The midfield is where the majority of the action happens during a given match, and as such managers often choose to fill the central areas of the pitch with the most well-rounded players. Like defenders, midfielders have adapted over time to be solid in possession, capable of chipping in with goals and assists, and defensively proficient to win the ball back from the opposition when they do lose it.
From a fantasy perspective, the highest scorers are typically those with more of an attacking flair; the ones who are long-distance shooters with great vision and ability on the ball; the ones who rack up goals, assists, corners, successful crosses, etc. There are also the occasional phantom menaces like "Jedi Master" Mile Jedinak who seem to put up double figures on a weekly basis without ever seeming to score.
I've highlighted five players below who could make a huge difference if they were available to choose in our fantasy Premier League teams. Many of these players have been drawing the eyes of scouts from across Europe, though it's worth mentioning these names don't necessarily represent any actual confirmed transfer news. Let's take a look!
After his impressive displays for Switzerland at the 2014 World Cup tn Brazil his past summer, the diminutive attacker was on the wishlist for some of the best teams in Europe. His pace, power and skill with the ball make him an attacking powerhouse, but he's yet to establish himself as a regular starter for Bayern Munich. The 23 year-old has only made 9 appearances in the Bundesliga so far this season, and has been vocal about his desire for more playing time.
With only a year-and-a-half left on his contract, Shaqiri could be available for a relatively inexpensive sum this month, and Bayern could be persuaded to part with the winger if the right club come calling with the right price. The likes of Arsenal and Liverpool have previously registered their interest and could come in for the Swiss man again.
The majority of the current crop of Chile's stars have made their way to the Premier League, including Mauricio Isla, Eduardo Vargas and Alexis Sanchez, which leaves Vidal as the biggest Chilean name playing outside of England. The Juventus man ticks all the boxes for what you're looking for in a central midfielder, and may have a claim to stake on the title of world's best in the position at the moment.
Tenacious and powerful, the 27 year-old is a ball-winner in the center of the park, but also possesses the skill and vision on the ball to dictate the attacking tempo for his side as well. It would take a hefty sum to pry him away from the Italian giants, but with rumored interest from both Manchester City and Manchester United, it's not unrealistic to imagine one of the world's finest midfielders gracing the Premier League in the near future.
One of the brightest emerging talents in Europe, the 23-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder has faced some intense competition at his position in the national setup, including current Premier League stars Oscar and Philippe Coutinho. Firmino's stock has been rising steadily since moving to Hoffenheim from the Brazilian league in 2011, enough so to earn him his first international cap in November 2014.
Firmino is one of the most productive midfielders in the Bundesliga this season, with 4 goals and 6 assists in 17 matches, as well as a 2-goal, 2-assist match in the DFB-Pokal (League Cup). The timing of his runs is reminiscent of Frank Lampard in his prime, while he's got that notorious Brazilian flair to go along with his strong finishing. Hoffenheim will be reluctant to let him go, and maybe the price tag would be too high for all but the top clubs (most of which have the position filled adequately), but Firmino would be an exceptional fantasy player and brilliant talent to watch in the Premier League.
All but confirmed as a Liverpool player last January before Dnipro's owner refused to sell him, the Ukrainian winger looks to be back on the market for 2015. The 25 year-old is one of the most sought-after midfielders across Europe, and with good reason. The left-sided midfielder is excellent on the ball, with tricks on par with the best dribblers in the Premier League, but also has the confidence to run at defenders and get into positions to create chances. Pace is another strong attribute, as well as his ability to shoot from distance with both feet. Much of his game is very similar to Chelsea star Eden Hazard.
Given that Konoplyanka's contract only runs until June 2015, Dnipro may be more willing to sell the player for a profit before he's allowed to leave on a free in the summer. The fee to secure Konoplyanka's services could be as low as £12m, which would open the door for a host of clubs to throw their name into the hat. In addition to Liverpool, there has been rumored interest from Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United among Premier League clubs. It will be interesting to see which, if any, of these rumors play out this month.
Probably the least well-known of the candidates in this article, Junuzovic earns a place due to his all-action displays in central midfield for Werder Bremen. The 27-year-old Austrian is currently the highest-scoring midfielder in Yahoo's fantasy Bundesliga game, ahead of the likes of Arjen Robben and Kevin De Bruyne.
Not likely to attract attention from Europe's top clubs, Junuzovic would still be an ideal addition to many Premier League sides given his influence on games. A well-rounded performer (think Mile Jedinak with more goals from open play), the Bremen midfielder would be a welcome addition to our fantasy teams, and could be available for as little as £5m with his current contract up in June. Aston VIlla are among the clubs rumored to be interested.
Oh, and he can do this:
I'll be back soon with the final Window Shopping post dedicated to strikers to rival the likes of Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero and Alexis Sanchez for fantasy production. Until then, be sure to answer the poll below (Guillermo Ochoa and Mats Hummels have been your choices thus far) and let me know your thoughts in the comments!