Where is a player’s skill build from in Football Manager? What does CA and PA mean? And what are these black and gold stars I see in my game? These are just a few questions we see a lot on our community pages. In this guide we will try to answer these questions and by the time you have finished reading, you will know exactly how the current and potential ability system works in Football Manager.


To determine a player’s (and also backroom staff’s) quality, Football Manager uses two sets of numbers. The first is the Current Ability (also known as CA), which reflects the ability they have now. The second is the Potential Ability (also known as PA), which reflects the maximum possible current ability a player can reach. Both the CA and PA have a range between 0 and 200, with 0 being a nobody and 200 being a god-like player.


Current Ability is the level a player is currently at. The values are almost always pre-determined in the pre-game editor by the researchers at Sports Interactive. But there are some (mostly lesser known players and/or younger players) who do not have a starting value set (this will be 0). This means that their Current Ability is random and will be different every time you load up a new save.

The Current Ability value is a dynamic value, as it can either improve or decline depending on a players development and/or age (older players abilities usually tend to decline).


The Potential Ability of a player will determine the maximum possible level a player can reach. Keep in mind, this is how far they can go, not necessarily how far they will go. A player reaching his maximum potential will depend on areas like age, playing time, personality and many others. Are you interested to learn more about Player development? Check out our guides about internal factors that affect youth development and external factors that affect youth development.

The potential ability value is a static value which is pre-determined every time you start a new save. A player’s development during your game will never change his potential.


We just learned that potential ability is a fixed number in Football Manager. But, to make games in Football Manager more challenging and interesting the guys at Sports Interactive introduced the negative potential ability many years ago. These can be explained as an ability range, that result in a different potential ability every time you start a new save. The negative potential abilities in Football Manager start at -1 and end at -10.

To increase dynamics even more, SI introduced new ranges in FM16 with the ‘halves’: -95, -85, -75…and on. This will make the game less repetitive and more challenging for its players.

Let us explain the negative potential with an example:
Gianluigi Donnarumma has a negative potential ability of -10 set in the pre-game editor. Meaning that every time you start a new save, the game picks a new potential ability from the -10 potential ability range on its own. The -10 range is the highest possible in Football Manager and ranges from 170 to 200. Donnarumma will receive 170 in one save, but could end up with 200 in another save.

Negative potential abilities always have a total range of 30 points. To show you how these ranges are, we have created the following list:


-10 = 170-200
-95 = 160-190
-9 = 150-180
-85 = 140-170
-8 = 130-160
-75 = 120-150
-7 = 110-140
-65 = 100-130
-6 = 90-120
-55 = 80-110
-5 = 70-100
-45 = 60-90
-4 = 50-80
-35 = 40-70
-3 = 30-60
-25 = 20-50
-2 = 10-40
-15 = 0-30
-1 = 0-20


To make the game a bit more challenging to play, Football Manager will not hand you the current and potential abilities for free. To give you an indication of the levels, the game works with ability stars. These stars (that range from 1 to 5) are given by either scouts, coaches or your assistant managers.

There are three types of stars in Football Manager:

  • Gold – which are given to first team players.
  • Silver – which are given to youth players.
  • Black – which show the uncertainty a member of your backroom staff has about the players ability or potential.


The stars in Football Manager that are given by Assistant Manager and coaches are considered to be a bit misleading. The stars you see don’t reflect a player’s true ability or potential, but are an indication and will depend on areas like:

  • The ability of the staff members to judge current or potential ability
  • The overall level of your squad
  • The level of the competition you are playing in
  • The form a player is in

To explain this with an example:
You have Lionel Messi in your team, the worlds best player. He will receive 5 stars for ability and potential. Needless to say; any other player in your team will receive less stars than he has. Does that make them crappy? Not at all! A 3 star player in your team could still be an elite player compared to other teams. The higher the level of the players in your current team, the less likely everyone will receive 5 stars.  A player that has 2 or 3 stars could still be either an elite player or a potential world-class player.


The black stars were introduced in Football Manager 2016 to make scouting more challenging and difficult. If a player is given black stars the scout or assistant has an uncertainty regarding the player’s current or potential ability. For example a young player could have 2 or 3 black stars because your staff isn’t sure of his maximum potential.

Please note: If you have the ‘Attribute Masking’ option turned on, black stars will also be used for the current ability of a player that you are scouting. The black stars will diminish as your backroom staff gains knowledge of the player, although the potential ability stars will still remain uncertain thus black.