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And the winner is...

From Cristiano Ronaldo to Antonio Valencia, the top performers for the calendar year in the Premier League produce both the expected and the surreal.

With two Fulham players in the top 20, a Bolton Wanderers player in the top ten and even Michael Owen managing to make the list it provides food for thought for those who rely on the big names for their squads. There are gems hidden in the fantasy game.

The name at the top of the list will come as no surprise. After leaving all in his wake in the second half of 2007/08 and then coming back from injury on fire, Cristiano Ronaldo was by far the best player of 2008 with 216 points.

His goals and assists from midfield made him a must-have for all fantasy teams. The Portuguese may have gone off the boil of late having failed to find the net since the middle of November but he's still done more than enough to top the table. Amazingly he is the only Manchester United player to make the list despite being crowned champions.

Ronaldo's current drought may be of concern to those who have splashed out up to £13.9 million to get him into their team. The problem now is that managers do not want to dump him in fear of a return to form. But while Ronaldo has scored just 15 points in six matches are others using that seemingly misplaced wealth to good effect?

Second place goes to another of the Premier League's traditional fantasy powerhouses, Steven Gerrard of Liverpool. His Christmas haul against Newcastle United held off a late charge from Chelsea's Frank Lampard as he finished on 168 points.

Liverpool have three representatives in the 20-man party. Jose Reina is the only goalkeeper in the list after a glut of clean sheets for the Anfield club. He sits up in 12th but perhaps the performance of striker Fernando Torres is even more impressive. Despite barely playing this season he still manages to make 15th with a half season points split of 80-37.

Lampard was the top scoring player over the festive period which was enough to move him up to third in the table. He is joined in the top 20 by Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka who slots into tenth position.

Aston Villa have proved to be a fantasy dream in 2008 and manage to take up three of the top seven slots. Ashley Young was in third until Lampard's late surge so the Villa man is in fourth. In fact, he would have been higher were it not for his classification as a striker for 2007/08. Just behind the former Watford man is his Villa skipper, Gareth Barry, who accrued just eight fewer points for 2008 on 140.

Striker Gabriel Agbonlahor is the other Villan of the piece. And his total of 135 makes him the top striker of 2008. Despite the star names of Didier Drogba, Wayne Rooney and Torres it is Agbonlahor who has proved to be the number one forward player and always at an affordable price too. Few would have picked out Gabby to take the accolade.

Stephen Ireland's Christmas points bonanza against Hull City earned the midfielder a huge leap up the final table, from tenth to sixth. Most of fantasy points have come this season (93-45 split) which highlights how much the player has improved.

Arsenal have only one player in the top 20, with Emmanuel Adebayor the second-best performing striker. Perhaps this says more about the inconsistent nature of the Premier League's strikers over the past couple of seasons rather than his fantasy worth as the Gunner has hardly been firing on all cylinders this season.

A surprise name in ninth place is Matt Taylor of Bolton Wanderers. The left-sided midfielder moved to the Reebok Stadium in January and has been a steady performer ever since. At £5.8 million in the current game he may be a option if you are trying to create space in your budget.

Portsmouth have two players in the table, Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch. Defoe, bound to leave Fratton Park this month perhaps to return to Spurs, notched 126 points in 2008 and when you consider he is the game's fourth best performing striker it will leave a gaping hole for Tony Adams. Crouch scored only 37 of his 112 points while at Liverpool which means he has actually contributed more than Defoe since moving to Pompey (75 points to 70).

Michael Owen somehow manages to make it into the list as the number five striker on 120 points. The only other forward player in the list is Roque Santa Cruz of Blackburn Rovers who sneaks in on 108 points.

Stewart Downing, another Tottenham transfer target, is also in the table.

Fulham's form in staying in the Premier League and then building a solid base this term means two of their midfielders, Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy, appear along with Real Madrid 'target' Antonio Valencia.

Bullard and Murphy certainly provide value for money but do Fulham score enough goals to really make them viable selections? Maybe if you need the cash to sign Ronaldo as to do that you have to make savings elsewhere.


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