Fantasy Focus

Bargains to be had in Europe

January 20, 2009
By Jon Carter
(Archive)

In Spain, strikers lead the way as there are goals aplenty, but few clean sheets. Barcelona have been unstoppable, bagging 59 goals in their 19 games, so it is no surprise to see their two shining lights at the top of the Fantasy standings either.

GettyImagesEto'o: Barcelona tenure ended amid recriminations with Pep Guardiola

Samuel Eto'o started the season unsure whether he would get into the first-team, having courted moves to Chelsea and AC Milan, but the Cameroon striker has the most impressive haul in the game with 18 goals, three Key Contributions and 106 points. Lionel Messi, a runner-up for the World Player of the Year award, has also been setting the game alight in recent weeks and is a massively important player to have in your side. 12 goals, seven KCs and 92 points for an outlay of £13.1m are worth it given that he hardly ever gets injured and is arguably the world's most in-form player.

The bargains of the season in the striking department so far have been Valencia's Mata (six goals, nine KCs), who started off the year worth just £5.5m and is now worth £6.6m; and Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain who was not guaranteed a place in the first-team at £7.5m, but after 12 goals and four KCs, has jumped up to £8.8m with 85 points in the bag.

In midfield, you would be stupid not to have Barcelona's Xavi in your side as he has racked up 83 points (four goals, nine KCs and seven clean sheets) for the league leaders. £12.40m is a big outlay for a midfielder, but given their performances in Fantasy games over the past few years, Messi and Xavi are surely the first names on your team sheet.

Elsewhere in the game, there have been a few surprises. Jose Barkero (seven goals, three KCs, three clean sheets) is second top points scoring midfielder and, after netting five times in the first 11 games for Numancia, his £6.1m price tag looks very tasty. Having started off at £4.5m, he's still a very cheap option to bring in. Likewise Achille Emana from Real Betis. The club are not pushing for Europe in the league, but Emana (seven goals, two KCs, four clean sheets) has amassed 76 points for an outlay of just £6.7m.

The importance of spending some of your cash on an attacking defender cannot be overstated. Barca's Daniel Alves (two goals, six KCs, seven clean sheets) was £8m at the start of the game, but has shown his worth by increasing his value £0.8m with a haul of 67 points - which, for a defender, is pretty decent.

You should also be looking to spend the rest of your defensive budget on a side who look solid at the back. Deportivo may have shipped five against Barcelona at the weekend, but still boast Jose Guardado (55 points), Filipe Kasmirski (56) and Alberto Lopo (45) as some of the top scoring defenders. While you can get a good deal on the likes of Barcelona's Gerard Pique at £5.9m for 26 points, or Julien Escude, Fernando Navarro and Sebastian Squillaci from Sevilla who are all under £6m and well above the 30s in points.

You can certainly ignore Real Madrid defenders, as, despite turning a corner under new boss Juande Ramos, they still look frail. The Champions would have looked good at the start of the season, but the likes of goalkeeper Iker Casillas (£7m for only five clean sheets) and defenders Fabio Cannavaro (£8.1m for only 21 points) and Sergio Ramos (£6.9m for 30).

Others to steer clear of in the game are some of the stars of last season, whose inflated price tag has not brought them the same success. Luis Fabiano heads this list as the Sevilla striker, who finished second top scorer in 2007/08 has only hit the net four times for his £10.9m, meaning he's only racked up 31 points.

Espanyol are struggling in the relegation zone and striker Raul Tamundo has suffered this season. His £8.2m isn't worth it for a player who has only netted three times for 35 points; while those at the top - Guti £8.5m (34) of Real Madrid and £9.7m (34) Andreas Iniesta of Barcelona - simply aren't getting the games to warrant a place in your side.

Over in Italy, it's a similar story with strikers picking up the biggest haul of points, with clean sheets hard to come by.

The leading light is Inter's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, not a big surprise being that he costs £13.5m for his 12 goals, five KCs and 93 points. Inter's defeat to Atalanta this weekend though, shows that nothing is totally assured in the Italian game.

Take Marco Di Vaio at a measly £6.9m. Not good enough for Juventus or Valencia in the past, the Italian is top scorer with 14 goals as part of his 91 points. He only falls down by not contributing a single KC to the cause, but perhaps greediness is a good attribute for a striker after all. Another misfit to head the scoring charts is Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino (82), who has amassed 12 goals and two KCs after being told he wouldn't make it at AC Milan - although if you have the choice you might be more impressed with Atlanta's Sergio Floccari (82) who costs £1.4m less than La Viola's finest.

APHamsik is hungry for goals, and his fist apparently.

In midfield, Napoli's Slovakian Marek Hamsik has blown all the competition out of the water as he has picked up a huge 92 points with seven goals, six KCs and seven clean sheets. He began the game worth only £8.5m, but his value has rocketed to £10.3m, so if you had him in from the start you'll be busy counting your money.

With Kaka having been knocked off top spot and with the continued speculation over his potential move to Manchester City, perhaps it's time to cash in that £13.3m (not quite £108m) and take a gamble on Hamsik if you haven't already.

Freeing up some cash might also allow you to bring in some quality defenders. If you missed out on Inter Milan's Maicon at the start of the season (he was only £7m), you'll be kicking yourself as he's gone up by £2m and grabbed four goals, two KCs and seven clean sheets for his 74 points.

Funnily enough, the three most expensive defenders at the start of the game have all proved to be duds, either through injury or leaving Serie A. Marco Materazzi (£8m), Alessandro Nesta (£7.5m) and Massimo Oddo (£7.5m) have only chalked up five points between them and will have left a serious dent in the pocket of anyone who had them early in the season.

There have been some other surprises too, most notably the performances of Roma who have slid down the league after pushing Inter all the way last season. Francesco Totti has suffered with injury and only has 43 points from five goals and two KCs (although that is off just 10 starts), and is a massive gamble at £10.2m; while his team-mates Christian Panucci (£7.5m, 29 points) and Simone Perrotta (£7.4m, 39 points) are not living up to their high expectations.

Likewise, Ricardo Quaresma, who was described as the ''missing piece'' of his Inter jigsaw by Jose Mourinho, has only started seven games and at £10.1m, is not worth picking up for a haul of just 25 points.

With Gianluca Zambrotta (£8m, 35 points) also suffering, your money should be spent elsewhere. Picking up a bargain like Genoa's Guiseppe Biava (£5.1m, 51 points) holds the key to your successes in the European fantasy games and you only have to look at the leaders' team to see how they got there.

•  If you haven't got a Spanish or Italian team it's not too late to sign up for the Cup competitions. The cut-off is February 7, with the first 32,768 teams making it into the first round.