Unusual marriage of arcade game Sensible Soccer with elements of football management gave one of the best games in both fields in late 1990s.
Sensible Soccer was one of the best arcade games with football background - with smooth scroll, well developed steering and different game modes it was (along Kick Off series) great fun to play. In 1995 new version of the game was introduced - on first glance basically it was just Sensible Soccer with few extra options added, but those few options proved to make all the difference in the world.
Several of the national leagues were available - most of the European ones (from Albania to Wales), almost all of South American ones (Argentina, Brazil, even Suriname), few of the CONCACAF region (United States, Mexico and Canada), also few African leagues (Algeria, Ghana and South Africa), Taiwan, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. For most of the countries local cups were also available and international competitions (f.e. European cups).
Only the chosen country was fully simulated, although it was possible to reach for players from foreign countries to buy. Also the word "simulated" needs asterisk next to it - only your own match was actually simulated (if you were using the player-manager mode or just viewed the whole match), rest of the results were only generated using some other match engine, so in a way their results had very little to do with results given by the normal match engine.
Player parameters was another gray area in Sensible World of Soccer - you could not browse through any parameters of your players, most of them simply did not existed (f.e. players did not have age). There was in use quite clever way to inform you about strong points of a player without viewing the parameters themselves - each player had three letters next to his name that showed, in descending order, his best skills.
For example letters VHP described him as fast (V meant speed) playing well using head (H was for heading) and was able to make good passes (P was for passing). In that example speed was his greates asset, but you did not know if he was in fact faster than other player with letter V on first position, you only knew that for both of them pace was the best they had to offer.
Only few parameters were described in that way: heading (H), pace (V), tackling (T), passing (P), shooting (S), finishing (F) and ball control (C), but it was enough for you to make educated guess while selecting the lineup or making transfer offers. In later version of the game player potential was displayed using stars of different colours, so using those two factors (skills parameters and player potential, sometimes also transfer market value) it was easy to establish what to expect from the player in arcade mode.
Just like players had no age, they also had no contracts, so they could be part of your team infinitely. In reality the only player management options available were those used in transfers (to buy or sell). In case of insufficient number of players to fill the starting 16 player squad Sensible World of Soccer also offered substitute players on trial basis, who could become (after few games) permanent part of your team, but that was the only source of players outside of the transfer market.
There were no training options for your players, the training could have been used by you to improve your arcade skills.
Two transfer lists (domestic and foreign) were available whole time, players on them were chosen randomly once per season. There was option to place direct offers for players from other teams, but usually they were more expensive and they could also turn down the offers to switch teams.
Nice transfer option was exchange - instead of money you could have offer a player of your team as part of the deal to buy another one. They had lesser chance of success than regular offers (player for money), but were nice chance to get rid of useless players with limited budget available.
There were no tactics options, only formation and lineup selection.
Actually two different match engines were used in the game - one was fully simulating single match through arcade part of the game (or as spectator), the other one was used to generate results in other matches. Unfortunately those two engines had absolutely nothing in common. While in arcade mode (even as spectator) you could beat any team 5-0, once you used option just to see result there was high chance you can lose even to poor opponent.
Neither of the engines generated any sort of match report - only goal scorers were recorded, but all data were reset at the beginning of new season.
Apart from transfers there were no other team management options. The only ray of sunshine was in career mode, where you could be offered a job in different club, sometimes even in different country than the one you started in.
There were no options to manage the stadium.
There were no options to hire staff members.
There was no option for multiplayer game.
I realize that the details above do not describe Sensible World of Soccer as clear case of football manager game, but even with that limited amount of options available still it was a good game that had some well developed elements (f.e. the letters describing player skills system) and created an army of devoted fans that even 20 years later still take part in improvised multiplayer leagues via Internet.
Sensible World of Soccer