Bale and Muller hitting last year’s levels, while Toure and Gerrard struggle

They say it’s very difficult to win the league, but even harder to retain it. And so likewise, the sign of a great player should be not only to top the player performance statistics, but to be there year after year.

Looking at the Eurofantasyleague tallies for midfielders last season, we can see the best performers across Europe last term, and see what impact they have made so far in 2014/15.

The leading points scorer last year was Manchester City’s Ivory Coast international Yaya Toure – he helped himself to an incredible 630 points as the Citizens picked up the Premier League trophy, netting 20 goals and contributing 15 assists. Whilst the numbers cannot possibly be matched so early in the season, the fact that Toure, who endured personal problems in the Summer, is far from a leader in the EFL stats currently where he is currently on the edge of the top 200 midfielders in Europe.

Not all top players have failed to meet their high standards. From the Spanish La Liga, Gareth Bale was second in the top midfielder table last year, and currently sits in sixth. In Germany, Thomas Muller was fifth after a season of domestic success with Bayern Munich, and such is the tall German’s consistency, fifth is where he stands at present too.

And for some it can be age that catches up with a player. Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard finished eighth in the EFL midfielder standings, helping the Merseysiders to an unexpected title challenge. However this season, and potentially without his key passes being converted by Luis Suarez, the now ex-England international sits outside the top 120 midfielders in Europe based on EFL stats.

It is still early in the season, and players still have plenty of games left in order to increase their points levels, but with only one or two usual suspects falling short, top players like the pre-mentioned, plus Mario Gotze, James Rodriguez and Cesc Fabregas, will continue to top the tables probably for many seasons to come.

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.