Very few clubs start Football Manager 2021 with much of a transfer budget to play with, even some of the Premier League club budgets have them short on funds.
As such, reinforcing or improving a team in the opening transfer window can be tricky, so the best FM 21 free agents and cheap players are prime targets.
Here, we’re digging into some of FM 21’s cheap centre backs that you can sign to help improve your squad.
Finding bargain centre backs of FM 21 worth signing
In Football Manager 2021, value and asking price is determined by several factors, including the player’s current ability, the level that they’re playing at, age, potential ability, and value to the club. So, it can be tricky to find a cheap centre back worth signing.
To home-in on the FM 21 cheap centre backs that are worth signing, the list has been narrowed down to those with wages below £15,000 per week, a current ability (CA) rating of at least 125 CA, a rating of at least 18 in the DC position, and who can be signed for £4.5 million or less. Each player also has to be a viable transfer target from day one, so those on-loan and new signings aren’t included here.
For perspective, other centre backs that start FM 21 with an exact 125 CA include powerful Egyptian centre-half Ahmed Hegazi, promising Arsenal defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, West Bromwich Albion’s Semi Ajayi, and Olympique Marseille loanee Leonardo Balerdi. All of the DCs on this page are at the same level as these players or better.
Below, you’ll find the cheap centre backs that meet the criteria above, ranked by their CA at the start of FM 21. There’s a full table of cheap DCs to sign at the foot of the page. As each experience of the game is a bit different, we’ve tried to close in on players who meet our criteria and will count as cheap for most managers.
Aridane (133 CA, £1.6 million)
Team: Atlético Pamplona (CA Osasuna)
Value: £1.8 million
Transfer Cost: £1.6 million
Best Attributes: 16 Heading, 16 Positioning, 15 Jumping Reach
During his youth, Aridane Hernández was on the books of Real Madrid and Liverpool. However, a call-up to either of the big clubs’ first-teams never materialised. Instead, the 6’1’’ defender has bounced between the third-tier of Spanish football and La Liga.
His latest move, from Cádiz CF to CA Osasuna in the summer of 2017, commanded the first transfer fee of the Spaniard’s career. Since the £1.8 million switch, Aridane has featured as one of the club’s first-choice centre backs, set to eclipse 100 appearances for Los Rojillos this season.
In FM 21, Aridane stands as a solid cheap DC to sign. Regarding his cost, scouts report that he’ll cost a mere £1.6 million to sign, with his current contract paying him just £6,500 per week. As a squad player at the La Liga club, the 31-year-old would likely be accepting of a deal that offers a similar role with slightly increased wages.
Aridane’s 133 CA sees his attribute ratings concentrated on all of the key areas for a no-nonsense centre back. From the start of FM 21, the Spaniard boasts 16 heading, 15 marking, 13 tackling, 15 anticipation, 15 bravery, 16 positioning, 14 work rate, 15 jumping reach, and 15 strength. He also has a little bit of room to grow, thanks to his 135 PA.
Mykola Matvienko (130 CA, £4.5 million)
Team: Shakhtar Donetsk
Value: £2.7 million
Transfer Cost: £4.5 million, plus add-ons
Best Attributes: 17 Bravery, 15 Natural Fitness, 15 Teamwork
Having built a strong reputation in Shakhtar Donetsk’s youth system, the club decided to have Mykola Matvienko refine his skills elsewhere before pulling him up to the first-team. Following loan spells to Karpaty Lviv and Vorskla Poltava, he fully broke into the Premier Liga club’s ranks in the 2018/19 season.
Over the last few seasons, Matvienko has established himself as one of the club’s go-to defenders. His ability to play down either flank has enabled him to grab starts across the backline, but he predominantly featured as a centre back through his first 95 games. Not only has the defender won the Premier Liga thrice and Ukrainian Cup four times, but he’s also cemented himself as a starter for Ukraine, amassing 30 caps to date.
Weighing-in as the youngest pick on this list of cheap centre backs in FM 21, Matvienko comes with the benefit of being able to improve significantly through training and game time. The Shakhtar product comes in with a 150 PA, so there’s plenty of room for further development on his 130 CA. To sign him for £4.5 million, however, you’ll need to accept the club’s fairly meagre add-ons request.
Already a regular for his country, the 24-year-old can be trusted at left back or centre back. Matvienko’s 13 corners, 14 crossing, 14 acceleration, and 14 pace would lend him to the DL role. On the other hand, the Ukrainian’s 14 heading, 12 tackling, 17 bravery, 14 concentration, 14 vision, and 12 strength make him a decent DC. That said, his nine marking certainly needs some development.
Miguel Araujo (130 CA, £3.3m-£4.5m)
Team: FC Emmen
Value: £3.1 million
Transfer Cost: £3.3 million to £4.5 million
Best Attributes: 17 Aggression, 16 Marking, 16 Tackling
Miguel Araujo has been playing professional football for nearly a decade now, despite still only being 26-years-old. The centre back was given his first senior start by Cobresol in his native Peru, aged 17-years-old. After breaking through in 2011, he moved on to play regularly for Sport Huancayo before landing the coveted move to Europe.
Joining the silverware-studded Red Star Belgrade in Serbia on a four-year deal, he was only given six games before returning to Peru to play for Club Alianza Lima. Here, Araujo found his footing, but in the summer of 2019, he was released by the club. Since moving to the Netherlands and joining FC Emmen of the Eredivisie, he’s once again become a key player, starting every game of the relegation-bound club’s season to date.
Along with his international pedigree, which spans 17 caps for Peru so far, Araujo also stands as a solid cheap centre back to sign in FM 21. Not only is his current wage packet just £7,750 per week, but his 130 CA will only cost between £3.3 million and £4.5 million to acquire.
Of these FM 21 cheap centre backs, Araujo holds some of the highest individual attribute ratings for essential DC skills. The Peruvian weighs-in with 16 marking, 16 tackling, 17 aggression, 15 strength, 14 jumping reach, and 14 bravery. Combine that with 13 heading, 13 concentration, 13 positioning, 14 work rate, 13 acceleration, and 13 pace, FC Emmen’s defender stands as a rather strong signing.
David García (129 CA, £4.5 million)
Team: Atlético Pamplona (CA Osasuna)
Value: £2.4 million
Transfer Cost: £4.5 million, plus add-ons
Best Attributes: 15 Heading, 15 Positioning, 15 Jumping Reach
Often starting alongside fellow top choice cheap centre back to sign in FM 21, Aridane, David García has been a core part of CA Osasuna for the last couple of seasons. A lack of game time during the 2017/18 campaign saw the Osasuna product go out on-loan to Cultural Leonesa, which seemed to be the catalyst for forging a first-team-ready centre back.
Before the halfway mark of the 2018/19 campaign, García had muscled his way into the starting XI. Cemented as one of the first names on the team sheet, the Spaniard was pivotal in the club’s promotion to La Liga. Still Osasuna’s first pick at centre back in La Liga, he scored the crucial equalising header against fellow relegation candidate SD Huesca and continues to earn praise for his aerial dominance.
While he can play to an adequate level in defensive midfield, García’s attribute ratings in FM 21 make him especially effective in the middle of the defence. His 15 heading, 15 jumping reach, 14 marking, 14 tackling, and 14 strength make the 26-year-old a mighty presence, despite his somewhat diminutive 6’0’’ frame for a top division centre back.
In FM 21, the scouts report that it’d take up to £7.5 million to acquire the signature of Osasuna’s star centre-half, but some light negotiations can bring that price down significantly. García can be signed for just £4.5 million if you also accept the relatively quaint add-ons requested by the club.
Willem Janssen (129 CA, £400k-£550k)
Team: FC Utrecht
Transfer Cost: £400,000 to £550,000
Best Attributes: 18 Work Rate, 17 Determination, 17 Leadership
With over 470 games, 59 goals, and 29 assists to his name, Willem Janssen is now in the twilight of his career. At the conclusion of this season, his long term association with Eredivisie side FC Utrecht is currently poised to finish with the end of his contract. With only four appearances by the 15-game mark of the league, the club captain appears to have lost his starting place to the young defenders Justin Hoogma and Tommy St. Jago.
En route to being named Utrecht’s captain, Janssen had worked his way through the VVV-Venlo set-up, joined Roda JC, and then FC Twente. Following a loan spell to Utrecht in 2013/14, the Domstedelingen decided to make the deal permanent. The Nijmegen-native has since racked up 24 goals and seven assists through 210 games, wearing the captain’s armband since the start of the 2014/15 campaign for Utrecht.
In FM 21, not only is Janssen a decent cheap centre back, but he can also play to the best of his ability in defensive midfield. At 34-years-old, he should be seen as a stopgap signing or rotational piece to a budding prospect. With a maximum price of £550,000 and currently earning £4,100 per week, the 129 CA defender is a decent and cost-effective filler for a season or two.
For what the veteran Dutchman lacks in speed, he more than makes up for in the mental attributes column. Only his flair falls below the 13-point mark, with his 18 work rate, 17 leadership, 17 determination, 16 bravery, and 15 teamwork being Janssen’s standout ratings.
All the bargain centre backs in FM 21
In the table below, you can find our other cheap centre backs that meet the requirements of costing below £4.5 million and having wages of £15,000 or less in Football Manager 2021.
|Aridane||31||£1.6 million||£6,500||133||135||Atlético Pamplona (Osasuna)|
|Mykola Matvienko||24||£4.5m, add-ons||£7,000||130||150||Shakhtar Donetsk|
|Miguel Araujo||25||£3.3m-£4.5m||£7,750||130||141||FC Emmen|
|David García||26||£4.5m, add-ons||£6,500||129||139||Atlético Pamplona (Osasuna)|
|Willem Janssen||34||£400k-£550k||£4,100||129||129||FC Utrecht|
|Hatem Abd Elhamed||29||£525k-£725k||£13,000||128||145||Celtic|
|Marlon Torres||24||£625k-£975k||£2,900||128||140||América de Cali|
|Dória||25||£700k-£950k||£7,000||127||137||CD Santos Laguna|
|Julián Quiñónes||30||£135k-£185k||£1,900||127||135||Club Deportes Tolima|
|Nicolás Figal||26||£2.9 million||£6,250||127||131||Inter Miami CF|
|Geisson Perea||28||£1.4 million||£3,900||126||130||Atlético Nacional|
|Omar González||31||£625k-£875k||£9,250||125||139||Toronto FC|
|Tobias Figueiredo||26||£1.8m-£2.5m||£8,000||125||134||Nottingham Forest|
|Oswaldo Henríquez||31||£450,000||£2,400||125||130||Bnei Sakhnin|
|Ventura Alvarado||27||£2 million||£6,000||125||130||Club Atlético San Luis|
If you need a cheap centre back to fill a gap in your squad, check out the defenders of FM 21 listed above, with the best picks being those with decent PA ratings to take your low-cost investment that much further.