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Crave Football: The best fantasy football games online

Convinced your club's manager is a total moron? Have a go yourself then, with one of these online fantasy football games -- you've got plenty of time to pick your team before the season kicks off

The thrills and spills of the Premier League are back this Saturday and The World's Best Football League™ should be more exciting than ever, with the smallest managerial decisions affecting the mental health of thousands of fans (and their long-suffering partners). And every single one of us thinks we could do a better job. Of course, the vast majority of us would be as competent as the love child of Graeme Souness and a cow with foot-and-mouth disease, but at least we can give it a go with fantasy football.

There are a number of fantasy football games on the market, but they each put you in charge of your own team of superstars and up-and-comers. Every player in the league is given a price and you have to pick the perfect side within a specific budget. Players then score points throughout the season for appearances made, goals scored and clean sheets kept, while losing marks for conceding goals and picking up cards.

Points tally up from your whole team to give a score each week, which then ranks against other players throughout the country, or in your own league with your mates. It's simple, entertaining stuff that lets you show off your expert knowledge, but with a multitude of sites offering the game, it's hard to know which is best for you. So click through for Crave's quick guide to the best free and paid-for games, or check out our guides to cheap TVs to watch footie on and football stuff on your mobile. -Sam Bathe

Fantasy Premier League
The official Premier League fantasy football game is a solid place to start if you're looking for a well-designed, popular network. The league is free to join and couldn't be simpler to pick your team. Using the fancy flash-based software, you can sort players by club or position and it gives a quick background and injury status.

You can also design your own kit and pick substitutes and a captain for that fully customisable experience, though transfers later in the season will cost you points.

Your side will automatically be entered into leagues for your nationality and favourite team, as well as an overall league and the option for private leagues with your friends. As entry is free, prizes are limited to tickets to Premier League games and replica shirts.

Can You Kick It?
A near identical experience to Fantasy Premier League, with one difference -- prize money. The game is free to join and equally simple to pick your perfect team, but at the end of the season a £20,000 cheque will land on the ultimate champion's doormat. Total prize money is up to £50,000 and again you'll join leagues for your favourite club and nationality, and any your friends set up. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time.

The Sun Dream Team
The Sun Dream Team is among the most popular fantasy football offerings, costing a mere £5 to join but giving away a glorious £500,000 in prize money, with a whopping £150,000 to the winner.

Details are available on every player when you're picking one of the maximum ten teams you're allowed to enter, and from then on you can access up-to-date stats via your mobile. Scoring from European games as well makes this more than worth a gamble.

Play The Game
Play The Game is run by The Times, and is only really useful for a pre-organised bunch of players. It's free to play, but there's no prize money (prizes are yet to be announced) or overall league, so instead you must join a public league set up by another user or start your own. The ability to make a group private, with data available to each player about only them and their friends makes this a good option for a spot of office fun, but we think there are better services available.

Fantasy League Classic
Fantasy League Classic is the original fantasy football game, and it has a variety of entry fees, from £10 for the basic game up to a pricey £20 for the bells-and-whistles text messaging package. Selecting players is simple to navigate, and a 16-player squad means you can rotate out injured players without using up your transfers. A plethora of options, including a customisable pitch and manager logos (we've gone for Disco Stu on the beach), should keep your interest until the deciding last few games.

£100,000 in prize money is on offer, plus tickets to the Champions League and other major football finals, but this service doesn't quite do enough for the money, we feel.

Channel 4 Fantasy Football
For the most cultured and smoothly organised affair -- without paying a premium -- you should head over to Channel 4 Fantasy Football. The service is run by Fantasy League Classic (previous page), but thanks to Channel 4, it's free to enter while still offering some impressive prizes. On offer are a trip to LA, an Xbox 360 and a fussball table, plus monthly prizes of match tickets and replica shirts.

Metro Fantasy Football
The Metro Fantasy Football league sounds promising -- free to play, significant prize money and the option to set up mini-leagues between your friends. Sadly, picking your team could not be a more long-winded experience.

For each pick you have to click through several pages of tables, offering little comparison between your proven stars and potential bargains, which is incredibly frustrating. Other systems do it better.