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The Long Term Approach – Squad Building and Development (Pt 1)

No matter what club you manage or the tactics you use, ideally you should have some kind of long-term vision for the club if you plan on staying for a fair few years, well at least I do, I should say. With the vision of the club and how I want to move forward then determines how I squad build and what type of players I’ll bring into the club with the necessary attributes needed for whatever roles I need them to play. This is very much long-term for me as I tend to play a particular brand of football at the clubs I manage and use the same or similar shapes throughout my stay at the club. The only real-time I don’t do that is if I need to freshen the game up then I’ll look at drastic changes just to mix it up a little. But for most parts I stick to the same philosophy and identity that I try to create the club throughout and player recruitment and player development are vital for this.

I like to give myself different options with terms of player recruitment, I use this as a strategy in itself. By this I mean, I don’t like to buy or develop like for like players, I don’t see the point in that. So what I’ll do is look for players who will play the position differently, this makes recruitment fun and gives me options off the bench without actually changing the players role in the side. Instead I focus on a different type of player playing the same role and how he will interpret the role.

As I am now a few seasons into my Santos save I thought it would be good to talk you through the roles I use and how I develop players for these roles long terms and show you a few examples of what I was talking about above. The tactic I use is the Brazilian 1970 one that I was recreating;

If you want to read more about the tactic itself and what it’s all about then you can find more information about it here;

Now while I might be a few seasons into the game, I’m still not far enough to have had the chance to fill every position with youths as either my scouting network isn’t big enough yet or I’ve just not found the right type of player, I don’t just buy anyone, I only buy players who I have a clear plan for from the beginning. Especially when my transfer budget is £2.5 million for the first two seasons, so it becomes difficult to bring in a lot of new faces. However I think I’ve done quite well with the ones I have brought in so far but before I show you them, there are a few other things I need to cover first.

For me training is simply broken down to these three key stages;

  • Personality
  • Tailored development
  • PPM’s

There are other factors to consider too like match experience but to keep this simple, I break training down to the three things mentioned above. Personality is important because if a player lacks ambition and professionalism then they’ll struggle to reach their full potential, so its vital that I select a personality type that allows players the chance to reach their potential. Other factors still play a part of course but to give them the best chance then personality should be at top of the list. To find out more about what types of personalities there are have a read of this;

When I mention tailored development I’m talking about moulding the player into the best player he can be for the job you expect him to do. This will often mean (at least for me) that I don’t follow the attributes for the role that the game suggest as I look to get something more out of the role. So to achieve this I use individual focuses for either attributes or role training. If you take this approach then to take full advantage of the individual training you must set the team training to balanced on low and the match training schedule slider should be set to 20% or lower. This will ensure that the focus is all on the individual focuses you have selected. If you change the general training from balanced, what you do is actually emphasize the attributes of whatever that category trains. You can find more about that here;

One thing it doesn’t mention above though is if you train an individual focus and any type of general training that is not balanced then you are skewing the attribute focuses twice which detracts from the training and slows development down as the focuses you selected aren’t being focused on as much as they should. This is why you need to decide if you want to take a more generalist approach and use general training to put focus on attributes, if you choose this option then that will be for every single player in the squad. If you choose the individual option then this means you have more control and can work on targeting specific areas of a players development. If you use both at the same time (i.e fitness, tactics, ball control, defending or attacking) then neither method is working to the full potential and while you’ll still see improvements it will be slower and not as good as choosing one or the other.

Player’s preferred moves (PPM’s) are also a very important part of development for me because they enable you to influence what a player does by teaching him a set of PPM’s that help him achieve what you want from the role. I also did a post about PPM’s quite recently so rather than cover old ground I’ll just link what I wrote previously if you’d like to understand them a bit better.

Let’s take a look at my current best eleven that I use so we can see what type of player I currently use for the roles as well as looking at the attributes the game highlights needed for the positions.



Central defenders



Fullback (DL)


Complete wing back


Central midfielder defend


Deep lying playmaker


Inside forward




Advanced playmaker


Deep lying forward


Those are my best eleven and all of them apart from trequartista were already at the club. I do have more players but I haven’t listed them as they were all shipped out and didn’t feature in my plans or were only used for tutoring options if they had good personality types. I’ve also brought one or two older faces into the club just for tutoring the youths as my squad is rather young and doesn’t have many tutors.

All the players I’m about to list either came through my youth ranks or were found by my scouts searching the world for players under 19. I don’t do anything special with regards to scouting, I just have my scouts search for players under a specific age and that’s about it.



Deciding how I’d develop him and what role he’d be playing in the current set up was one of the easier decisions I’ve had to make. Long term he will be my trequartista as he has the attributes for that already and stands out. His personality is also professional already and as I’m short on tutors I don’t need to have him tutored immediately as he isn’t a priority for tutoring due to him having at least half of what’s required already. I decided that because he has high technical for a fifteen year old already that I didn’t really need to do individual attribute training for him. This allowed me to give him an individual role training schedule instead but even though he will be a trequartista that isn’t the role I gave him. The reasons for this is I wanted to work on his physical attributes and if we look at what the trequartista role trains we’d see there is minimal focus on the physical’s;


As you can see that focuses on a few attributes that are already extremely high. In fact, his technical attributes are already high enough for what I need for him so I’d not be that fussed if they never changed. His first touch, passing and technique are all I need, anything else in the technical column is a bonus but not essential.  His mental attributes need a lot of work but that will come with age and from playing games, they should develop quite well over the next three to four years. The physical attributes though are average but I’d like him to be faster because he will have lots of space to cover on the pitch and if he drops deep he needs to be able to catch up or keep up with play. If he’s slow then he’ll struggle meaning a part of my jigsaw doesn’t work which will have a knock on effect elsewhere. I could have gave him specific attribute training but due to his young age I didn’t feel that was needed as he has no obvious weakness based on his age. With all of this in mind I decided to look through the training schedules and find one that worked more on the mental and physical attributes. This is what I decided on;

rpm attributes

That’s the roaming playmaker role. It works on more mental attributes and physical ones. The more attributes a schedule works on the less chance they have to improve though compared to a schedule that works on less overall attributes. That isn’t a bad thing though if the attributes it targets are all areas the player needs to focus on. It will save you time in the long run compared to individual attribute training and continuously rotating them manually for a few seasons.

I mentioned further up that he needs to be able to keep up with play or catch up with it so he can be involved in everything. What I need him to do is be a link between the midfield and attack by dropping deep in search of the ball and generally just roaming about. While I expect him to chip in with goals at times this  isn’t his main job. The main job I want is for him to be able to find space and commit the opposition to marking him or following him as this should create space for me to use. Or for him to use the space that the others around him create. Not only that but I expect him to do through balls or play people in who might be in better positions that himself. He really needs to be the all action type hero.

This means that long-term based on what I need I see him needing these PPM’s;

  • Comes deep to get ball
  • Tries killer balls often

That’s all that I see him needing for the role nothing too fancy or flashy as I expect him to be involved in everything so don’t want to make him do to many specific things as that could take away from what I need him to do overall.



This player is a tricky one because realistically he could be trained to play almost anywhere in the set up I use. He could play centre back, central midfield, attacking midfield or even as a striker. So it wasn’t straight forward having a plan for him to begin with and it took me a lot of debating to decide on where I see his position long-term. In the end I did settle on him being the advanced playmaker though. The reasons for this were simple in the end, it’s because he could be a very different type of advanced playmaker compared to what we already have at the club. He’d offer me more of a physical presence, so I see him as a hybrid defensive midfielder/advanced playmaker, a defensive advanced playmaker if you like, who could be very useful in certain situations. Don’t get me wrong I can see him becoming a regular in the side but I can also tailor him to be a specific type of player and offer me something different when playing those physical sides who defend deep and make it hard for you to break them down. I could use him as a battering ram type of player and because he’s a playmaker he will automatically attract the ball off his team mates so I’d be confident he could keep hold of it and not be bullied off the ball. I also see him winning the ball high up the pitch and defending from the front which is always useful.

Due to what I was wanting from the player, I again selected the roaming playmaker schedule for him;

rpm attributes

It just suits everything I want to focus on. I’m not sure I’ll keep him on this long-term though it all depends how the first 12-18 months go and then I’ll review where he’s at in his development and base any changes made on that.

As for PPM’s he already has tries long-range passes but others I’d like him to learn at some point would be;

  • Dictates tempo
  • Plays own-twos

This would then allow him to dictate the pace of the game high up the field and based on the situation he could try a long-range pass or a one-two with whoever is up in support of him.

Siphiwe Nzama


Another pretty straight forward one this and I see him as the complete wing back but I see him as a more physical option than the current options I have available, although he is a poorer crosser of the ball but I should be able to drastically improve that with a little bit of time. He’s slightly older than the other players so I don’t have as much time with him compared to those and this has influenced how I will train him. For the first 6 months he will be trained on individual attribute focuses which will see me work on;

  • Strength
  • Positioning
  • Crossing

I will give each one of those a focus for 2 months at a time then I’ll switch to some complete wing back training depending on if I see the attributes rise or not in that time. Again though, I’ll assess this after the six months to know where I stand in terms of improvements.

His PPM’s hopefully will be;

  • Get’s forward when possible
  • Runs with ball often

I want him to make use of his high dribbling attribute and always be as advanced as he can when we have possession of the ball so that’s what those PPM’s are based upon.



I did toy with the idea of making this lad a centre back as I don’t really have any real prospects for that just yet but then decided I’d try and get someone more creative as a centre back to offer me something different to what I have currently. So what I went for here is use Rafael as my no-nonsense central midfielder who has the defensive duty.  He needs a bit of work but he has plenty of time on his side to develop and I’m in no real rush with him.

For his training I decided to give him individual attribute focus, focusing on;

  • Strength
  • Positioning
  • Quickness

He needs to be strong so he doesn’t get knocked off the ball easily and he needs quickness as he has lots of space to cover and I need to be confident he can move around to where he is needed in the quickest possible time. And focusing on his positioning should also help with that. I will rotate these on a 2 month period and then see how he’s developing, if its good progress I might switch him to a role training but I want to see what kind of improvements I see first before committing to it.

As for PPM’s there isn’t any that I want him to have for now, this might change as I get further into the game but for now its something that I’ll ignore and look at further down the line.

Julio Cesar Cabrera


This player is going to have a dual role in my side as he’ll be used as an inside forward and the deep-lying forward at times. Depending on my players condition throughout the season will determine where he plays. The reason for this is he’s too good to not fit into the team straight away but for now I also have players playing that I class as undroppable for the first season and half. The upside is in Brazil we play a lot of games so a big squad will always be used!

Long-term I see him as my inside forward due to his all round game and I think he can offer me a physical presence. Ideally if I develop him correctly he’ll be like a target man inside forward who burst forward and pushes himself past his markers and the oppositions defence. A skilful player who has strength and speed is an awesome thing to see working on the pitch in the correct set up. I think the tactic I use will suit this type of player so that’s why he’ll be developed this way. As for his training I am putting him on individual attribute focus of;

  • Strength
  • Stamina
  • Quickness

I feel these three attributes let him down currently but should develop quite easy with this training. I’ll keep him on this for the full season but rotating them 2 months at a time so we don’t waste time and over focus on one particular attribute.

Long term his PPM’s should be something like;

  • Runs with ball often
  • Cuts inside

I might add more but for now they will be the basic minimum he has taught to him.

I have a lot more information to add about these players and how development has gone over the next few seasons and also including more players. However this post is getting far too long so I’ll have to split it and post the other bits of information in a few days time. So expect to see;

  • Summary of how trainings been going including showing current profiles to see attribute changes
  • A look at who has been tutored and who his tutor was.
  • I’ll show you more players who I’ve brought in
  • We will look at some of the different kind of options I have and are training that are very different to offer me something different from the current people I use.
  • Talk about my substitution strategy and how I use my bench as a tool to change a game.

Hopefully someone will find what I’ve written useful 🙂


27 thoughts on “The Long Term Approach – Squad Building and Development (Pt 1)”

  1. Congratulations Cleon, for your posts always interesting and I appreciate them especially when you talk about aspects of the game that I normally escape.
    Development with pleasure your bases tactics, as always I try to interpret your idea consistent with my thoughts tactical …
    I look forward to the second part, however, that my anticipandoti Honved plays a wonderful football with your first part of BRAZIL 70

    Sorry for my bad English, a fan of yours from Sicily … greetings

  2. I just can’t stop reading you mate! I’ve now read the above post 4 times already. Love your deep knowledge of the game although I can’t put it in my saves yet. I don’t even know if I am making some progress but I don’t care! I am having fun reading you! Thanks!

  3. Great stuff again, keep up the good work. Can I ask what you train first, is it the attributes/new position or the ppm’s. I personally train the position first then the ppm’s but just wandered how you do it.

    1. Thanks for the reply. Do the players not complain about too much training? When I do them at the same time my players start complaining about the intensity of the training or saying that a certain attribute training is a waste of time. Is this down to their personality? I’m am Rangers in my save and they don’t have much cash but they do have good youth and training facilities so I want to use that to my advantage.

  4. I ignore their moans especially when they say something isn’t what they should be training, I’m the manager and I know what attributes they need to have. When learning someone a PPM there is extra workload but nothing that will damage the player. Professional players will handle it better and are less likely to complain.

    1. Ok thanks for the advice I will put that into practice. I have a brilliant young lad that I want to eventually replace Kris Boyd with so hopefully he will progress.
      I also read a piece you did on the SI forum about defensive arts, great work again may I add. I am Rangers in my save as I mentioned above and I try to crate the Walter Smith style solid tactic that took them to the final ueffa cup and that article helped a lot. I don’t use the diamond shape you use but I go flat 4-4-2. The problem I have is my attack doesn’t seem to score a lot. I consistently get 12+ shots at goal but only 3-5 on target. Is there any advice you can give me on how to improve when attacking but also staying in that rigid defensive formation?

  5. Fantastic work, as always.
    One question about the training… You used balanced on average for the general training, but what about the weekly training? Which intensity?
    And which intensity for the individual training? Average, hard?

    Thanks for the answer, I always appreciated your stuff.

  6. It’s all explained in the links I posted. I use low for general training. You don’t have to set it weekly it will use whatever is listed at the top. Individual training is hard.

  7. Hello, I just read your Ajax – real life meets FM and thought it contradicted a part of traning mentioned here.
    Here you say set team training to balanced and low intensity to allow for more time to be spent on individual training focus, right?

    But in the Ajax thread you say: “Individual training does NOT come out of general training – it is added together to create an overall workload”

    So does setting team training to low actually lower the total amount of training done, or is that a set value which you need to split between team and individual training?

    1. How does that contradict? If you do heavy general training and heavy individual training then the workload is too great to be effective. If the general training is set to low but individual training high then the focus is on individual training meaning that is the focus instead of general. High workloads are bad and increase risk of long-term bad injuries which stops development.

      You can’t not do general training but you can limit how intense its trained hence why if you use any of the individual trainings then to get full effect it must be set on low.

  8. Say you have a squad of 20. For the first 3-4 months you want to give 15 of them individual training on either technique or first touch. Would these 15 be better served by having the general training set to ball control or balanced in your opinion? Do you know of a good article that deals with this general/ind. training and skewing the attribute focuses in-depth?

      1. Because you are wasting training for the other 5 players in your example, it’s common sense. Anything that wastes training for others is not good or more beneficial than something you can achieve by focusing on individual attributes instead. If you wanted the full squad to learn those particular attributes then its a different matter.

  9. Awesome post Cleon. I always love reading about how others go about developing their youth players and learn something new every time. All the best with their development.

  10. Golden. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.I have question, since in FM 16, you can no longer set the training intensity for individual attributes training, does it still benefit setting general team training to low?

    1. Yeah as the intensity level is still there, it’s just now its combined into the workload of a player instead.

      1. When I put my balanced general training to low, at match training 10%, and having my player focus on a single attribute, it states that his workload is ‘medium’. Do I change general training intensity to average or high to have give him a ‘heavy’ workload and get optimum benefits?

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