And so, with the latest FIFA instalment due for release on October 9, we arrive at that special time of the year where Premier League footballers briefly take a break from crashing their sports cars and behaving badly in West London night spots, and instead take to Twitter to moan about the ratings given to them by Electronic Arts.
This year’s grumblees include Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (up to 87 from 85, but with a disappointingly low Shooting score), Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (who remains at 87, despite being a rare bright spark in Arsenal’s lineup last season) and Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte (not happy with his Pace rating, but then he did spend the majority of last season on crutches). Thankfully, nobody has quite exploded with the ferocity of Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand, who threatened to “tear down” the EA offices back in 2016.
Over in Milan, Inter’s Belgian hotshot Romelu Lukaku – whose rating of 85 stays the same as it did last year – may or may not have been wearing a tinfoil hat when he took to Twitter and posted, “Let’s be honest, FIFA just mess with the ratings so we players start complaining about the game and give them more publicity. I ain’t with this shit. I know what I do.” In truth, Lukaku might have expected his rating to be significantly bumped. He is, after all, the first Inter player to score 34 goals in his debut season since the great Brazilian Ronaldo in 1997/98.
That said, the FIFA 21 ratings have been a little… well, they’re absolutely mental to be honest with you. Most bizarrely, Bayern Munich – who finished last season as treble winners – have seen their ratings mangled. The German titan’s Spanish playmaker Thiago Alcântara, who has helped his club win an astonishing 16 trophies since his arrival from Barcelona in 2013, has had his rating slashed from 87 to 85.
And it’s not just the players who aren’t happy – it’s, well, the players too. Somewhat predictably, FIFA players have started a petition “demanding” EA reconsider the announced ratings before the game’s October release.
It’s worth noting that EA doesn’t just pick these ratings out of a hat. Much like the scouting set-up that assembles the stats that make Sega’s Football Manager such a deep and absorbing play, FIFA uses a scouting network called The Ratings Collective that collates attributes for a whopping 17,000 players.
In fairness, you can understand why everyone – players and consumers alike – gets so bent out of shape at this time of year. Imagine getting home after work tomorrow evening, booting up your console for a little bit of rest and relaxation, and right there on the screen is a rating of how you performed for the day. Then imagine going to work the following morning and the guy who sits next to you got a rating significantly higher than yours. He won’t stop talking about it. He just keeps going on and on and on.
Basically, what I’m saying is – and there has literally been no point in human history where this has ever been said before – won’t someone please spare a thought for the footballers?