- PART 1 OF THE PLAYER GUIDE SERIES -
There is this sort of notorious status among the Football Manager community when you talk about current and potential ability; or better known as CA and PA.
Most people tend to focus on the stars given by some trusted backroom scouts and staff, drawing conclusions based on that rating and your own knowledge.
Stats are difficult to comprehend, it is not as easy as one assumes. Realistically despite Football Manager being infamous for having such an accurate and detailed algorithm in judging players, it’s still… an algorithm.
It is still a bunch of numbers on a screen which virtually represents a player within your own game save universe simulated by Football Manager.
Yes, these numbers are set out by professional scouts and by legitimate businesses, staff and clubs in the real world – however it can still be difficult to comprehend for us managers sitting at home.
This guide is here to help you understand both Current and Potential ability, what to look for, what the abilities mean, how ‘good’ a player actually is and a simplistic breakdown of how Football Manager judges players. Let us begin.
Both ability markers apply to every staff and player within the simulation universe of Football Manager. Ability spans between 0 – 200. The 200-ability ranking is the absolute best.
Explaining the Ability System
So, who would rank where on the system? It’s a bit difficult to comprehend how to take attribute ratings and translate it to an ability number. Let’s use several examples to understand roughly how good several players are. Remember that this does not apply to star ratings, that is explained later.
Typically, a best of the best or “GOAT” discussion is above the 192 ability. Very few players ever reach this category. Realistically this is the bracket with Messi and Ronaldo in it on both current and potential ability, there are very few players who have the potential to reach this category and finding newgens who are this good are extremely difficult.
The next sort of bracket is what you would deem a “World Class” bracket; the ones below Messi and Ronaldo. Typically, this is between 182 to 192 in terms of current ability. Only a handful of players consistently stay at this level or even have the ability to go above it.
The next sort of bracket is above the 170 mark. A lot of players within this bracket are top class players who can still walk into many sides across the globe. You also have several players in this bracket who have the potential to be way better but currently are not performing as well as they could be. Or genuine world class players who are a bit older may find themselves currently in this bracket.
It continues on down the list from there, however note that this is just Current Ability, players can have Potential Abilities within other categories but it is quite the task to improve them to reach their full potential.
The important thing to understand is that Football Manager is not FIFA. FIFA represents their players by overall ratings, however in FM you see star ratings to represent the overall ability of players. These CA and PA Star Ratings can be inaccurate and can oftentimes be misleading.
You can also be misled by the media interpretations as well; just because they say “wonderkid” or “legendary” does not actually mean their abilities would be at the absolute highest levels or have been one of the best ever.
So how do we judge players? Well a good guide is the stars. “But didn’t you say they were inaccurate?” Yes I did, and that is sometimes true but not always the case, plus it is rare for a player to be woefully misjudged.
Rather than thinking of stars as an overall rating, think of the ability stars as a guide or marker.
Let us look into this further.
The ability stars are given by your fellow staff members. This within itself can be misleading but more on that in a few paragraphs. Within FM you have several different stars.
Gold stars are given to first team players generally, while Silver stars are given to youth players or players at a way lower level then your club. Then there are black/white stars; these stars are what you would call a prediction by your backroom staff in which they are unsure about a player's ability or potential.
As you play your game save you will note that these fluctuate constantly - so what causes the misguidance?
The main thing to focus on is that the stars can be misleading and wrong. Think about this in a real-world scenario; how often do we hear of failed wonderkids? Or players that someone may have thought is not going to perform well, then they go on and sign for another club and perform admirably?
Fortunately, FM does not cover all human convictions and emotions – however it does cover some imperfections by humans. You as the manager need to take this into account when judging a player.
The star ratings can even vary on one player based on different staff members and their attributes. The ability of your staff members judges the current and potential ability they feel that your players have. The higher their attributes are, the better judgement they have.
You have a key role in understanding the attributes of your players and making sure you understand the limits of your staff, the opposite also applies.
The one biggest factor in star ratings is reputation, especially for staff members.
Another factor in misleading stars is the overall level of your squad. Let us put this into perspective.
If you were to take a mid-table premier league player who is key for their side; they would be rated highly, probably around four stars. If you were to transfer that player to a higher club, say Barcelona, that player would probably only have a rating of 2 stars or less as they are not up to the standard of the higher end club. On the other hand, if they moved to a lower club or a lower ‘quality/reputable’ league – that star rating can increase to a 5-star rating.
The level that you are managing at can influence the star rating of players. Similar to this is the competition that you are playing in and the reputation of your club, the clubs you face and as mentioned the competitions (mainly league) you participate in.
More importantly, a player within your squad can lower the ratings of other players. If you were to have one world class player in your squad – they may be the only one with a 5-star rating.
This does not mean that the other players are poor, however it just means that the universe within FM – i.e. your staff – judges that players are not as good as that individual player.
An interesting factor which judge’s ability of players is the form that they are in. Depending on how well and often they have played including how well your team has performed can influence player ratings – and their price tag.
This hints at a third attribute beyond CA and PA which is actually built into the algorithm. This is not however some sort of secret code – it can be seen in real life.
Media description, form and social feeds can indicate the influence this has on a player’s abilities.
Keep an eye out on your player’s star ratings, suddenly a two-and-a-half star rated player could bump up to a three if they run into some good form while playing consistently.
A youngster who performs well can have the media labelling him a wonderkid after a few performances, social media can be over the moon with him – in turn his PA stars may be raised or CA stars may be raised slightly, when in reality he may end up being not good at all.
In turn a player going through poor form can have a lesser star rating or PA star rating if they are a youngster, when in fact they could be the best player in the world.
Messi got sent off on his International debut, and in his second appearance Argentina lost to Paraguay. Look how he turned out to be.
Similar to ability stars, coaching reports can also be misguided. It can vary on what level your competition or league you are in and going to judge. Similarly, the judgments are subjective to how good your staff are at judging the abilities of players.
If you are scouting several players in a league that has a higher reputation and is overall better than your league; then the stars of players can be more than what your player ratings are. Maybe even a bit too much.
This can work the other way around as well; judging a lower league can give back ratings that may be a bit too low in terms of accurately representing how good a player truly is. Not every one of your staff can predict every avenue of how well a player will perform.
The key factor for you as the manager is to focus on the attributes of your players and their personalities.
Yes a staff member who has perfect (20) judgement can really help; but you can still go out and buy a good looking youngster who could be over performing and never reach the heights that you thought they could achieve.
Let’s focus on the abilities themselves, what exactly are they?
CA is a translation. It takes the attribute ratings, along with a few hidden attributes and calculates all of it into a number between 0 and 200. At that point in time, with those exact stats, that is the CA of the player.
This does not mean that if someone were to play out of this world, they would have a CA of 200, rather CA is the calculation of the overall player’s ability based on their stats. Not a form calculation.
CA can fluctuate, it is not static. As a player improves or decreases throughout the simulation, their CA can fluctuate accordingly. You as the manager do not see an overall increase or decrease in a set number as in FIFA, rather you see the attribute fluctuations within your player over time.
PA is like CA, rather than it being a current representation of a player; PA is the potential that a player can reach. However, it does not mean that they will achieve their potential as is the case in real life.
Again, this can be misjudged by your staff and even yourself, there are guides and development tools available on FMScout to help you grow your players - but nothing is ever set in stone.
A player will only ever reach their maximum potential if they develop under the right circumstances. It can depend on multiple factors such as; age, personality traits, playing time, club facilities, mental attributes, hidden attributes, and youth staff.
Therefore, it is crucial for you as a manager to keep an eye on your staff and your youth players and plan out what is best for them.
In FIFA, a player has a set number potential, no more no less. It is easily seen via a google search and if you do just a bit of things right they’re pretty much guaranteed to reach it or close to it.
Football Manager takes a realistic approach. Simply put, we just don’t know how good a player will be.
They could seem to reach the top of the sport, but then the question is actually how high? Are we talking an all time great, or are we talking about a solid top class player - there is a vast difference.
Let us take a look at Negative PA values.
Some players in FM have a set PA from when you start off a save; it does not always mean they will reach that potential. However, there are also negative potential abilities.
This number is given to players usually under the age of 22; and the reason for this is to make the game not only challenging and set in stone, but also the scouting network and staff are unsure in real life how good the player may become.
Having a negative PA means that the player has a range of potential ability, which will be different for every save.
Negative PA’s range from -1 being the lowest to -10 being the highest. The following is a list of the ability ranges and what they translate to in terms of their potential;
-10 = 170 – 200|
-95 = 160 – 190|
-9 = 150 – 180|
-85 = 140 – 170|
-8 = 130 – 160|
-75 = 120 – 150|
-7 = 110 – 140|
-65 = 100 – 130|
-6 = 90 – 120|
-55 = 80 – 110|
-5 = 70 – 100|
-45 = 60 – 90|
-4 = 50 – 80|
-35 = 40 – 70|
-3 = 30 – 60|
-25 = 20 – 50|
-2 = 10 – 40|
-15 = 0 – 30|
-1 = 0 – 20|
This brings a lot of diversity to the game. A player with a PA of -9 can either be a real top-class player (180) or be a decent player (150). Of course, as mentioned before, circumstances allow certain players to reach these potentials and can be limited by injuries and other factors.
A player may get a PA of -9 and when loaded in game it could be a 162 PA which is a solid potential but they may never reach those heights or even get above the 150 thresholds if not developed properly or if plagued by injuries.
Tools in Finding Abilities
After playing FM for a while, you will be able to gain an understanding of generally how good a player is and give a rough estimate as to what exactly their abilities are. However there are other guides available which can give you precise detail as to what the abilities of those players are.
Here on FMScout we have tools such as FMSE and Genie Scout which displays CA and PA's of all players in your game, including staff and other hidden members of staff. The in-game editor is also a guide as to what a player or staff member's abilities are.
These tools can also be used to change the course of a player by editing their abilities and stats - whether you chose to do so is up to you.
It is extremely important to take the star rating system with a pinch of salt. Whether you are buying a player, judging a youth prospect or scouting the opposition; it is imperative to not solely rely on the star rating.
Yes, it can be a decent guideline but focusing on the individual attributes of a player after being thoroughly scouted is key in making decisions. This event occurs with coaches with 20 CA Judgement and 20 PA Judgement – after all they are programmed to be human and make mistakes and misjudgments.