Real Madrid to add Navas to ‘keeper conundrum

Of the positions Real Madrid needed to strengthen this summer, you’d be hard-pressed to find many observers who ranked goalkeeper as one of them. In Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez, Carlo Ancelotti already had more quality custodians than he could use to the full extent. If reports from Spain are to be believed, he’s about to have another one in Keylor Navas.

The Levante stopper caught the eye representing Costa Rica at the World Cup, his performances in helping Los Ticos to the quarter-finals confirming what those who closely follow La Liga had already realised – Les Granotes have a fine player. A fee of €10m will convince Levante to part with Navas, the rumour mill claims, but surely the Madrid high command could find a cheaper way of giving Ancelotti another headache.

Last year the Italian used Lopez in the league and Casillas in the cups – the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. It hasn’t been lost on the Madrid-based press, who worship the ground upon which San Iker walks, that Madrid were victorious in the two competitions for which Casillas kept goal and were off the pace in third when Lopez took the gloves. It’s an unfairly basic assessment of the situation and doesn’t reflect the quality of Lopez, who rarely let Ancelotti down.

And now a third goalkeeper will come into the mix. Madrid tried to offload Lopez, it was claimed, offering him to Monaco as part of the James Rodriguez deal, and rumours of a move to Napoli have long lingered. There’s also talk that Casillas has an agreement with president Florentino Perez that he can leave at the end of his contract next summer. The situation may be resolved in 12 months but that’s a long time to leave one and possibly two top-notch goalkeepers on the sidelines.

Ancelotti said while on Madrid’s tour of the United States that he hasn’t decided who will be his starting ‘keeper. The Italian, keeping his cards close to his chest, is presumably stuck between the three, having to weigh the experience and importance of captain Casillas against the good service of Lopez and the potential long-term gains of trusting in the younger Navas.

Casillas, at 33, could have years left at the highest level, although he was at fault for Atletico Madrid’s goal in the Champions League final and made costly errors for Spain in the World Cup. Lopez, meanwhile, appears a safe pair of hands – reliable but not capable of seemingly-impossible saves – and Navas lacks experience of the game in the deep end bar his summer exertions. They each have their positives, but each have their negatives as well.

Like so many things, this is all Jose Mourinho’s fault. It was he who first dumped Casillas for Lopez, falling out with the Madrid icon. Ancelotti rewarded Lopez’s good form by keeping him in the league side and kept Casillas sweet too, a masterful show of man-management. But how he will contend now Navas is in the picture too – and the affect the balancing act has on the rest of the squad – will be an intriguing part of the coming season.

Pre-season friendly round-up – don’t miss the key fixtures

With the new season quickly approaching hot on the heels of this summer’s great World Cup in Brazil, teams across the continent are preparing for the grueling schedule ahead with some pre-season friendlies to remove some of the stiffness from the joints, get their brains back into match gear after a summer of relaxing (or plying their trade in South America of course) and trying to hit the ground running once the new league season kicks off in August.

From the English side of things, Man City and Liverpool will partake in what could be described as a real grudge match following last season’s Premier League title run in as the two north west clubs will take part in Guinness International Champions Cup, meeting in New York on July 30. The group also consists of Olympiacos and Serie A’s AC Milan.

Both English sides had the initiative at one point or another towards the business end of the season last time around, but it was Manuel Pellegrini’s Citizens who ultimately lifted the trophy after the final whistle of the campaign. It was Liverpool’s closest title push in years, and that is something that manager Brendan Rodgers will certainly be looking to repeat again this time – and the Guinness International Champions Cup could give both managers some sort of idea of how their rivals’ squad will shape up come the start of the new season.

The Reds also have other mouth watering pre-season fixtures, as German giants Borussia Dortmund arrive on Merseyside in the final game before the new campaign, so Brendan Rodgers is certainly to test his players with some top quality opposition – expect several different faces to feature across the pre-season, but by the time the Dortmund game rolls around on August 10 things should be starting to take shape. Man City have the small matter of the Community Shield to contest against FA Cup winners Arsenal on the same day.

Louis van Gaal’s Man Utd also have a pretty testing fixture list before their bid to regain the Premier League crown even kicks off too – Serie A outfit Roma on July 26 precedes their fellow Italians Inter Milan and then Real Madrid of Serie A at three-day intervals, again in the Guinness International Champions Cup in the USA. This could mean a potential final clash with either of their bitterest rivals, Man City or Liverpool, in the final should any combination of the English representatives qualify.

In Serie A, the aforementioned AC Milan follow up their American escapades against Liverpool and Man City by taking part in the TIM Trophy against Juventus and last year’s winners Sassuolo, who were chosen as the replacements for Inter Milan, who will not feature this time around. This is the 14th TIM trophy tournament, and features three round-robin style matches between the three teams featured all on the same day – this year that day is August 23rd.

Each team play the 90 minutes they would in a normal match, as each game is 45 minutes long. Interestingly, the TIM trophy is seen as unlucky to win, as only twice in its history has the winner of the competition gone on to win the league title that season.

World Cup shopping: Top 5 moves earned in Brazil

The World Cup is over but the ramifications are still being felt – and with the average length of a summer transfer saga rivalling a short ice age, that will be the case for some time. Some of the tournament’s stars have already been on the move while it appears a number of others will be. Here’s a selection…

Toni Kroos
The World Cup winner has officially moved from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid. Kroos’ Bayern contract was to expire next year and the Germans have cashed in, reportedly to the tune of €30m. He was one of the highest-rated midfielders in EuroFantasyLeague during the tournament and apparently caught the eye of Madrid even before the World Cup, the Champions League holders moving now rather than wait 12 months.

Alexis Sanchez
One of the World Cup’s revelations, Alexis’ face didn’t fit Luis Enrique’s new-look Barcelona and he was sold to Arsenal to make room for Luis Suarez. The Gunners will now benefit from his speed, dribbling skills and direct running, all of which were on show in Brazil, having beaten Juventus, Liverpool and Atletico Madrid to his signature. He’ll bring goals too, netting twice in four games this summer.

Luis Suarez
One of the strangest transfers in a while, the terms of Suarez’s FIFA-imposed biting ban mean he is barred from all football activity for four months – which includes playing, training, entering a football stadium or even attending a press conference to discuss his move to Barcelona from Liverpool, but doesn’t prevent the Uruguayan completing the transfer itself. £75m took Suarez to Camp Nou.

James Rodriguez
Reports in Spain say it’s only a matter of time before James leaves Monaco for Real Madrid. After claiming the World Cup Golden Boot it’s easy to see why Los Blancos want the Colombian, if not where he will fit in considering Carlo Ancelotti’s other options. A fee of €70m or so has been talked about, a substantial rise on the €45m Monaco paid Porto a year ago.

Antoine Griezmann
Close followers of La Liga have been talking about the Real Sociedad winger for a while but the rest of the world took notice this summer when he lined up for France. La Real usually struggle to hold on to their best players so it was inevitable Griezmann’s name would come up in the reams of transfer gossip during pre-season – Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are among the parties said to be interested, as well as Bayern Munich and Monaco.

World Cup to forget – who were the summer’s real losers?

Having previously looked at the top points earners from the World Cup in Brazil this summer, let’s turn our attentions for a while across to the other side of the whole performance spectrum – let’s take a look at some of the players who really did not perform at the level expected of them, or perhaps even dented their reputation from turning out on the South American pitches.

Some obvious names will be looked at – Iberian rivals Spain and Portugal both left the competition at the conclusion of the group stages despite much being expected of them, but we will also have a look at one or two players who may have looked low risk at the start, but ultimately ended up costing any fantasy managers who chose them some points, or at least a bit wedge of cash for little in return.

Generally speaking, a good indication to focus on for this article would be the points-to-value ratio, as the lower this number perhaps the worst investment possible. However, that may not always be a fully accurate representation of how things have gone – for example, the lowest P/V ratio in the game this summer fell on the unfortunate shoulders of Cameroon goalkeeper Charles Itandje, who finished with a disgraceful -30. That is quite some statistic considering his asking price was only €2.00m, but no clean sheets and nine goals conceded from only three games gave him a -60 points total – tying him for the worst points total with Australian stopper Matthew Ryan.

Only five points better off than those two was Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who despite costing a healthy €7.50m ended up with -55 points – seven goals conceded and a booking contributing to one of the most disappointing tournaments in recent memory for the Spanish players and supporters. The Real Madrid keeper will undoubtedly be keen to forget this one and move on – but his status as the third worst player (at least as far as our fantasy points go) will surely weigh heavy. He is undeniably a great custodian, but things just haven’t gone his way this time around.

The bottom five as far as P/V totals are all goalkeepers (perhaps unsurprisingly), but sixth from bottom sees our first outfield player making an appearance – and he featured for the hosts themselves. Maicon would have cost fantasy managers a cool €8.00m should they have gone for his name on their teamsheet at the start of the tournament, but he finished on -40 – certainly the worst outfield investment from the 20th World Cup.

The 32-year-old former Man City and Inter defender moved back to Serie A with Roma in 2013, and has made 75 appearances for Brazil since making his debut in 2003, and so experience at the top level is not something he will have found too difficult to come by in the past – this was just a poor showing overall. He made three appearances in the tournament, and watched his side ship 11 goals in that time, though admittedly one of those starts came in the 7-1 drubbing to Germany. His defensive partner Dante Costa made only a single start in the tournament, but that was also in the disastrous semi-final and so he finishes on -35 from just a single outing.

Portugal defender Pepe had a rough time of it as well, where his two starts involved five goals conceded by his country, giving him a total of -30 with an asking price of €8.00m – those are some expensive points to ship. His tally was similar to Chelsea and Spain defender Cesar Azpilicueta, who despite a €7.50m price tag ended up losing 25 points as the reigning world champions crashed out after only three games. Things may have been rough for Spain throughout, but Casillas, Azpilicueta and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique – aka Mr. Shakira – were the only three players to finish with negative points totals (and consequently negative P/V columns), with Pique ending on -20 with a €7.50m value.

England and Man City goalie Joe Hart ended negatively as well, -20 points coming from a €9.00m asking price means that ultimately he didn’t fare too much better than the likes of Casillas, with a final value of -2.2 P/V.
Ultimately, there were several players who didn’t fare well for those who dared to include them in their squad for the purposes of this competition, though of course actual performance level may not have always been accurately reflected in their points total, or vice versa.

Just look at the much discussed case of Uruguay striker Luis Suarez – a now-infamous altercation during the game against Italy kept the then-Liverpool striker in the headlines, and he finished on 40 points to the positive – not too bad really, but considering he now faces a nine game international ban and a prohibition from featuring in football related activities for four months mean he has much making up to do when he does eventually return to the fold.

Who deserved their place in the World Cup XI? Here is our verdict

With the World Cup in Brazil having reached its dramatic conclusion on with Germany making history by becoming the first Europeans ever to win the Jules Rimet trophy in South America, so to does our own fantasy football competition draw to a close. Some may have enjoyed the summer spectacle, others perhaps not so much, but the ending was as fitting a finale to football’s biggest competition in the world as one can remember.

Mario Gotze’s strike in the second half of extra time proved enough to seal the German’s fourth world title and bring them on a par with European counterparts Italy, confining Argentina – and captain Lionel Messi – to the annals of history as this year’s runners-up. Messi was the joint-most expensive player for our fantasy managers to have in their squad alongside Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Barcelona favourite certainly had the better tournament overall than the former Man Utd man – Portugal crashed out in the group stages after all.

But who were the players who really, truly earned their places in EFL’s “Team of the Tournament”? Which goalkeeper had the steadiest hands, which defenders had the more solid presence? Which midfielders covered every inch of the pitch and mastered their distribution to their strikers, and which forward men had the most fun in front of the onion bag? It is worth mentioning, this list disregards the about having only three players from any one national team – these were the players who, if you had them in their position, would have proven the best around, but the whole time could not have been selected at any one time, and cost would be another ruling-out consideration as you will soon see.

This is also seperate from our “Best XI” page on the homepage, as this represents literally the top points scorers in each respective position.

When examining the top stopper between the sticks, in terms of which players would have won our fantasy managers the most points, it is interestingly a three-way tie – Jasper Cillessen of the eventual third-placed Netherlands, Sergio Romero of runners-up Argentina and cup winning stopper Manuel Neuer all finished on a nice 150 points tally – some way ahead of fourth placed keeper Keylor Navas of Costa Rica, who managed 115, albeit in two games less.

Of the three top stoppers, Neuer held a value of €13.50m – not bad considering his side won the cup outright, but rivals Romero and Cillessen both came in at €8.00m, and in fact their stats were identical overall – a points-to-value (P/V) ratio of 18.8, seven starts, four clean sheets and four goals conceded apiece. Arguably, Romero featured in the final while Cillessen was in the third place fixture, so perhaps Romero deserves the nod here, with Cillessen given a place on the bench.

Looking at right back, things get a little tricky pinpointing one particular star in that position, but looking at defenders in our fantasy game list Jerome Boateng of Germany would qualify to feature in this spot – and he finished fifth in the overall list of defenders, with a nice return of 115 points from an €8.00m value. However, for the purposes of this competition Daley Blind of the Netherlands is listed as a defender, and so could have certainly done a job for anyone who thought to bring him in – he finished top of the pile with 160 points from a €7.00m value, so he should perhaps get the nod over Boateng for a place in the team.

His compatriot, Stefan de Vrij, also deserves a spot in the center of defence with 130 points returned while holding the same value as Blind – so perhaps not quite as good a return, but certainly right up there with the best of them.

In the other two defensive spots, German defenders Mats Hummels and Philipp Lahm take the remaining spots with 155 and 130 points respectively. Hummels actually didn’t fall too far short of Blind in terms of good value, as he cost just €7.50m, with Lahm coming in at €11.00m. That takes the total cost of the squad so far to €40.50m.
Now on to the midfield – it is little surprise that Germany and the Netherlands have done well in these areas too, but here we see the first addition of players outside of the final four – Colombia make a contribution at this stage with one player in the team and one narrowly missing out. Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri also falls just shy of a spot too, so honourable mention to him and Colombian Juan G. Cuadrado.

Germany’s Thomas Müller contributed the most points with 180, meaning he did what he had to do to pretty much vindicate his €13.00m value. He finished a little way ahead of Colombia’s James Rodriguez, whose 155 points from a €9.00m value represented better value than that of Müller. Toni Kroos of Germany and Arjen Robben of the Netherlands make up the midfield quartet, with 110 and 105 points respectively from values of €6.50m and €13.00m.
When we move up front, we finally fine a line without Germany and Netherlands dominating the points tallies – though we do have a certain second Argentinian, and finally a face from the host nation Brazil as the two strikers in our 4-4-2 formation.

Barcelona star Lionel Messi proved the best points front man in a tournament that was all about the goalkeepers and midfielders. His finishing tally of 90 is somewhat uninspiring considering our fantasy game, but that was enough to end the summer as the top forward. His value of €21.00m, though, gave him a P/V ratio of just 4.3 – lower than his striking partner in this team, despite the Brazilian finishing five points behind the Argentinian.
Messi’s club team-mate Neymar came second in the list and represents fourth-placed Brazil’s only face in the best team of the tournament, but that five-point deficit was offset by a lower value of “only” €14.50m – so his P/V was 5.9. Better than Messi’s, but arguably still not amazing considering.

That takes the total value of the “team of the tournament” to a whopping €117.50m, so well above the initial budget of €100.00m our fantasy managers were faced with, and given the “three players from any one nation” rule it wasn’t strictly possible to get too close to this exact selection given Germany and Netherlands’ almost total domination of the defence and midfield, but if you had any of these players in your squad, or any number of them in your squad, then you chose just about the best you could have done.

It is somewhat unsurprising that the majority of the “best team” came from the sides that featured much later on in the tournament considering they had more games in which to grab points, and so it is perhaps worth it to give another mention to Colombian star James Rodriguez, who forced his way into this side despite having made only four starts and one appearance as a sub – two whole games than his team-mates in this list.

Team of the Tournament:

Sergio Romero (Argentina)
Blind (Netherlands)
Hummels (Germany)
de Vrij (Netherlands)
Lahm (Germany)
Müller (Germany)
Rodriguez (Colombia)
Kroos (Germany)
Robben (Netherlands)
Messi (Argentina)
Neymar (Brazil)

Muller tops World Cup statistics despite Messi award

Is Thomas Muller twice the player of Lionel Messi? It can be argued who is better – and surely after his performances in helping Germany win the World Cup, the Bayern Munich forward should be in the debate, with Cristiano Ronaldo, as to who is the best player in the world – but who was more effective in Brazil is pretty clean cut. Or is it?

Ronaldo doesn’t even enter the conversation. Clearly short of full fitness, his mind may have been willing but his body broke down. The Real Madrid forward, currently the holder of the Ballon d’Or, was a shell of himself.

But Muller, younger than both Messi and Ronaldo, was, according to the statistics of EuroFantasyLeague, the most effective player in the competition. Not only was he more effective than Messi – he was doubly so. The 24-year-old racked up 180 points, the most of any player in the World Cup. Messi was way down in 24th place, with only 90 points to his name. Ronaldo claimed just 30.

Ronaldo and Messi entered the tournament as the joint-most expensive players in EFL. Muller didn’t even crack the top 10. Big-money flops Wayne Rooney and Mario Balotelli were ahead, so too Luis ‘bite-yer-shoulder’ Suarez. Neymar, Karim Benzema and Arjen Robben all offered the same kind of value-for-money as Muller.

Muller’s most obvious contribution came through is goals. He scored one more than Messi and one fewer than the Golden Boot, Colombia’s James Rodriguez. Muller also scored five times at the last World Cup – talk about consistency – and in destroying Portugal with a hat-trick in the opening game, set Germany on course for success.

But Muller was a team player too. Only Juan Cuadrado of Colombia claimed more assists than he did – four to three – whereas Messi claimed only one assist. Messi was very much the central figure in the Argentina side – captain, goal scorer, creator, in theory at least – and when he didn’t perform, neither did Argentina. Only three other Argentina players scored and Messi’s goals were largely solo efforts.

Germany, by contrast, had eight different goal scorers – helped no end by their demolition of Brazil. Andre Schurrle, generally an impact substitute, scored three times and Mats Hummels, Miroslav Klose, Toni Kroos and Mario Gotze all got two, Gotze’s second coming at the most important time. Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil were both also on the score sheet at one time or another.

Muller was then the most effective player in his team – and a team is what it was. Argentina were at best Messi and 10 others. Germany weren’t even an XI – they were a 23, a squad. Muller’s brilliance saw him rise above the pack but he was lifted to a World Cup winner’s medal, with a little help from his friends. For Argentina, the rest of the squad might as well have serenaded Messi with a rendition of Don’t Let Me Down. Messi was effective, less so than Muller, but his teammates, with a handful of exceptions, were not.

Who were the top performing ‘keepers in the World Cup final stages?

As the end of this year’s World Cup tournament draws ever nearer, four teams are left to vye for the title of world champions 2014 – and we have a fine mix of teams battling it out in the semi-finals. We have, first and foremost, hosts Brazil, who are the most successful team in the competition’s history with five triumphs to date, while we also have their fellow South Americans Argentina, who have two title wins to their name to date.

From the European contingent we see Germany, who are looking to add a fourth title to their all-time haul to level Italy as Europe’s most successful tie, while the Netherlands make up the quartet and Louis van Gaal’s men are looking for their first title. For fantasy managers who are following closely, let’s take a look at the remaining goalkeepers and try to determine just who would be best served in your teams going into the closing stages.

Let’s have a look at the host’s options between the sticks first off. There are three names in the squad – with Julio Cesar making the position his own thus far, but Jefferson and Victor are both ready to pounce on the opportunity should it arise. QPR custodian Cesar has had a somewhat indifferent tournament so far, despite playing every minute of the host’s football so far. His finest game came in the 0-0 draw with Mexico, where he claimed 40 points – but his tally of negative five against Colombia give him a total of 35 – not the worst out there, but still a tally you may have expected to be a little higher given his €9.00m asking price. At the time of writing, 10% of managers have the former Inter Milan stopper in their side – he will likely start against the Netherlands after all.

Let’s jump across the pond now and look at Brazil’s opponents. Keepers Ron-Robert Zieler and Roman Weidenfeller have waited patiently, but Manuel Neuer has made the position his own since long before the tournament started – his 110 points are significantly higher than that of his counterpart in the opposite penalty area in the semi-final, but he does have a higher asking price – €13.50m, meaning he has a points-to-value ratio of 8.1, compared to the 3.9 total for Cesar – meaning that, as far as goalkeepers are concerned at least, and for the purposes of our fantasy competition, things seem to bode well for Joachin Low’s men moving to within 90 minutes of a fourth crown.

Moving continents once again, we will return to South America to take a look at Argentina’s goalkeeping credentials next. Sergio Romero has kept squad rivals Mariano Andújar and Agustín Orión confined to the warmth of the bench thus far, and he looks arguably the best of the three stoppers thus far – he matches Neuer’s points total of 110, but has an asking price a full €1.00m less than Julio Cesar’s – only €8.00m, meaning he is surely one of the more favoured stoppers at this stage. Argentina have plenty to play for and will have to be at their best when they do battle with the Netherlands, and it is here we find arguably the closest competition for a spot wearing the starting gloves.

It does seem a given that Jasper Cillessen will be starting just as he has done throughout the summer, but Tim Krul’s heroics in the recent penalty shootout win over Costa Rica mean he will almost certainly have to keep himself warmed up should he be called upon at a later stage. Cillessen has garnered a decent 70 points total from his five starts thus far, while Krul managed 40 for himself by keeping a clean sheet during his appearance in the quarter finals – though he did only feature marginally prior to shining in the shootout.

All in all then, goalkeeper wise, Argentina would look like the best nation to look at for our fantasy managers, with a stopper who has both the highest points yield for the lower value of the regular starting stoppers – though Cillessen’s points to value rating of 8.8 isn’t a bad shout either. Should it seem to be heading for penalties, Krul may also be a nice shout – 40 points from only a brief appearance seems like a decent gamble with a value of €5.50m – the precedent is there, it could of course always happen again.

Rodriguez steals the show in Brazil

With the final four of the World Cup now firmly established, and as some valiant squads are forced to watch the remainder of the tournament from their hotel rooms or back home after some heartbreaking eliminations, despite keeping their heads held high, the 2014 world champions will be either South Americans Brazil or Argentina, or Europeans Germany or Netherlands.

These four sides will do battle with the home nation welcoming the Germany and Argentina taking on Netherlands in the semis, so let’s take a step back for a while and take a look at some of the heroes of the knockout stages so far – including both faces that will feature in the final four and those who have suffered their exits already.

Colombia’s James Rodriguez has proven one of the stars of the tournament, showing the global audience just why French outfit Monaco splashed out almost €45.00m on him with some stunning displays, and a return of 155 points – the most of anyone in the tournament thus far, despite the comparatively modest €9.00m asking price for our fantasy managers. He returned a massive 50 points from one single game in the last 16 game against Uruguay, and got 15 for himself during his side’s exit at the hands of host nation and semi-finalists Brazil.

Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas has been the top points earner thus far in the tournament, and despite a struggled display in the round of 16 against Greece – he lost himself five points – he did very well during their exit at the hands of the Netherlands, earning 40 points and keeping an impressive clean sheet before exiting the proceedings on penalties. At just a €7.00m value, any of our fantasy managers with the good sense to select the 27-year-old will have had a pleasantly surprising source of points flowing in.

Germany defender Mats Hummels has been another fine performer – he has only featured in one of the knockout games thus far during his nation’s win over European rivals France – but he managed to accrue 50 points in that game alone – and again, his value of €7.50m could bring a tear to the eye of any emotional fantasy managers we have in the ranks – that’s a wonderful return. His goal did admittedly help that tally rather hugely, but 50 points are 50 points – it could be the difference between winning and finishing as runner up in the competition!

Another top performer from the knockouts is former Liverpool star Javier Mascherano, who has snagged 60 points from 220 minutes of action since the group stages finished. A gruelling 125 minutes of action saw the Argentines dispose of European outfit Switzerland, and a further 95 minute turnout against hopefuls Belgium followed – each outing yielded a 30 point return. €7.5M indicates yet another lovely return from a relatively low outlay – especially considering the valuation of his club and international team-mate Lionel Messi at €21.0M!

Who were the Fantasy Football fails in the World Cup group stages?

With the group stages of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil now firmly down in the annals of history, let’s take a look at players who featured but failed to star – in other words, players of who there was much expected but due to various circumstances inexplicably failed to delivery as many fantasy football points as our managers may have hoped!

There were a few surprise exits from the groups, with reigning world champions Spain one of the most shocking casualties having won the past three major international competitions (Euros in 2008 and 2012 with a World Cup title win sandwiched in between in 2010), so there will surely be plenty to go over there. England and Italy both failed to qualify from an admittedly hard group which also included former two-time world champions Uruguay and Costa Rica, who were initially thought to be sure-fire fourth before actually going on to win the group with an impressive seven points from a possible nine against three former world champions.

Make no mistake, these weren’t the only high-profile exits either. Portugal failed to advance, and neither did the Ivory Coast. In this piece we won’t be taking players into consideration who weren’t able to feature through injury – that would just be unfair after all! We are talking about faces who turned out in their respective shirts but for one reason or another just couldn’t turn things up to the next level and deliver the goods.

With that, let’s look at those big names who, by and large, are either back at home or will be heading that way imminently following their respective nation’s exit from the tournament.

Arguably the biggest name from these exits could be Portugal’s Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo – he is rated at a whopping €21.00m in our fantasy game, with a points return of only 30 – there are players with less out there, but he appears to be easily the biggest name to fall short of expectations. He started all three of the Iberians’ games, scoring once and providing one assist – and his points-to-value ratio is only 1.4 – not what you would expect from the joint-most expensive player in our wonderful game, that’s for sure. Argentinian Lionel Messi has the same value, and has already returned 80 points to those who had faith, and he still has games to add to that tally as well.

England striker Wayne Rooney, former team-mate of Ronaldo’s at Man Utd, also had a disappointing campaign which saw his home country exit at the first time of asking, and he matched the Portuguese’s tally of 30, though his value was a bit lower at €14.00m, giving him a slightly less shocking (but still uninspiring) points to value ratio of 2.1.
Looking at players with a €14.00m value, though, Italy’s former Man City striker Mario Balotelli fared even worse than Rooney with a tally of only 10 points to the good – he did score a goal, but two yellow cards all but cancelled that out. Italy’s early exit means they won’t be adding a fifth title to their trophy room either, so all in all not the best of summers for these two European outfits.

Nor so for Spain either, who having won three major titles on the trot went on to defend their World championship for three games before hopping on the plane back home. Then again, taking Andres Iniesta as an example, a value of €9.50m and a return of 20 points may be setting the world alight but it looks better than that of Rooney (again, for example) – he has the same points to value ratio of 2.1.

Honourable mention should go out to Luis Suarez as well – despite a controversial tournament, he managed to nab 40 points from a value of €16.00m – a points to ratio value not too far ahead of Rooney’s at 2.5. He seemed to do well when he played apart from partaking in the obvious controversies, but just didn’t seem to do enough to garner as many points as some may have expected. 40 points from two games isn’t too bad at all, but for that value it could have been hoped he may have had a bit more time to grab more points and he could potentially have made a difference when the country exited the world cup at the hands of Colombia on Saturday night. It wasn’t to be, however, and so while our fantasy managers may have reaped some benefits from having the Liverpool star in their ranks while he was there, it’s a shame he wasn’t able to take part a bit more and potentially add to that tally.