madrid (10)
Paris Saint-Germain (10)
Bayern Munich (10)
Atletico Madrid (5)
Inter Milan (5)
Manchester United (5)
AC Milan (3)
Tottenham Hotspur (3)
AS Roma (1)
Borussia Dortmund (1)
FC Porto (1)
RB Leipzig (1)
Real Sociedad (1)
West Ham United (1)
Premier League rules Europe
All but two players included in that elite group in FM23 play for a club operating in one of the "big five" European leagues -- the outliers being Otamendi and Pepe, who play in the Portuguese top flight with Benfica and Porto, both of whom are among the 11 players with CA values of 158 who are grouped together in joint-98th place alongside Ronaldo.
The Premier League leads the way with seven clubs being represented in Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Man City, Man United, Tottenham and West Ham. Curiously. while Arsenal can claim to have more players on the list (3), West Ham can boast that their lone representative (Declan Rice, joint-55th, CA 162) is level-pegging with the Gunners' highest-ranked player (Gabriel Jesus) and sits clear above the other two in Bukayo Saka (64th, CA 161) and Martin Odegaard (73rd, CA 160).
Spain's LaLiga and Italy's Serie A both have five clubs each represented in the Top 100 while France's Ligue 1 is a one-horse race responsible for offering just a solitary club on the list (fewer than the Portuguese top flight) -- no prizes for guessing which club.
Premier League (7 clubs)
Serie A (5)
Primeira Liga (2)
Ligue 1 (1)