We begin our countdown to the new football season in earnest with a look at last season’s top performers, sorted by the league in which they were playing at the time. Using those statistics we try to see which players could reproduce their magical form from the last campaign and deserve an inclusion in your fantasy football team, and which may be best avoided for our fantasy managers’ consideration.
Next up in the series, we will be taking a look at the Spanish La Liga, and with some of the world’s top players currently plying their trade in the Iberian league this list makes up one of the best-known throughout our series, and in many cases some of the names are likely to come as a massive surprise to very few. That said, the league was a very hotly contested one last time around, with Atletico Madrid ultimately triumphing to make 2014 the first year since 2004 that a team not named Barcelona or Real Madrid lifted the title. Curiously, it was also the first time since 2004 that Real Madrid finished outside the top two as well.
Real, however, are a star-studded side – of that there can be little question. Atletico’s title win represents a major step forward for Diego Simeone’s men as well, while Barcelona retained a top two spot despite narrowly missing out on the title. With that quick recap done, let’s take a look at EFL’s top fantasy players from La Liga last season.
In fifth, Diego Da Silva Costa (commonly known as Diego Costa) of champions Atletico finished up with 505 points, putting him among the higher echelons of the overall rankings, though some way behind those at the very top. He proved his worth to Atletico by contributing 27 goals and three assists to the cause, and so it is perhaps no shock that 21% of fantasy managers threw him into their sides. The reasoning behind this is easy to understand given his price tag last term of only €6.50m! At that price, should EFL’s game rules permit it, managers could have had 14 fantasy Costa’s in their squad and romped home. He has since completed a transfer to Chelsea in the Premier League, but the question must hang over whether he can break the apparent hoodoo over Chelsea’s big-name strikers who have signed in recent years – some have done well, granted, but many have struggled. Despite that, 15% have signed him already this term, and with talent such as his there is certainly potential to make an instant impact.
A little way ahead in fourth was Thibaut Courtois, who was playing on-loan at – again – Atletico Madrid. His parent club, strangely enough, was Chelsea, but he really managed to stake a claim by his absence for a spot in the Chelsea team this season by proving himself the third finest goalkeeper in European football – at least by fantasy football standards! He grabbed 550 points from his 37 starts, keeping 20 clean sheets and only conceding 24 goals in the process. Fantasy managers the world round would be mad to overlook his potential inclusion. Granted, his actual status as far as pecking order for Chelsea remains unconfirmed, but Blues boss Jose Mourinho wants him back in west London this season, so there is surely scope to see him between the sticks at Stamford Bridge in the coming months.
Talent-wise, his addition should be considered all but a must, but circumstantially it may be best to hold off initially for a week or two to test the water and see where he is in relation to the first team. Of course, you could always go the other way – stick him in your side and maybe move things around if he isn’t featuring too regularly, but he will almost certainly earn you plenty of nice points any time he pulls on the shirt.
Third now, and we have yet another Premier League connection, with former Tottenham star Gareth Bale having glistened on the Real Madrid wing following his reportedly world-record move to the Bernabeu in at the start of the season. The Welshman was able to settle in quickly to the Spanish capital, and hounded rival defences consistently throughout. Despite Real finishing third, he played a big part on the opposite wing to Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo, and snapped up 555 points to make any fantasy manager to sign him very happy indeed. His P/V ratio was 58.4, which is solid if not spectacular, which isn’t too much of a criticism given his asking price of €9.50m.
It still wasn’t a bad price, but this has been upped this time around to €12.50m. This isn’t too bad a price given the fact that he has proven he can cut it among the best in the world, and while it may be tough to get a massive P/V that seems relatively irrelevant should he reach the top end of the overall rankings again. A decision regarding Bale may be a tricky one really – as great a player as he is, those additional funds may be spent on a player or two that may yield a higher P/V come the end of the season, but he will almost certainly offer a massive return – he should definitely be a top consideration – after all, he did prove Real with 15 goals and 12 assists in the league.
In second place, we have the only player on the list without a definite connection to the top flight in England, with Barcelona’s iconic star Lionel Messi reflecting Barcelona’s final league position. The Argentinian was simply magnificent with a return of 680 points, from 28 goals and 11 assists. His P/V looks low at 23.1, but he was the joint most expensive player in the game at a huge €29.50m – approaching a third of the overall budget – so the P/V ratio again seems relatively irrelevant. That price is down to a somewhat more affordable €23.50m this time around, but this is still a huge outlay – people who include Messi need to be sure they have the knowledge to properly complement his inclusion in their fantasy teams with some slightly lower cost players in other positions on the field. He is almost guaranteed to return a massive points overhaul, but whether this will be enough to top what two or even three other quality players may provide is a risk managers must be certain they are willing to take before signing him into their squad.
The same can be said of last season’s La Liga winner, Cristiano Ronaldo. The ex-Man Utd star just edged Messi with 695 points, and at €28.00m last season he was also slightly cheaper. The two are regularly cited in the same breath during discussions around the finest players in the world today, and while Ronaldo may have edged Euro Fantasy League’s rankings last time it remains to be seen whether he can toppled his Argentinian counterpart again this season. He, again like Messi, is joint most expensive at €23.50m, so the asking price has come down a bit – surprising considering he topped the La Liga rankings last season, and ultimately finished second overall behind Luis Suarez, then of Liverpool.
This time next year we may be discussing that name in this article too as he has since moved to Barcelona to join the La Liga contingent, but Ronaldo is unlikely to let Suarez’s presence in the league affect his performance, and indeed this may spur him on to up his game even further. He is as much of a risky / expensive inclusion as Messi, but again is one that is likely to pay dividends to those that manage to accommodate his presence.