Football Manager 2009 can count bulging-eyed Everton boss David Moyes among its army of addicted fans. The Liverpool club has signed an exclusive deal to use the game's player database as a virtual scouting network, prompting fears that the league will soon be overrun by free-transfer strikers named Barry Baggio.
Everton's deal with Sports Interactive gives them full access to Football Manager 2009's statistics, compiled with painstaking care by a real-life team of scouts working across 20,000 teams and 50 countries.
This is believed to include the 'hidden' statistics that are withheld from players of the game (so you get a fun surprise when the midfielder you just spent £15m on turns out to be more injury-prone than Mr Glass from Unbreakable), as well as the continually updated data as it comes in - but the details of the arrangement are not widely known.
This is an odd precedent, certainly - yet it's somehow both astonishing that this has happened and a mystery that it took someone so long to think of it. Whenever a transfer goes pear-shaped, it's customary for football wags to claim that "Arsene Wenger thought X looked useful in Championship Manager", but the game's depth of information is legendary. It's an open secret, indeed, that many real-life coaches have a healthy interest in the game's databases and, while there's no substitute for seeing a player in action, it doesn't hurt to have a well maintained dataset that gives you an idea of which of the thousands of hopefuls it's actually worth going to see.
We just hope someone keeps an eye on Mr Moyes to make sure he doesn't restart without saving after losing 3-2 to Gillingham in the semi-finals of the 2018/19 Champions League.
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