Football Manager 2021 best players: All the top forwards, midfielders, defenders and goalkeepers

Lionel Messi is in form for Barcelona
By Martin Macdonald

By Martin Macdonald

Updated 9:05 AM - March 25, 2021

Football Manager 2021 has been released for a while now, but that doesn’t mean a new game can’t be fired up at any point, with glory awaiting users who master their tactics, man management and, of course, recruitment.

One of the best aspects of FM 2021 is trying to build that team of superstars who you believe can lead your club to glory. A fantasy XI that will defeat all-comers – and one that would probably be unlikely to happen in the real world!

Recruitment can be a minefield at times, but FootballTransfers has you covered.

Players have been ranked using the FMScout rating system as a guide, and to make things simple they have formulated an average score out of five based on metrics like value, attributes, position suitability and age.

Though there are players who could usurp the established stars on this list, below are the players who are the immediate best signings in the first season. We have stated their ages at the time of the start of the new season.

For future FM 2021 wonderkids, look at our extensive list here.

Football Manager 2021 best goalkeepers

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
Manuel Neuer, 34, Bayern27m4.66
Alisson, 27, Liverpool55m4.61
Ederson, 26, Man City50m4.41
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 28, Barcelona49.5m4.1
Jan Oblak, 27, Atletico50m3.95
Thibaut Courtois, 28, Real Madrid50m3.89
Wojciech Szczesny, 30, Juventus38m3.95
Samir Handanovic, 36, Inter6.25m3.76
Gianluigi Buffon, 42, Juventus1.6m3.7
Andre Onana, 24, Ajax36.5m3.7
Yann Sommer, 31, Gladbach16.7m3.54

Not only is Bayern Munich star Manuel Neuer the best-rated goalkeeper in FM 2021 at the start of play, but one of the best players overall, with FM Scout giving him a rating of 4.66.

There is a veteran feel to the best goalkeepers list as the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Samir Handanovic, and Neuer feature despite being in the twilight of their careers. The youngest on the list is Ajax shot-stopper Andre Onana.

Under the age of 32, the best value-for-money goalkeeping signing would appear to be Gladbach’s Yann Sommer, who has a value of just £16.7 million.

Football Manager 2021 best central defenders

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
Virgil van Dijk, 29, Liverpool65m4.29
Sergio Ramos, 34, Real Madrid7.5m3.96
Aymeric Laporte, 26, Man City61m3.82
Gerard Pique, 33, Barcelona17m3.75
Giorgio Chiellini, 35, Juventus3.3m3.67
Marquinhos, 26, PSG48.5m3.62
Raphael Varane, 27, Real Madrid52m3.6
Mats Hummels, 31, Dortmund35m3.51
Stefan de Vrij, 28, Inter38.5m3.51
Leonardo Bonucci, 33, Juventus15.7m3.5
Thiago Silva, 35, Chelsea4.2m3.42
Francesco Acerbi, 32, Lazio13.5m3.41
Milan Skriniar, 25, Inter35.5m3.32

There are no major suprises within the list of the best central defenders in FM 2021 as, after all, the game doesn’t know Virgil van Dijk will miss most of the season at the start of play, so he is therefore rated the best from this position.

Aymeric Laporte makes the list but Ruben Dias doesn’t, which perhaps displays how surprisingly good the Portuguese’s impact has been at Manchester City this campaign.

Veterans like Sergio Ramos, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini are still worth a punt, even for a couple of seasons.

Football Manager 2021 best full-backs

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
(DL) Andy Robertson, 26, Liverpol48m3.73
(DL) David Alaba, 28, Bayern55m3.6
(DL) Jose Gaya, 25, Valencia28m3.51
(DL) Alex Sandro, 29, Juventus35.5m3.42
(DL) Jordi Alba, 31, Barcelona33.5m3.39
(DL) Raphael Guerreiro, 26, Dortmund24m3.32
(DL) Nicolas Tagliafico, 27, Ajaz19.5m3.3
(DR) Trent Alexander-Arnold, 21, Liverpool55m3.64
(DR) Joshua Kimmich, 25, Bayern54m3.55
(DR) Dani Alves, 37, Sao Paulo900k3.22
(DR) Juan Cuadrado, 32, Juventus18m3.31
(DR) Joe Gomez, 23, Liverpool37.5m3.2
(DR) Manuel Lazzari, 26, Lazio15.7m3.19
(DR) Joao Cancelo, 26, Man City50m3.14

We all know that Liverpool have two of the best full-backs in the world (though maybe not this season), but FM has confirmed it here as the Reds have the best rated left-back in Andrew Robertson and the best rated right-back in Trent Alexander-Arnold.

Both of them would cost a pretty penny, however, so expect your transfer budget to be impacted heavily by any pursuit of the Liverpool duo.

At right-back, Dani Alves proves that age is just a number as he makes the list despite his 37 years. He is with Sao Paulo in FM 2021, but could still be useful for a season or two.

At the moment in real life, the best right-back in the world is arguably Joao Cancelo, but he is further down on the list, with his current form not translating to his rating in the game yet.

Football Manager 2021 best central midfielders

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
(DM) Marco Verratti, 27, PSG49m3.74
(DM) Toni Kroos, 30, Real Madrid53m3.64
(DM) Sergio Busquets, 32, Barcelona31m3.58
(DM) N’Golo Kante, 29, Chelsea60m3.56
(DM) Jordan Henderson, 30, Liverpool46.5m3.54
(DM) Arturo Vidal, 33, Inter12.2m3.52
(DM) Casemiro, 28, Real Madrid55m3.51
(DM) Mateo Kovacic, 26, Chelsea59m3.39
(DM) Miralem Pjanic, 30, Barcelona48.5m3.38
(DM) Frenkie de Jong, 23, Barcelona50m3.32
(CM) Bernardo SIlva, 26, Man City69m4.13
(CM) Kevin De Bruyne, 29, Man City86m4.04
(CM) Luka Modric, 34, Real Madrid5.25m3.86
(CM) Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, 25, Lazio47m3.66
(CM) Paul Pogba, 27, Man Utd60m3.57
(CM) Nicolo Barella, 23, Inter32m3.55
(CM) Koke, 28, Atletico52m3.24
(CM) Leon Goretzka, 25, Bayern,48.5m3.32
(CM) Fabinho, 26, Liverpol55m3.32

The above list has been split into players who feature more prominently as a defensive or deep-lying midfielder and then into those who feature more centrally depending on the system their team plays.

Marco Verratti tops the list with a rating of 3.74, with Clasico duo Toni Kroos and Sergio Busquets just in behind.

Looking down to the central midfielders, this is where things get more expensive, as if you want to claim the best-rated CM in Kevin De Bruyne, you’ll have to spend well in excess of his £86m value.

The reason for Fabinho being lower down on the list is that he features on so many positional lists that his rating is arguably diluted. He can be found on the best player lists for centre-back and right-back, too, though for the purpses of this article we have attempted to avoid the repetition of players.

Football Manager 2021 best attacking midfielders

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
Lionel Messi, 33, Barcelona46.5m5.0
David Silva, 34, Real Sociedad6.5m3.9
Roberto Firmino, 28, Liverpool67m3.71
Luis Alberto, 27, Lazio39.5m3.68
Paulo Dybala, 26, Juventus55m3.67
Philippe Coutinho, 28, Barcelona57m3.51
James Rodriguez, 29, Everton34.53.49
Joao Felix, 20, Atletico50m3.4
Martin Odegaard, 21, Real Madrid33.5m3.29
Phil Foden, 21, Man City34m3.05

No prizes for guessing that Lionel Messi tops the list not only of the best attacking midfielders, but of any player in the game with an unmatched rating of 5.0. He features on the list for wingers and strikers too on FM Scout, but his most-deployed position is what we have gone with.

David Silva may have left the glitz and glamour of Man City but he remains one of the most effective attacking midfielders in the game with Real Sociedad.

Roberto Firmino is an odd selection for an attacking midfielder, admittedly, but within FM he features in this position often.

Football Manager 2021 best wingers

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
(LW) Neymar, 28, PSG83m4.14
(LW) Raheem Sterling, 25, Man City72m3.84
(LW) Sadio Mane, 28, Liverpool77m3.77
(LW) Eden Hazard, 29, Real Madrid67m3.67
(LW) Leroy Sane, 24, Bayern59m3.47
(LW) Mikel Oyarzabal, 23, Real Sociedad41m3.34
(LW) Lucas Ocampos, 26, Sevilla29m3.07
(LW) Thomas Lemar, 24, Atletico22.5m3.07
(LW) Dani Olmo, 22, RB Leipzig19.2m3.04
(LW) Christian Pulisic, 21, Chelsea39.5m3.01
(RW) Mohamed Salah, 28, Liverpool77m3.91
(RW) Thomas Muller, 30, Bayern44.5m3.58
(RW) Kylian Mbappe, 21, PSG83m3.86
(RW) Angel Di Maria, 32, PSG26m3.76
(RW) Jadon Sancho, 20, Dortmund40.5m3.40
(RW) Moussa Sissoko, 20, Tottenham23.5m3.25
(RW) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, 26, Liverpool39.5m3.23
(RW) Nicolo Zaniolo, 21, Roma19.75m3.16

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar is the highest-rated left winger in the game, and although in real life he tends to play everywhere, his fully green circle for position suitability comes on that left-hand side. The Brazilian is also the winger with the most expensive value at £83m.

Kylian Mbappe is further down the list than you would perhaps expect, but his position as a half right-winger half-forward in real life is probably what sees his rating skewed. His is not conventional within either of those positions.

A surprising entry comes in the form of Tottenham’s Moussa Sissoko, but we will bow to the knowledge of FM scout on that one.

Football Manager 2021 best strikers

PlayerValue (£)Rating (out of five)
Cristiano Ronaldo, 35, Juventus9.5m4.57
Robert Lewandowski, 31, Bayern61m4.39
Sergio Aguero, 32, Man City54m4.34
Luis Suarez, 33, Atletico31.5m4.22
Karim Benzema, 32, Real Madrid46m4.16
Harry Kane, 27, Tottenham80m4.15
Antoine Griezmann, 29, Barcelona67m4.05
Romelu Lukaku, 27, Inter53m4.0
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 38, Milan3.1m3.94
Mario Mandzukic, 34, Milan03.86
Ciro Immobile, 30, Lazio43m3.86
Jamie Vardy, 33, Leicester17.25m3.82
Olivier Giroud, 33, Chelsea6.75m3.77
Gonzalo Higuain, 32, Inter Miami3m3.6
Erling Haaland, 20, Dortmund63m3.5

Just like in real life, Football Manager bosses love to splurge money on a brand new starting centre-forward. In this game, Erling Haaland becomes the best striker in the world, but due to his young age he is further down the list for the first season. Gonzalo Higuain will feel lucky about that!

No big suprises from the list as the top two best strikers in the game are Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski.

CR7’s value is actually relatively small, but at wages of £1m-plus per week within FM 2021, most clubs would be struggling to take him on.

Sergio Aguero may have barely played for Man City this season, but FM still loves him, while Karim Benzema and Harry Kane feature near the top, too.

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