One of the chief appeals of the much-beloved video game series Football Manager is seeing how this meticulously-researched game that goes to absurd lengths for realism forecasts the future, and how you, by way of your invented manager avatar, can affect that future. Usually, gamers accomplish this through stockpiling as many good, promising players as possible and nurturing those talents to their maximum potential. One sadistic gamer, however, took an entirely different path.
This Football Manager story, titled “The Fall of Lionel Messi” and told through a collection of screencaps, is pretty old. (It appears that the gamer in question orchestrated his dark plot using FM 2012, and the compilation of the screencaps itself was posted in 2013.) But I’d never seen it before, and it is so horrifying that it’s worth pointing out again now anyway.
First, think back to 2011, and the state of international soccer then. Lionel Messi was, at just 24 years of age, already the sport’s dominant force, already talked about as one of the greatest players of all time. He’d won five La Liga titles, three European Cups, was the star man on a Pep Guardiola Barcelona team that was considered maybe the greatest club side ever, and had won the last two Ballon d’Or awards on his way to racking up four straight. He was at the top of his game, and because of that at the top of the video game world, too, and primed to dominate both for the foreseeable future.
One gamer, however, was none too pleased with the state of things. “The Fall of Lionel Messi” starts off in a simulated 2027, where the newly-retired 40-year-old has capped off an illustrious playing career and taken a youth-coaching gig with Spanish club Real Zaragoza. In this simulated future, Messi’s abilities continued to eclipse all others, as evidenced by the 381 goals he scored in his 630 appearances and the 12 Ballon d’Or awards he piled up. Or, as the author of “The Fall of Lionel Messi” put it:
The biography of a retired Messi in a regular career. An absolutely insane record at all levels of the game. Twelve Ballon d’Ors. Come on, pal, give someone else a chance.
With the second picture in the set’s caption, we begin to see the gamer’s plot. Underneath a picture of a list of Ballon d’Or winners from 2011 to 2017, all won by Messi, the caption reads “This is the exact thing which I endeavoured to put an end to; Messi’s stranglehold of the Ballon d’Or.”
From there, the gamer goes back to the “present” (in this case, 2011) to the 24-year-old Messi’s stats page. Predictably, Prime Messi’s numbers are off the charts:
We get one more look at a scouting report for Messi before the plan begins in earnest. With a managerial name of Destroying Messi, the gamer appoints himself as manager of Barcelona. The first order of business is to set Messi’s individual training regimen, which the gamer sets at zeros for all attributes. Before the first regular season of Destroying Messi’s Barça tenure even begins, an assistant coach tells him that Messi is unhappy with his training workload. The manager is, of course, unswayed.
Then, with the image of Destroying Messi’s decision to omit Messi the player from his La Liga roster, making the Argentine superstar unable to appear in any league games, the Messi hater’s plot is fully revealed:
So this is the plan. No games, no training until his contract runs down. That’s 2011 - 2016 where Messi won’t even grace the Barcelona gym.
The goal? His destruction, and the worthy redistribution of the Ballon ‘Dor.
Messi himself complains to the manager, as do some of Messi’s teammates, who are shocked that the world’s best player has been treated so callously. The manager is unmoved. Messi demands playing time in the media, and even requests a transfer. The manager is unmoved. By December of 2011—the same time Messi in real life was halfway through his record-melting 2011-12 season where he scored 73 goals in 60 games—this exiled Messi in the video game is nowhere to be found in the Ballon d’Or voting.
It’s too painful to describe the rest of the series of images as “The Fall of Lionel Messi” continues on, but it’s worth checking the whole thing out. The gamer is actually a successful manager, and leads his Messi-less Barça to titles. Meanwhile the Argentine forward languishes with the reserve team year after year, seeing his abilities rapidly deteriorate.
Slowly but surely, Messi’s teammates stop worrying about their former star’s fate, and Messi himself quits demanding a transfer or playing time. By the end of the five years, Messi is released from the club after his contract expires. The media hardly mentions him. His talents have been demolished:
In the summer of 2017, at 29 years of age, the man who once was the best player the world had ever seen is finally free from the gamer’s clutches after playing barely a single match in five years. His skills have been so eroded, no one else will pick him up and he’s forced to retire. The gamer quits his post as Barça boss, the diabolical scheme a success
Or was it? The gamer offers another view of the Ballon d’Or voting in this alternate reality:
Oh fuck what have I done?
Sure, I broke Messi’s monopoly, but in doing so another arose, that of Cristiano Ronaldo.. A circle of destruction. There’s probably some Marxist lesson to be learnt here.
Maybe the cruelest result of all.