You don’t need to be a FIFA player to know that player ratings are a big deal.
From the grand reveals of Cristiano Ronaldo as this year’s highest-rated star to the bemusement of Daniel Sturridge about his ‘disrespectful’ stats, for many the scores are a benchmark, where the virtual and real worlds collide.
But while much is made of those at the top table of football, what about those who find themselves at the wrong end of the much-vaunted rankings?
Cambridge United striker Matt Foy is one of ten players on FIFA 18 who has had to come to terms with being given a rating of just 46 (out of 99), the lowest rating you can find on this season’s edition.
I caught up with Foy to discuss the trials and tribulations of having to carry the tag of FIFA 18’s (joint) worst player.
“I’m a FIFA player myself, and I play quite religiously,” Foy explains.
“My first game was FIFA ’05 but I only really started playing it properly in ’08 and ’09. I’ve had every since then.
“So to be on the game now is very cool – it’s nice for my mates to see that.
“I’m not really one for playing with myself at all, I find it a bit strange, but it’s good for other people to see me on there.”
Foy has found himself rooted joint bottom of the charts alongside a host of other League Two players, as well as Galway United’s Mikey Whelan and Bundesliga 2 side FC Erzgebirge Aue’s Tommy Kassemodel, who was revealed to also be a kitman at the club.
It is the first time Foy has appeared in the full game, and the 17-year-old is more calm than you might expect about his 46 rating.
He says: “When I first saw my rating, I just laughed about it. My first worry was, ‘Am I gonna be the worst player on the game?’ which I then felt the need to do some research about.
“My mate who loves Ultimate Team found that I’m the joint lowest rated player on the game, so at least I’m not out on my own!”
FIFA’s rating system is a notoriously close-guarded secret, but it’s something of a mystery as to why Foy has such a low rating.
For example, fellow Cambridge youngster Harry Darling has comparable first-team experience as Foy (two appearances this season, in the EFL Trophy and EFL Cup respectively), but has earned a rating of 52.
But Foy gratefully says his teammates have not given him the grief he might have expected when his rating was revealed.
He adds: “The lads haven’t said much – a few of the younger boys who are around my age and have higher ratings have given me a bit of stick, but it’s not too bad – it’s mainly from people at home.
“I would have been happier if my rating had been the same as the other young lads at Cambridge that are similar to me, but I think it’s done on a few factors, like appearances, when they [EA Sports] don’t know much about you, so you can’t moan that much.
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“Quite a lot of my mates have bought me in their Ultimate Team and play with me, and they say I’m not actually that bad!”
I point out that England’s Under-17 captain, Joel Latibeaudiere, who lifted the World Cup last weekend, was only given a 47 rating.
“Yeah, I think he has a much bigger right to be a bit annoyed about his rating, to be fair,” Foy replies.
He continues: “In real life terms I’d like to think I’d have a slightly higher rating than I do but I won’t lose any sleep over it, I’m not massively bothered.”
Perhaps the most curious mistake in Foy’s, and many other player ratings, is his height.
Foy stands at just under six foot one inch in real life, but bizarrely appears in the game six inches shorter.
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The Cambridge striker says: “The biggest thing for me is my height – I’m five foot seven on the game, which is a massive injustice.
“I’m just under six foot one in real life, so I don’t want people playing with me thinking I’m a little guy – I’m more bothered about that than any of the other stats.”
FIFA games in the past have allowed players to create ‘themselves’ in the game – who among us can honestly say we haven’t boosted our stats, made ourselves seven foot tall and made unrealistic versions of a player we’d wish we were?
But when it comes to reality, it seems players aren’t as keen to use themselves in the game as one might expect.
“I haven’t actually played with my player at all yet,” Foy says.
“I just think it’s a little bit weird, seeing myself there on the game.
“I don’t like playing with Cambridge either because I know everyone, I just find it a bit surreal knowing people on there.”
In an age of extremes, and fierce divides on who is the best in world football, it’s easy to forget that someone also has to be the worst.
Fortunately for Foy it’s just the beginning, and as his fledgling footballing career continues, perhaps it will be him that has the last laugh on EA Sports in future years.