Here’s Rob Reid with the 3rd article in his Legends of Fantasy Football series. This article looks at midfield legends.
Rob Reid with his legends of Fantasy Football part 3 – Midfielders
Hello and welcome to the third in my Legends of Fantasy Football series. Last month marked the end of my 25th season playing fantasy football league in one shape or form and to commemorate this, I thought it would be fun to select a squad composed of my favourite fantasy football players through the years. I’m picking my squad on the basis of the current FPL template of 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders and 3 strikers. At the end there’s also some ‘Honourable Mentions’ who along with my selections go into a poll at the end of the article where the Fantasy Football Geek readers get to vote for their own legends team.
Here’s how the line-ups looks so far and thank you to everyone who has voted in the goalkeeper and defender polls.
My squad so far:
Goalkeepers – Petr Cech, Edwin Van Der Saar
Defenders – Leighton Baines, Ashley Cole, Lee Dixon, Ian Harte, John Terry
The Readers Poll squad so far:
Goalkeepers – Petr Cech, Peter Schmeichel
Defenders – Leighton Baines, John Terry, Andy Robertson, Ian Harte, Nemanja Vidic (note Alonso and Irwin were also tied but I’ve picked Vidic for his superior clean sheet record)
So we’re onto midfielders this week. Here are my 5 selections.
Chelsea’s Europa League win last week was tinged with a hint of sadness for FPL managers after he confirmed what we all probably already knew – that this was the last season that we’ll see him grace the world of FPL (for now anyway.) La Liga beckons for the little Belgian, but what an FPL player he’s been. Second top points scorer in 2018-19, a superb 238 points this season was his best yet. It was also the 4th time he’s broached the 200 point barrier and his 3rd season doing the ‘double double’ of over 10 goals and 10 assists. That’s some track record.
And with this also came great frustration! An explosive player on his day, his big double digit hauls were often surrounded by periods of FPL obscurity. Take this season again for example – from gameweeks 4-8 we had 4 double figure returns in 5 weeks followed by an average of less than 3 points a game for his next 7.
A maddening player to own, as at his price you’d be hoping to have a player you could trust with the armband. But alas for the times he’d go points crazy and shoot you up the rankings, there would also be a benign 2 point return often away from home against a team in the nether reaches of the league that would cause a big fat red arrow. So we say adios to Eden with regret but also with some relief as well, knowing that he’ll no longer enigmatically haunt our gameweeks. A loss to the Premier League? Definitely. A loss to FPL? Probably!
Through the noughties there was one name who was always the first on my fantasy football team sheet at the start of each season – Frank Lampard. He truly was a player who fit all formats. He was consistent, stayed relatively injury free, was nailed on for game time, took penalties and played for a highly successful team. You could cement him as a captain choice in FPL and not be disappointed, but he’d also be great for formats with fewer transfers where you could happily play set and forget with a player who you knew would always be selected and was unlikely to get injured.
177 goals and 102 assists in his premier league career speaks for itself, ranking him 4th in the all time premier league charts for both counts with Wayne Rooney the only other player to have also racked up over 100 of each. He represented 3 clubs in his Premier League career, but his peak was unquestionably in his Chelsea days where he enjoyed a glorious period of form.
2003 to 2013 marked 10 consecutive seasons for The Blues where he scored over 10 EPL goals in a season, the pinnacle coming in 2009-2010 with 22 goals and 14 assists from midfield. That 2009-2010 season also netted him 284 points, the 3rd highest scoring in FPL history. A fabulous fantasy football player and a legend of the EPL. I wonder what he’ll be like when he surely gets his shot at managing a Premier League club?
Matthew Le Tissier
For those of you who are a bit younger or are new to fantasy football, you’re probably wondering what that random bloke from Soccer Saturday who can’t pronounce player’s names is doing in this squad. Well you only need to watch some You Tube videos from the 1990s to find out. He was a highly entertaining player to watch, capable of match-winning moments of magic, all for a guy who played for a mid-table club and didn’t really possess any outstanding physical attributes like great pace or power. Yep, make no mistake, this guy was the first true star of Fantasy Football!
In the early newspaper games, he was always the most expensive player in the game but he was simply a must own. In auction games, there was always a furious bidding war to secure his services with managers often sacrificing their entire budget on him. But there was good reason. He was Southampton’s central creative player, being involved in most of their goals through that period. He also boasted an incredible penalty record, a deadly 47 conversions from 48 through his career.
Perhaps if Glen Hoddle had selected him England’s 1998 World Cup squad, then the 3 Lions might have gone a bit further! His Premier League record speaks for itself, 100 goals and 64 assists in 270 games – remarkable for a someone who never played for a top club. For me, in the 1990s he was exactly what fantasy football was about. All hail Le Tiss – the original Fantasy Football legend.
It seems strange to remember Ronaldo as a Premier League superstar and FPL legend after all the success that he’s had following his departure from the EPL. But during Man United’s dominant period at the end of the noughties he was the jewel in Alex Ferguson’s squad, a key element to a hat-trick of Premier League wins and a Champions League triumph . And not only this, he was a luxury fantasy football player – massively priced, but capable for great returns. The biggest challenge was how to fit him into your squad.
His Premier League stats are not quite as remarkable as some of those achieved in his La Liga days, but still make great reading. 84 goals and 34 assists in 196 games is good by any means especially when you consider that most of these returns came across his final 3 seasons. The 31 goal and 6 assist 2007/08 season was the standout; the 4th highest scoring season for a player in FPL history. The other big plus was in most EPL Fantasy Football formats he was still listed as a midfielder, as opposed to in his La Liga days where he was listed as a forward.
The big negative was his price – a whopping 14m in 2008/09 FPL being the example, after his huge haul the season prior, with ‘just’ 18 goals that season making his value questionable. Imagine trying to factor both him and Lampard into your squad at this price! What a great player though, and fully deserving of his place in my legends squad.
Mo Salah may not have racked up the multiple consistent seasons that some of his counterparts in the legends midfield squad have, but as the top point scoring player for the last 2 seasons and the only player ever to break 300 FPL points, he most certainly is worthy of his place in my squad. His meteoric rise over the last 2 seasons is all the more remarkable when you consider how unsuccessful his first spell in the EPL was at Chelsea. It certainly is testament to what a driven individual Salah is and also a mark of how successfully he’s been utilised at Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp’s tactics.
303 points in 2017-18 through 32 goals and 12 assists from a start price of under 10m was incredible and it’s almost strange that we questioned his value this season just gone; he racked up 259 points with a start value of 13m having ‘only’ scored 22 goals coupled with 12 assists! I guess the main question mark is sustainability and I suspect much of this will rely on whether Klopp’s Liverpool can continue the form that won this season’s Champions League and took them so close to their first Premier League title. Either way though, Mo’s status as an FPL legend is set in stone. The only other question I guess is whether he can break the 300 point mark again.
2nd on the list for all time Premier League assists with 111, Fabregas had some great individual seasons for both Chelsea and Arsenal. It was maintaining this consistency in consecutive campaigns that was the problem for the Spaniard along with his tendency to fall out with the management at his clubs that always made me wary of him as a fantasy football selection. That and his love of foie gras!
Another all-time Premier League great, although his talents as player weren’t ones that necessarily translated into fantasy football returns. We did see some strong seasons between 2005-2010 and then again in the Rodgers era in 2013-14, but because of his reputation he always seemed to come at a price tag which overstated his potential as a fantasy football asset. Fabulous player though and a great servant for Liverpool.
The all time premier league assist leader with 162, he’s one of 2 players in this section who were very close to making my squad. The crazy thing is that I don’t thing I ever owned him as a fantasy football manager; again like Gerrard he was always quite highly priced and there were always other players (like Le Tissier, Lampard or Ronaldo) who were going to score more highly. His honours list as a player though I suspect will never be matched and someone is going to have to do very well to pass that remarkable premier league assist tally.
Keeping up my theme of trying to offer a more budget option in each position, Nolan put in some strong campaigns with clubs who were often battling at the wrong end of the table. He had some decent seasons in his Bolton days, but his best returns from a fantasy football point of view were in his last season with Newcastle and his first Premier League season with West Ham. Price-wise he tended to be very affordable, with the only issue being his discipline.
The other player in this section who was very close to making my squad, Sterling actually started his FPL career as a value budget filler in the midfield, providing a viable £4.5m option in the 12/13 season. His best days though have certainly come since his transfer to City with Guardiola’s influence transforming his playing style and confidence. This has been reflected in his fantasy returns as well – he’s done the ‘double double’ in the last 2 seasons and was double figures for assists in 16/17 as well. And I’m sure there’s plenty more to come.
So that’s it for my midfielders, but don’t forget to vote in the Reader’s Poll below. I’ll post the results in my Forwards article next week, where I’ll finalise the last 3 players for my squad. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and are enjoying the Legends series – comments and feedback are of course welcomed in the section below.