If you tend to automatically default to the same team every year in Football Manager and you’re looking to switch things up this time around, let us present to you an imaginative list of new FM23 save ideas that will challenge every aspect of your FM skills.
This is definitely a guide suited to someone that doesn’t just want to load up a new save with the best team in Football Manager 2023 and have an easy ride.
Instead of just taking over a team in the top division with plenty of cash to spend, below, we’ll look at some of the most fun leagues to manage in.
We’ve tried to round up the best list of Football Manager 2023 challenge save ideas that we could find across the entire internet.
We start with some of the more well-known FM23 challenges that can make for great long-term saves, before moving on to some more specific scenarios that introduce interesting and challenging restrictions to spice up your FM experience.
The Pentagon Challenge
We begin with arguably the toughest challenge out there.
Starting out with nothing, players must rise up to the pinnacle of club football in all 5 playable continents, by winning each confederation’s continental club competition (eg. Europe’s Champions League, South America’s Copa Libertadores etc.).
This challenge will take managers around the globe, managing lesser-known teams in new and unique leagues, and is a great way to learn about the football being played in countries we’d never normally think to visit on our FM23 saves.
- Start unemployed with no coaching badges and only Sunday league experience.
- Win each confederation’s continental championship in all 5 continents available in the game (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, AFC, CAF). It makes most sense to start with one of the lower reputation competitions before building up the big two in Europe and South America.
- Optional: Expand the challenge to include the OFC Champions League (Oceania) via the Steam workshop.
The Dafuge Challenges
This save makes for the ultimate one-club, rags-to-riches challenge.
Many of us FM’ers enjoy testing our skills to the extreme, by taking over at a small, almost unknown club buried in the depths of the footballing pyramid, and turning them into a European super-power.
The club development aspect can be one of the most rewarding experiences in the game, building up the club’s finances, developing their training and youth facilities, and turning their bumpy, waterlogged pitch on the local playing fields into a 50,000 all-seater surrounding a carpet of green.
This challenge establishes the ground rules to ensure the maximal level of difficulty and realism.
- Start with no coaching badges and only Sunday league experience.
- Start at the lowest playable tier in your country of choice, perhaps even at a newly promoted side to that league (add additional leagues via the Steam Workshop to go even deeper down the rabbit hole).
- To complete the challenge, win the highest domestic league and continental competition (eg. Premier League and Champions League in England).
- Players can only be signed if the club can scout them, or if they are a free agent that can be invited for a trial.
- Managers must remain at the same club and can only move clubs if sacked, in which case they go back to the starting level to begin the challenge again.
The Journeyman Challenge
An alternative to the Dafuge Challenge is to follow the same path from the lower leagues to continental glory, but via several managerial positions, rather than staying with the same club throughout.
This may not be quite as satisfying, but it can accelerate a manager’s progress up the divisions if continually working with the lowest wage budget in the league becomes a little too much of a chore.
- Start unemployed with no coaching badges and only Sunday league experience.
- Take the first job that is available or offered.
- Don’t apply for jobs, wait for offers to come in.
The Home-grown Challenge
Athletic Bilbao are perhaps the most well-known and extreme example of keeping things close to home. The Spanish club have a long-standing tradition of only allowing players of Basque origin to play for the club.
Celtic’s infamous Lisbon Lions, who lifted the 1967 European Cup, were also known for the fact that every one of their players in the squad that night was born within a 30-mile radius of Celtic Park.
This same idea can be applied to any club.
Simply pick a team and establish a surrounding region from within which recruited players must have been born. The smaller the region, the harder the challenge.
You may want to simply have players that are the same nationality as the club, or you can really up the ante by insisting they were born in the same county/state/province, such as using the Greater London area for a Millwall save.
- Every player in each match day squad must have been born within the pre-defined locality.
- Optional: Extend the same restrictions to your backroom staff.
An alternative and opposing option is the Multi-Cultural Challenge, whereby every player beyond the chosen league’s home-grown quota must be of foreign nationality, but each of them must hail from different countries. A veritable melting pot of languages, cultures and personalities that must be melded into a winning team.
The Moneyball Challenge
Immortalised on screen by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, Moneyball is named after the revolutionary statistical approach employed by the Oakland Athletics baseball team, that enabled them to compete with the big spending behemoths of the league, such as the New York Yankees.
The underlying idea was to identify under-valued players who may not attract the attention of traditional scouts, but quietly and efficiently put up impressive numbers during matches, then move them on at their true value.
Similar philosophies have now found their way into the footballing world, with data analysts becoming the norm among a club’s backroom staff.
The most recent Moneyball-style success story has been that of Brentford, who have risen through the leagues on a shoestring budget to reach the top flight for the first time in their history. While many clubs were investing in their youth academies, Brentford disbanded their academy all together and focused all their funds on the first team itself.
With FM23’s data hub feature, this could be a perfect time to fire up a data-only save.
Forget all those troublesome attributes, we just want to know what a player can do on the pitch!
Looking for a no-nonsense midfielder that can put himself about and keep things simple on the ball? Don’t waste your scouts’ time scouring the leagues for players with tackling, bravery and work rate, just load up the data hub and find the players that cover a lot of ground on the pitch, make plenty of tackles and have a decent pass completion percentage.
After all, real-life clubs don’t have a ready-made set of attributes to call upon when valuing a player.
- Sign players directly for the first team.
- Minimal investment in youth development.
- Maximum age of incoming player is 27, to ensure they can be sold on at a profit while still at their peak.
- When an offer for a player meets their valuation, the offer must be accepted.
- Data-driven scouting only. No broad scouting assignments. Players can only be scouted individually once they have been identified via data analysis.
The Homeward Bound Challenge
It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
If you don’t get too attached to the teams you manage and you want to try out some leagues you’d never normal consider, this could be a fun challenge for you. It has the potential for multiple job changes and gives managers the opportunity to ply their skills in some lesser known countries on a steady trek back to their roots.
The premise; you find yourself marooned in a foreign land, with nothing but your managerial skills and a deep fear of flying. There’s only one thing for it; manage your way home one country at a time!
The idea is that you choose your manager’s nationality, then select a starting job that’s far from home, such as an English manager in Turkey. The challenge is to then successfully manage clubs in different countries as you eventually move back home, taking in the quirks and novelties of all the countries’ leagues along the route.
The great thing about this challenge is that you can tailor the difficulty and longevity of the save by scaling how far from home you begin.
- Create a new manager with a nationality of your choice.
- Take a job in a nation with a lower reputation league far from their home country.
- With each managerial success, take charge at a new club closer to home, but each new position can only cross one national border, eg. Ukraine – Slovakia – Czech Republic – Germany.
The Jose Mourinho Challenge
Love him or hate him, there’s no doubt that Jose Mourinho has a formidable reputation as a born winner, with the trophy cabinet to back it up.
Eight domestic titles in four different major European leagues, two Champions League trophies with Porto and Inter Milan, UEFA Cup and League titles with Porto and Manchester Utd, and multiple domestic cup wins; his record is unquestionable.
A key feature of his success has been his ability to produce an organised, well-drilled defensive unit that rarely concedes. This was perhaps most notable in his Chelsea team that conceded a mere 15 goals in the 04/05 Premier League season with 25 clean sheets, and also his treble-winning Inter Milan team that famously kept Pep’s all-conquering Barca side at bay in the 09/10 Champions League final.
However, he is also known for his tendency to fall out with his players and his apparent unwillingness to back down has often led to several acrimonious departures.
- Top 3 team for goals conceded in each season.
- Win the Champions League with 2 separate clubs from different countries.
- Win domestic titles in 4 of Europe’s major leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Portugal, Holland).
- Never stay at one club for more than 3 seasons.
The Leicester City Challenge
Leicester’s 15/16 title-winning season was the stuff of fairy tales. Having been relegated to League One in 2008, nobody expected them to lifting the Premier League trophy only 8 years later under a party atmosphere at the King Power Stadium.
Even at the start of the 15/16 season, only the most optimistic of Foxes fans would have backed them, with the bookies offering odds of 5000-1 to claim the title.
What makes the achievements of Claudio Ranieri and his charges even more impressive was the paltry amount they spent on their playing squad.
Stalwarts Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy cost only £2m each, the electric Riyad Mahrez was brought in for a mere £1m, while arguably their shrewdest acquisition was that of Ballon D’Or nominee N’golo Kante for £8.5m. In fact, their total transfer spend between relegation to League One and their famous Premier League win was less than £100m.
In this challenge, you’ll take on a recently-relegated League One side and try to lead them to Premier League glory.
- Start with a club that has just been relegated to League One.
- Win the Premier League title within 8 years.
- Spend no more than £100m on incoming players over the course of the challenge.
- Have at least one registered squad member that was present during the League One campaign(s). Bonus points if that player features regularly, as Andy King did in 15/16.
The Ageist Challenge (Young or Old)
At the beginning of the 95/96 season, Liverpool great turned Match of the Day pundit, Alan Hansen, famously declared “you can’t win anything with kids” when discussing Alex Ferguson’s youthful Manchester United side.
Nine months later, a team containing the likes of Beckham, Giggs, Scholes and Neville (all 21 or under at the time) made a mockery of his words by securing the Premier League and FA Cup double.
Can you repeat this feat and rub salt into the wounds of the doubting Hansen?
Alternatively, perhaps you’re a fan of Italian football’s knack of extending player’s careers well beyond their best before dates, all while continuing to deliver trophies.
Italian teams have long been known for their pragmatic, strategic approach to defending, epitomised by the famed Catenaccio tactic.
As a result, wily, street-wise, older players schooled in the dark arts of defending have become a common sight in Italian club and national sides. Giorgio Chiellini recently lifted the Euro 2020 Cup on the eve of his 37th birthday. The Champions League winning AC Milan side of 2007 had an average age of 34, and included the legendary Paolo Maldini, who was 38 at the time.
One club legend, Francesco Totti, famously extended his Roma career into his 40s, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still producing the goods with AC Milan after turning 40 himself.
- Decide whether you’re going to focus with playing only young or only old players.
- Impose a limit to the number players in your match day squad over the age of 21 or under the age of 30. The more restrictive you go, the harder the challenge.
The Mike Bassett Challenge
Okay, so this one may lack a little of the realism factor, but it can still make for challenging tactical scenario.
Fans of the movie will remember Ricky Tomlinson eloquently declaring Mike’s strong tactical preference for the 4-4-2 formation, a style that took him from charismatic Norwich City manager to the head of the England national team.
Direct play, hoof-ball, kick and rush; call it what you like, he was a believer in the old-fashioned, English style of play. Think big man/little man strike partnerships in the vein of Sunderland’s Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, hard-man enforcers like Vinnie Jones and Dennis Wise in the Wimbledon midfield, and tricky wingers like Stuart Ripley raining crosses into the box for Alan Shearer to bang in the goals that propelled their Blackburn side to the Premier League title.
In this challenge, you’ll try to achieve success by only managing in the style of Mike Bassett.
- Start unemployed with no badges or notable experience and work your way up through the English football pyramid to become England manager.
- Play exclusively with a 4-4-2 formation at all times.
- Bonus points if Norwich City are included in the rise to fame.
- Extra bonus points if your victory parade can take a wrong turn, get caught in Norwich’s one-way system and end up on the bypass!
The Director of Football Challenge
A lot of us tend to over-achieve in the transfer market more than we do on the pitch. It’s a beloved quirk of the FM series that although we may not always excel in tactical decision-making, we can always secure the signatures of every Brazilian wonderkid under the sun, or pick up that cut-price, superstar striker hiding in the Austrian 2nd division.
Some players may even enjoy the wheeling and dealing aspect of management more than they do sketching out tactical systems on the whiteboard or having their noses buried in statistics.
If that’s the case, this challenge may not be for you.
However, if you consider yourself a tactical wizard and want to test your skills with a potentially unbalanced squad of misfits, then sign yourself up!
The simple premise is that you hand over the transfer reins to the Director of Football and see what they give you to work with. That’s it. Everything else is up to you.
- All transfers and contract renewals to be handled exclusively by the Director of Football.
The Club Legends Challenge
Chairmen and supporters are a fickle bunch, and it’s rare that a manager stays at a single club for an extended period.
It’s even more rare when a single team-member plays out their entire career at the same club, during the same period. However, this was the case with Manchester Utd’s Alex Ferguson and Ryan Giggs, respectively.
Ferguson enjoyed a wildly successful 27 years as Utd manager, while Giggs joined when he was only 14 years old and played under Ferguson for almost his entire 23-year Utd career. Together, they won a staggering 13 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups, as well as lifting 2 Champions League trophies.
- Manage a single club for the entirety of a player’s career, from “newgen” (within the club’s youth system) through to their retirement.
- Win as much as possible with that player registered in both domestic and European squads in every season.
The Ernst Happel challenge
This is a very specific challenge, containing 5 distinct stages, that has been recently embarked upon by FM veteran and tactical guru, Daljit Singh (Rashidi) in FM21.
If you’re a follower of his work, you’ll enjoy this one. Despite a glowing CV, many of us are unfamiliar with the story of Ernst Happel (as I was). He was an Austrian who won domestic league and cup titles in four different European countries and spent much of his managerial career in the Dutch league, eventually becoming the head of the national team.
Active in management from the early 60s through to his untimely death in 1992, Happel also delivered 2 European Cup titles with Feyenoord and Hamburger SV and a World Cup runners-up finish with his Netherlands side in 1978. This challenge follows Happel’s career as closely as possible.
Stage 1 – Happel at ADO den Haag
- Start with all coaching badges and pro-footballer reputation.
- Begin in a league with a 3 or 3.5-star reputation, such as the Dutch Eredivisie, and select a team predicted to finish in the bottom half.
- Win a domestic cup.
Stage 2 – Happel at Feyenoord
- Take over at a high reputation club within the same league.
- Win the league title and Champions League.
Stage 3 – Happel at Club Brugge & Standard Liege
- Take over at a club in a 3 or 3.5-star reputation league in another country.
- Win 3 league titles and 2 domestic cups.
Stage 4 – Happel at Hamburger SV
- Take over at a club in a 4-star reputation league in another country.
- Win 2 league titles, a domestic cup and the Champions League.
Stage 5 – Happel at Swarovski Tirol
- Take over at a 3 or 3.5-star reputation league in another country (preferably your manager’s home country)
- Win 2 league titles and a domestic cup
- Youth Development – managers must build their teams exclusively via their club’s youth academies. No incoming transfers are allowed.
- The Selling Club – Each year, managers must sell their 3 best talents (top rated current ability according to the Assistant Manager reports).
- Free agents only – No transfer fees can be paid for incoming players
- Usurp the giants – Take a small club from a well-known footballing city and increase their reputation above that of the giants of the city, eg. Salford City usurping Man Utd/Man City
- The Area Challenge – Win the league in each country within a predefined area, eg. within the British Isles.
- The Hall of Fame Challenge – Quite simply, a race to the top of the game’s Hall of Fame of real-life managers. Can you usurp Sir Alex Ferguson from the top spot, and how quickly can you do it?
Credit to “Ronaldo Beckham” on the SI forums for the Mike Bassett idea.
Credit to FM YouTuber, HerbtheNerd, for the Moneyball idea.