Football Manager Guides Current & Potential Ability

Current & Potential Ability

How is a player’s skill build in Football Manager? What do the terms 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.

How quality is determined

To determine the quality of a player, Football Manager uses two ratings called current ability (CA) and potential ability (PA). Both numbers have a range between 0 and 200. In that range 0 is the lowest, 200 is the highest a player can reach. For example; Lionel Messi has a PA set of 194. Top compare: a player with a PA of 200 could be even better than Messi…

Current ability

Current Ability is the level a player is at the moment you are looking at his profile. This number is almost always preset by the researchers at Sports Interactive.

However, there are many players – mostly lesser known players – who don’t have a preset CA. This means it will be random on each new save you start.

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).

Potential ability

The Potential Ability of a player will determine the maximum possible level a player can reach during their career. This is a preset number and can never change during the game.

IMPORTANT: The PA of a player shows how good he CAN be, not necessarily how good they WILL be.

A player will only reach his maximum potential under the right circumstances. It will depend on:

  • Age
  • Personality
  • Mental attributes
  • Hidden attributes
  • Playing time

Read more on youth development:
Facilities, coaching and training
Personalities, mentality, potential


Negative potential ability

After we just learned that potential ability is a preset number, we will tell you know that there is also another option: negative potential. This is a number mostly given to players under the age of 21.

This has been used by Sports Interactive for two reasons:

  • To make games more challenging and diverse
  • Researchers are not sure how good player can become

The negative potential ability means a player has an ability range, which will be a different number every time you start a new save. The negative potential abilities in Football Manager start at -1 and end at -10. In that range -1 is the lowest, -10 the highest.

Introduction of the halves
To increase diversity even more, SI introduced new ranges in Football Manager with ‘halves’. These are: -95, -85, -75…and on. More options, so more diversity.

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

Ability ranges:

-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

How are CA & PA shown in FM?

Football Manager will not be gifting you the ability stats of player. We can all agree that it would be way to easy if you could see the numbers in a player profile…right?

To give you an indication of ability levels the game works with ability stars. These stars are given by either scouts, coaches or assistant managers. Each player has five stars, which are divided in 10 levels.

There are three types of stars in Football Manager:

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

The stars in Football Manager that are given to players can be a bit misleading as they don’t reflect a player’s true ability or potential. They are an indication and will depend on:

  • 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.

Black stars

The black stars were introduced in Football Manager 2016 to make the game a bit more challenging and difficult.

If a player has black stars this means that there is an uncertainty regarding his 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.

IMPORTANT: 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 more you scout a player, the better knowledge you will have of his ability. The black stars will then disappear.

everton squad


  1. Furthermore a player with less overall ability can still be a world class player for your team. A player who only has 150 ability, but has all his points in the right attributes for his role, will still perform much better then a 160 ability defender who is great at finishing but poor at marking and tackling, descisions. So potential doesn’t always garantee succes. Its important to develop or retrain players into a role that matches their attributes. Except when you’re Yaya Toure, then you can do anything haha.


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