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Football Manager Save Ideas – Fallen Giants

In our FM journeys there comes a time when we look for a little inspiration and to try something new that we haven’t done before. We’ve had other articles on obscure challenges, but looking back at the history of European Football, we can find clubs that were once dominant forces in the game. We dub them the Fallen Giants. You could apply this to any continent but today I will focus on Europe.

Aston Villa

Aston Villa are a historic club from Birmingham, England with a huge following. In recent years they have mainly been a mid-table side, with a dip a few years ago getting relegated to the Championship. They bounced back to the top flight after 3 seasons though. Back in the early 1980’s Aston Villa were kings of Europe!

Under the guide of manager Ron Saunders and Tony Barton, Aston Villa tasted European Cup glory in 1982. Shockingly, Saunders quit before the quarter finals of the European Cup and didn’t see the team complete their cup journey, leaving Barton to finish the job in his stead. They defeated Bayern Munich 1-0 in Rotterdam to lift the cup, but sadly they have not come close to that type of accomplishment since. Their last English First Division championship was the year prior in 1981 and the closest they’ve come since was in 1993 with a second place finish in the Premier League. Villa nowadays have two billionaire owners and could be in a good position to potentially bring them back to the promise land. Can you bring Villa back to European glory? Their huge fanbase would love it!

Dennis Mortimer lifting the European Cup in 1982.

Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest are another seemingly smaller English team by today’s standards. However, they also have a long and storied history and are definitely a member of the Fallen Giants. Managed by the legend that is Brian Clough, Forest won back to back European Cups in 1979 and 1980 and won the First Division in 1978. They also won two League Cups in this time period in 1978 an 1979 and a UEFA Super Cup. Nowadays, Forest had been stuck in the Championship for the past 15 seasons. This past season they were finally promoted back to the Premier League, and now are trying to establish themselves there, but much work remains. Can you take control, keep them up and build them back up to European powerhouses? This is probably a bigger task than doing it with Villa.

Evangelos Marinakis took over the club in 2017 and has enjoyed some success since taking over. His ownership seems to be good for the club at the moment and should help you in establishing the team in the top flight and build towards getting back into Europe!

Trevor Frances, Brian Clough and John Robertson in 1980.


Hamburger SV are a historic club from Hamburg, Germany. In recent times they have been struggling, having been relegated to 2. Bundesliga back in 2018. There have been a revolving door of managers over the past several seasons trying to get the club promoted again, and a general instability has been present in the club. In 2019, Marcell Jansen was voted club president and is a legend of the club as a player. Jonas Boldt has been running the executive board himself lately but has recently been joined by Eric Huwer, so there has definitely been some manuevering in the executive suites. Despite all that, Hamburg were once Champions of Europe back in 1983. Under the stewardship of the legendary manager Ernst Happel, they defeated Juventus 1-0 in the Final at The Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece and are a true member of the Fallen Giants. Felix Magath was the star on that day. It may seem like a long time ago, but I think Hamburg has plenty of potential. They have a wonderful stadium and fanbase who would like nothing more than seeing their team back in the top flight and back into Europe. Can you do it?

Ernst Happel

Steaua Bucuresti

FCSB are the biggest club in Romania and are the only Romanian side to ever lift the European Cup, doing so on penalties in 1986. They faced a Barcelona side managed by Terry Venables at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville. Emerich Jenei was the man in charge that day, it was truly an astonishing feat for a Romanian side to get that far in the competition and then win it all against one of the biggest sides in world football.

Nowadays, the Romanian Liga I struggles to attract the top talent of the big 5 European leagues, but as we know in Football Manager, miracles can be achieved. FCSB have 26 league titles under their belt at the time of writing, have a 55000+ capacity stadium in Arena Națională. They are owned by Gigi Becali, a prominent Romanian businessman and former politician. It might take a few years but Steaua often get into the Champions League by winning the league in Romania, can you mold a squad to take on the best of the best?

Steaua in 1986 after their cup triumph.

Crvena Zvezda

Crvena Cvezda or “Red Star Belgrade” in English, are the biggest club in Serbia. In 1991, they lifted the European Cup for the first and only time. After a tightly-contested final against Marseille, Red Star were victorious in the penalty shootout, taking home the trophy. They also went on to win the 1991 Intercontinental Cup against Chilean side Colo-Colo in Tokyo, 3-0. They were the first Yugoslavian winners at the time, and was unfortunately their only triumph to date. Tragedy stuck when the Yugoslav Wars divided the country into several (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo) starting in 1991. This greatly diminished the size and influence of the Yugoslav league, which was re-organized in Serbia and the other aformentioned nations. Each organizing their own competitions.

In Football Manager, it’s sort of a building a nation challenge, as well as a member of the Fallen Giants in Serbia. You would have to develop the youth and try to attract free agents to the league, with prospects of playing in Europe pretty much a given every season. Red Star tend to win the league in Serbia, having won it 7 out of the past 10 seasons. To date they have 33 titles in their history. However, you will still need to deal with fierce rivals FK Partizan every season, as those two sides tend to dominate the competition.

Victorious Red Star in the 1991 European Cup Final


Feyenoord are the last club that I’ll feature in the Fallen Giants list. They took on Celtic at the San Siro in Milan, Italy on May 6, 1970. After going down 1-0, Feyenoord answered straight back 2 minutes later with a goal from their captain Rinus Israel. During extra-time, Swede Ove Kindvall finally broke the deadlock and scored the winner for Feyenoord, officially starting an era of Dutch dominance in European football. These days they are competing mostly in the Eredivisie for Europa League places, rarely qualifying for the Champions League proper. In Football Manager, you will need to take down Ajax and PSV to get into Europe’s premier competition. Are you up for the challenge?

Feyenoord lifting the 1970 European Cup

Honourable Mentions

Some other clubs are still relatively big clubs in Europe but haven’t lifted the trophy for 20+ years. They are as follows;







Borussia Dortmund


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