By Tom Bodell, Football Whispers
The Journey mode made its debut in FIFA 17 and was a big hit, allowing players to take control of young forward Alex Hunter and guiding him though the first year of his fledgling career.
Your decisions impacted the prodigy’s success on and off the field with pitfalls aplenty to avoid, all while delivering for your chosen club.
The good news is Alex Hunter will return in FIFA 18 and there are bound to be new storylines in this year’s edition of the game. Our friends at Football Whispers have come up with some of their own.
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READ MORE: Everything we know so far about FIFA 18
Pushing through a transfer
This summer’s transfer window has been all about player power and The Journey in FIFA 18 needs to reflect that with a storyline for Hunter.
From Virgil van Dijk missing Southampton training in order to force through a move to Liverpool, to Alexis Sanchez throwing a sickie, we’ve seen it all as players try anything to get their way.
There are exceptions. Like Barcelona transfer target Philippe Coutinho who has refused to kick up a stink at Anfield out of respect for the club and its fans. Which tact will prove successful remains to be seen and is largely dependent on how hard-line the club’s approach is.
But giving Hunter the chance to force a move away from his current club would add an interesting narrative. The option to go ‘full Peter Odemwingie’ and turn up outside your prospective employers unannounced should be included.
Drunken night out
Perhaps the biggest pitfall of being a top professional footballer is trying to live an ultra-disciplined life while having the means to access every excess – be that narcotics, junk food or booze.
Footballers’ relationship with drink does not tend to end well. And while the days of players showing up to training hungover or still drunk are in the past, alcohol causes problems within the game.
So how would young Hunter react to being punished for a drunken night out and being fined, dropped or, worse, stripped of the captaincy? You’d have the option to take it on the chin, apologise and knuckle down. Or go into a tail-spin, fall out with the gaffer and sulk with your performances affected.
International tug of war
In FIFA 17, Hunter is picked up at exit trials. We can reasonably assume, therefore, he hadn’t represented anyone at international level at the end of last year’s game. So, after making his breakthrough in last year’s edition of the game, Hunter is surely in line for an international call-up in FIFA 18.
However, the issue could be complicated by two nations coming forward for Hunter’s services. It’s intimated he’s been raised in London so England would be one of those nations.
But the French Football Association, for example, have been doing their research and have discovered a great grandmother born and raised in Nice. Now Hunter has a dilemma – represent the country of his birth or his family’s heritage?
It would also set up a further storyline in another edition of the game – could Hunter switch allegiance at a later date if he doesn’t?
Building brand Alex Hunter
When Paul Pogba returned to Manchester United in an £89.3million deal last summer, United weren’t just signing one of the best midfielders in the world. They were also getting a global brand; one of the most marketable players in world football.
There was a hashtag for the Frenchman’s return – #Pogback – and the deal was announced at 12.45am, with the club’s Far East and US audiences in mind. It all peaked when Pogba was immortalised in a Twitter emoji.
Hunter, being young and exciting, could follow a similar trajectory – assuming his career reaches the heights expected. That would open the door for players to pick and choose Hunter’s path with maximising his commercial appeal at the forefront.
The fairer sex
Legendary Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson always said players had at least one vice; alcohol, gambling or women. If he knew which, he could exploit it.
Hunter, being a clean-cut young professional, generally stays out of trouble – his boozy night out aside.
But when the young striker meets the love of his life – possibly on Tinder – his performances begin to suffer as a result. His manager notices and Hunter is left with a tough decision: how does he deal with it?
He could come clean to his boss in the hope of some empathy and fatherly advice – while also risking the hairdryer – or does he try to deal with it himself? Either way, keeping his girlfriend and manager onside will prove tricky.
Major injury setback
The scourge of all footballers: injury. Hunter led a pretty charmed life in FIFA 17 but that could all change this year.
Almost all prodigies have to go through this rite of passage and Hunter, despite being fictional, is no different.
Think Wayne Rooney’s metatarsal injury at the 2004 European Championships or the ankle injury sustained against Bayern Munich prior to the 2010 World Cup at a time when he was on the top of his game.
Sidelined for a significant length of time by a bad injury, the challenge would be keeping Hunter motivated while injured, steering clear of temptation and, upon his return, fighting your way back into the first team. The addition of some striking competition should make that difficult.