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to meet “scouts”, the little hands of football simulations

Emiliano Sala, Ligue 1 top scorer, catapults the ball with a powerful header in the net of Steve Mandada, the goalkeeper from Marseille. In the stands of the stadium of La Beaujoire, Wednesday, December 5 in Nantes, a man with thick hair in a bun exults, before quickly sit down, almost embarrassed. Ludovic Soulard is a fan of the Canaries, it's true, but he is also a contributor to the database of Football Manager, one of the most famous football club management simulations.

Like sixty fans in France, he follows each week with impressive meticulousness the results of the clubs for which he is responsible, and attributes in the gigantic database of the game scores, criterion by criterion, which will define the behavior of footballers virtual and update them regularly. A work of the shade, that of ” Scout “, that we find today in most football games, Football Manager 2019 at FIFA 19 Passing by Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, and define the realism as much as the balance of these games.

Seven hundred clubs to follow for FIFA

For these giants, to follow closely each team has become mandatory, if only in case of surprise transfer. “There is always a Swiss second division player who is bought on the last day of the transfer window. And all you know about him is his name, his date of birth and his role – and it does not go further than: he is middle. But you have to have this player in the game », told the sports channel ESPN in 2016 Michael Müller-Möhring, the global head of the database of FIFA 17 and following.

Hence the need for a fine mesh. This is how Matthieu Grenaud, former referee and supporter of the Chamois Niortais, joined the community of editors of FIFA in 2016 to supervise Niort, his heart club. “As I am a former member of the Niort club, when I need information, I know where to find them”he welcomes. Since then, he has extended his follow-up to Orléans and Châteauroux, who no longer had a dedicated supervisor.

Electronic Arts today boasts a network of 9,000 publishers worldwide. In France, they are about thirty to cover Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, some of whom have been in post for almost ten years, supervised by two divisional managers based in Berlin, at the EA Europe headquarters, to the database updated weekly

Ludovic Soulard, manager of the N2, Nantes and Angers for “Football Manager”, at the warm-up of FC Nantes. W. A.

Side Football Manager, they are about as much for two annual updates only, but on a wider spectrum: the SEGA management game also covers National 1 and National 2 and is not limited to pro players. A training club like Nantes has, for example, a staff of around 30 football players in FIFA, against nearly a hundred in Football Manager 2019 with the reserve and the young, points Ludovic Soulard.

All the salt in the series consists of identifying pearls less than 20 years old before hatching. Like a certain Kylian Mbappé, appeared from Football Manager 2016 from “Most profitable nuggets” But it is not the Nostradamus of football that wants: in other championships, Lebohang Mokoena, Anatoly Todorov or Maxim Tsigalko had their moment of glory on Football Manager, while their career has never faded.

Thirty to forty criteria per athlete in “Football Manager”

Sure Football Manager, faced with the abundance of players sometimes obscure – especially young people – a part of algorithms automatically assigns notes according to their position and their division. If a “scout” has the opportunity to go see them play, then he will personalize them.

But impossible to do for all, as the criteria taken into account are numerous in the management game of SEGA: thirty to forty per athlete, whose consistency, adaptability, eccentricity or professionalism, all rated on 20 .

For any player, pro or amateur, you must note his technique, his mind and his physique on forty criteria.
For any player, pro or amateur, you must note his technique, his mind and his physique on forty criteria. Football Manager

Sure FIFA, Matthieu Grenaud remembers having worked on the Châteauroux database during his comeback in Ligue 2, in 2017, while the game does not integrate the lower divisions. “There was everything to do again. I spent more time because I did not know the club more than that, ” he admits.

Local press, forums and field

Official reports of the federation, local press, forums of supporters … To document the clubs they know less well, the sources are varied and the de rigueur. When they can, nothing can replace the terrain. “I go there the weekend, to update the wounded, the suspended, the standard teams, the young players who go up in the pro group, the transfers”, enumerates Matthieu Grenaud.

At La Beaujoire, where he goes three or four times a year, Ludovic Soulard scrutinizes him, the details that would elude a televiewer: “I look a lot at the attitude, the placement, if the players are playing forward … The kind of little things you do not see too much on TV. “ That night, he notes on his little notebook the name of the free kick shooters, analyzes the layout of the triangle formed by the three midfielders, and monitors the performance of Enock Kwateng, a player placed right side to see if it should not be noted in this post.

Notebook with crosses (the photographer is formal).
Notebook with crosses (the photographer is formal). W. A.

Each modification of the statistics of a team is then validated by a manager. There is one for each division and each country. They are responsible for the consistency of the scores and the balance of power between the different championships. For example, Football Manager, an average player of Ligue 1 will turn around 12/20: no question he is accidentally better than a star Liga.

“I do not need a lot of sleep”

The vast majority of “scouts” pay only pride, love of the game and a free copy of the next edition. Fell in football management with Guy Roux Manager at his 10th birthday, Ludovic Soulard has two children today, works in parallel in the trade, but finds the time to devote one hour a day to Football Manager. “I'm a night owl, I do not need a lot of sleep, and she works at night, so it does not matter to me. It's a passion “he swears.

For his part, Matthieu Grenaud is a fan of the first hour of FIFA. “To tell me that the players who take my heart club have realistic data thanks to me, it's gratifying”he explains.

On the other hand, there is no question of letting his fan heart shine through the database. “It necessarily happens to want to favor, but we are limited to two points up or down, and all this is controlled by the manager”explains the supervisor of the Chamois Niortais. Electronic Arts also invites its publishers to change teams every six months. For its part, the manager of Nantes ensures to note more severely the Canaries.

In search of the little pearl

The little pleasure of these fans of amateur football is actually elsewhere: identify a promising young and see him climb the ladder. “When there is a player we have been following for a long time in the game, and then who comes in the first team, it is always a pleasure”, abounds Ludovic Soulard, who follows with interest hope Nantais Elie Youan, 19, and Valentin Rongier, the Nantais closest to the France team.

Kévin Malcuit (Naples) speaks to the ants (we are a little less formal).
Kévin Malcuit (Naples) speaks to the ants (we are a little less formal). CIRO DE LUCA / REUTERS

“In Niort we had Kévin Malcuit, who now plays the Champions League in Naples, welcomes his side Matthieu Grenaud. He must have been 61/100 when he arrived from Fréjus-Saint Raphaël and on the 67th when he left for Saint-Etienne. Now he is around 76. “

The referee whistles the end of the match. Nantes wins 3 goals to 2 against the Phocaeans. While the players come to celebrate their spectacular victory in front of the yellow and green kop, Ludovic Soulard lets go a small smile of contentment. This time, no doubt: it is that of the supporter.

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