FM Stories #3 – The Top Side In England In 2024 (FM 2008)

Welcome to a new FM Stories where we take a look into not a save but a side. Specifically, the Liverpool side of 2024 on Football Manager 2008. This side has a number of key men that have propelled Liverpool to four league titles in seven years…

1. Massimiliano Montanari (Goalkeeper, 26, Italy)

Signed for £6.5 million from broke Fiorentina in January 2018, eyebrows were raised at the decision of Liverpool boss Eion Smith to spend so much on an unknown goalkeeper who was just 19 years old. Smith was confident in Montanari and had known him from when Montanari was just 16 years old when the Scottish boss was in charge at Cesena. Smith was the one that brought Montanari to Florence too so the keeper was always confident he would be the man eventually. And it took a while.

Scott Carson was the undisputed number one and lead from the back as Liverpool won the title in 2019. Montanari played occasionally but never truly shone but never stopped working hard in training. His eventually became number one in the successful 2020/21 campaign as the fans began to believe in their Italian stopper. He earned international recognition soon after too with Italian fans excited that their nation and finally replaced the legendary Gigi Buffon.

Montanari has continued to improve and grow in stature, cementing his place as a hero to the Liverpool and Italian fans. He has developed a reputation and hunger for success, winning countless trophies at club level and playing in a World Cup final in 2022. The Italian is beloved at New Anfield and he loves it and the boss too.

4. Filippo Pennacchio (Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder, 29, Italy)

The first season of Eion Smith’s reign at Liverpool ended with a promising third place finish despite a struggling, aging spine. He resolved to fix that in the summer of 2018 by spending £22 million on Lazio’s Filippo Pennacchio. Comfortable at the back or anchoring the midfield, Pennacchio had enjoyed a breakout season in Rome and Smith saw him as the man his team could depend upon.

The form of Lucas Leiva saw much of Pennacchio’s first couple of seasons see him play at the heart of the defence but eventually he was shifted forward a few yards and to wonderful effect. His influence on games is so huge that there is a sizable hole when he is not playing.

Made captain in 2023, Pennacchio has grown even more in stature and is revered at New Anfield. The same cannot be said in Italy where Pennacchio is continuously ignored despite outperforming most Italians in his role. He has only received three international caps since moving to Merseyside, something which many consider to be scandalous.

5. Patrick Diawara (Central Midfielder, 23, France)

With the central midfield area at New Anfield entering their thirties, Eion Smith decided to freshen things up in the summer of 2023. The big signing was the capture of an exciting but raw 22 year old Frenchman named Patrick Diawara from Real Betis. Diawara had been on the radar of Smith for a while and has shown in one season why.

£13 million is looking like a bargain as Diawara established himself as the new star of Liverpool’s midfield, with his work rate and enthusiasm freshening up the team and inspiring the Reds to a second consecutive title and their fourth in seven seasons.

Already a full France international, Diawara still has areas to improve on especially in European games where his physical style is no match for some of the more technically superior players out there. There is plenty of time for Diawara though and there is no doubt he will be central for Liverpool for years to come.

6. Joeri Abels (Centre Back/Defensive Midfielder, 20, Netherlands)

In January 2023, Eion Smith paid AZ Alkmaar £4.5 million for 18 year old Joeri Abels. A regular in the Eredivisie from 16, Abels was not expected to see much action when he arrived. However, he  would go on to be one of the stand-outs during Liverpool’s run-in as they won the Premier League title.

A full Dutch international at just 19, Abels has returned from a loan spell at Ajax where he was one of the best players in the Eredivisie, a true indication that the young man is ready to fully make the leap to the first eleven at New Anfield.

7. Mikko Petrescu (Right Winger, 29, Finland)

With no real depth or outstanding quality on the wings, Eion Smith spent big and brought in Finnish winger Mikko Petrescu for £27 million in the summer of 2019. Many question the large fee on a player that had struggled in the Premier League two or three seasons previously at Portsmouth but the skeptics were soon quietened by the Finnish international.

Petrescu made the right wing berth his own and, while never the star man, was an excellent, dependable player that produced when it mattered. His creativity improved as he became more accustomed to the Premier League but his lack of goals has always been his downside (he has never managed more than 3 a season).

8. Veljko Stojanovic (Left Winger/Striker, 25, Serbia)

Fresh off a 17 goal season in Serie A, Eion Smith paid Inter £28.5 million in the summer of 2013 for Stojanovic. However, Smith did not see the Serbian as a striker but rather the solution to his left wing problem. And he was very much repaid.

Stojanovic only managed one goal all season but his creativity was unmatched as he laid on 12 goals as the Reds won the Premier League title for the second straight year. A Serbian international, Stojanovic is the main creative threat for Liverpool.

9. Mick Irving (Striker, 23, England)

A product from the academy, Irving shot to prominence on loan at Sunderland and has returned to Liverpool a goalscoring machine. Already a full international, Irving has scored 58 goals for the Reds in his two full seasons in the first team.

At 6’4″, Irving is a big bruising centre forward but he has the touch and clinical nature of someone more cultured. His goals were key as England won Euro 2024 and he looks set to be the true replacement for Alan Shearer after almost a quarter of a decade of looking.

Irving’s big problem however has been his inability to hold down a first team place thanks to the wealth of talent available. He’s slowly making the number nine shirt his own, a timely reminder that even the best foreign imports are not as beloved as the homegrown products that come good.

10. Nathan Eccleston (Striker, 33, England)

A Liverpool legend, Eccleston is one of the last men remaining from the pre-Eion Smith Liverpool. His goals were crucial to the early success of the manager’s reign and, as of writing, Eccleston has, in 457 games for the Reds, scored 241 goals – a truly remarkable number.

Despite his age and decreasing number of games, Eccleston has remained loyal to Liverpool and Smith and continues to play for England, helping them to win Euro 2024 and playing in the 2018 World Cup final.

Eccleston’s contract runs out at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he can hit the 250 goal mark for the Reds.

11. Tim Andersen (Right Winger, 25, Switzerland)

In January 2022, West Brom’s star man, Swiss winger Tim Andersen, was wanting out of The Hawthorns. A number of big clubs were sniffing around him but Eion Smith and Liverpool beat them all to the punch and snapped him up for £33.5 million.

Like the other Liverpool wingers, Andersen is not a prolific goalscorer but his creativity is almost unmatched. He’s laid on 40 goals in his two and a half seasons and terrified full-backs while at New Anfield with his pace and technical ability.

12. Robert Harkins (Right Back, 25, Scotland)

Signed at just 18 for a cool £8.5 million from Southampton in 2018, Robert Harkins was another signing that many people questioned. However, they have once again been proved wrong as Harkins has gone on to devlop into of the world’s premier right backs.

The sales of Dor Malul and Robert Cancino in the summer of 2018 left the door open for Harkins and he has never played less than 20 games a season for Liverpool since his arrival that summer. He has seen off the challenge of Argentine Jose San Roman to make himself first choice right back and continues to draw interest from the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

14. Lauri Dalla Valle (Central Midfielder, 32, Finland)

Eion Smith’s first signing in the summer of 2017, Dalla Valle’s fee of £10.25 million from Inter Milan is rated by the manager as his best piece of business ever.

Dalla Valle was brought to Milan by Smith and left Inter a better player and one that would be the man behind all of Liverpool’s successes in the last seven years. Never failing to play less than thirty games a season, Dalla Valle only once didn’t reach double figures in goals and was very quickly appointed club captain by Smith.

Now no longer captain, Dalla Valle is still one of the stars of Liverpool’s side and will be remembered as a legend at the club for years to come.

15. Timo Korhonen (Central Midfielder, 20, Finland)

Costing just £1 million from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2023, Timo Korhonen has been one of the revelations of English football.

A wonderful all-round midfielder, Korhonen player over 40 times for the Reds in his debut season and was one of the stand-outs as they won the league. Groomed as the replacement for Dalla Valle, Korhonen is on the brink of overshadowing his mentor and will surely do so this season.

16. Adam Jones (Central Midfielder, 22, England)

Middlesbrough’s star man for the last two seasons, Jones is England’s next star midfielder and only joined Liverpool after a protracted negotiation in the summer of 2024 for a fee of £40 million.

17. Lewis Jones (Central Midfielder, 30, England)

Another who was at the club pre-Smith, Lewis Jones was actually sold in January 2018 by Smith to Real Madrid. He returned after a tough time in the summer of 2020 on a free transfer and continued his fine form.

A superb all-round midfielder, Jones scores and creates and was the fulcrum of the early Eion Smith sides. His performances haven’t been as outstanding as before but he has certainly been a good piece of business and an excellent servant to the football club.

18. Bob Smith (Striker, 19, England)

Another youth product, Smith made his debut at 16 for the Reds and recently scored his first goal for the club. He has had previous loan spells with Carlisle and Leicester (who were in the Premier League) and looks set to get some game time at New Anfield this season.

19. Alfie Tomlinson (Left Back, 23, Republic of Ireland)

Signed in the summer of 2019 from Galway United for nothing, Tomlinson has progressed to be Liverpool’s undisputed left back and a target for a number of big clubs around Europe.

A squad player for his first two seasons (after a loan at Aberdeen), Tomlinson broke out in 2023/24 season as he was asked to play more games as Joe Mattock declined with age. Tomlinson stepped up to the plate in a number of big games and is undoubtedly Liverpool’s number one left back now.

20. Jose Antonio Ramos (Central Midfielder, 31, Spain)

An £11.25 million signing from Roma in the summer of 2019, Ramos is not a stand-out player. What the Spaniard does offer is the underrated ability of ball retention and a dose of creativity.

Ramos has clocked up over 100 games at New Anfield but he has always been a bit part player. Nevertheless he has always been a key man for Smith, with his ability to do a decent job against any opponent being valued highly by the Liverpool boss. Ramos’ time at New Anfield looks set to be over soon though with all of the younger midfielders pushing him down the pecking order.

22. Andy Nicholson (Defensive Midfielder, 27, England)

Picked up on a free from Manchester City, Nicholson is another wonderful squad player. He has played in some of the biggest games and has always done a good job.

An excellent ball-winning midfielder, Nicholson can pop up with the odd goal here and there. He has never played less than 20 games a season and is good enough that Eion Smith can rest Pennacchio without worry because Nicholson is good enough.

A star man at most Premier League sides, Nicholson is a good player underrated amongst all the stars.

23. Ivan Quinonez (Left Winger, 25, Ecuador)

Signed on a free from Monaco in the summer of 2024, Quinonez is a tricky winger that makes up for his lack of physical skill with his outstanding technical abilities.

25. Ben Hudson (Goalkeeper, 25, England)

Another from the pre-Smith days, Hudson honed his craft at Crewe, Stoke and Portsmouth on loan before returning to be number two behind Montanari.

A very good goalkeeper, Hudson may have to move on to achieve the international honours his ability deserves.

27. Tim Green (Central Defender, 21, England)

A full England international, Green arrived in January 2024 from Tottenham for a fee of £11.75 million. An exciting young defender who looks set to be Liverpool’s rock for years to come especially after his promising early performances.

30. Nuno (Goalkeeper, 29, Portugal)

A free transfer arrival from FC Copenhagen in the summer of 2024, Nuno will provide competition for Montanari and Hudson in goals.

31. Richard Wilson (Right Back/Left Back, 26, England)

One of the most complete player at the club, Wilson was signed in January 2022 from Bolton for £12.25 million. While a regular England international, Wilson has struggled to nail down a regular spot in the first eleven for Liverpool despite always playing well when he has been given the chance.

A wonderfully versatile player and former Everton player, Wilson has not quite shown Liverpool fans fully what he can do yet.

37. Tadashi Chiba (Centre Back, 23, Japan)

A freakishly talented player, Chiba was brought from Middlesbrough in the summer of 2022 for a club record £45 million. Capable of doing almost everything on a football pitch, Chiba is a rock at the heart of the defence and has been the difference maker for Liverpool’s last two title wins.

Despite being just 5’9″, Chiba is almost undoubtedly the world’s most complete player and someone that should win the Ballon d’Or very soon.

99. Richard van der Weide (Striker, 30, Netherlands)

Liverpool were new champions when Eion Smith paid £35 million for Southampton’s star man, Dutch striker Richard van der Weide, in the summer of 2021. It has proven to be a wonderful choice.

The Dutchman was scarily good at St. Mary’s but at New Anfield he has stepped his game up to a whole new incredible level. He has scored 98 goals for Liverpool in 110 games over three seasons which is a frankly outrageous record. In pure league action he has bagged 81 goals in 78 games. His goal record is astonishing and the £35 million is looking a snip for a player that might be the finest pure scorer since Gerd Muller.

That is the Liverpool squad in the summer of 2024 but how does it usually line-up? This is Eion Smith’s strongest line-up…

Liverpool 2024

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