The Hard Tackle takes a look at five of the most highly sought-after defenders in Europe in this summer’s transfer window.
The club season is over and the transfer window is set to take centre stage across Europe. While fans would be pining for the next season to start already, they would also be waiting with bated breaths to see how well their clubs do in the transfer window.
More importantly, they will be eager to welcome the new superstars of their beloved clubs, players who would go a long way in determining the futures at their new humble abodes. Meanwhile, the managers would be keen to get the players onboard quickly so as to get their plans for the next season in motion.
As the deals start getting finalised all across Europe, there are a few prized possessions that do not quite get snapped up quickly due to the sheer competition for their services. And, The Hard Tackle attempts to name five defenders that are attracting interest from a whole host of prominent clubs across Europe.
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Current Club: Napoli
Suitor(s): Manchester United, Real Madrid, Juventus, PSG
Expected Transfer Fee: £130 million
Most Likely Destination: Napoli
In a league that is revered for the defensive astuteness that some of the best sides show, it takes some doing to stand out in the top echelons. But, Kalidou Koulibaly has done just that during his time at Napoli, impressing with his ability to constantly raise the bar.
A largely unknown prospect when he joined Napoli from KRC Genk in the summer of 2014, he has since made giant strides to become a player who has become a household name in Europe and beyond. And so, it is no wonder that the Senegalese centre-back is reportedly being chased by some of the biggest clubs in the world.
Most of the reports have alluded towards Manchester United’s interest in Koulibaly (the Red Devils will feature quite prominently in our feature today). But, there are a few others that would like to add the 27-year-old to their squads this summer.
The likes of Real Madrid, Juventus and PSG have also been named as suitors for the Napoli star. And, for various reasons, he would be a welcome addition at each of the four clubs that are showing an interest in Koulibaly.
A player with an astounding recovery pace and impressive strength, he has what it takes to settle in the pacy and athletic Premier League while also having the required technical abilities to shine at the Real Madrid and PSG setups. As for Juventus, the Serie A champions might not fancy their chances signing a player who has endeared himself to Napoli fans.
In the end, the fact that Napoli want an eye-watering sum of £130 million, which would break the world transfer record for a defender, might just mean that he could be seen as a bridge too far to cross for the interested parties.
Matthijs de Ligt
Current Club: Ajax
Suitor(s): Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid, PSG
Expected Transfer Fee: £70 million
Most Likely Destination: Anyone’s guess
From a superstar in his prime to a kid (in footballing terms) who is going places; Matthijs de Ligt may still be in his teens, but in his short career he has already shown enough promise, and more, to attract the who’s who of European football.
One could probably talk about just his defensive prowess, which in itself is good enough to prove why he is hyped so much. But, what is even more impressive about the remarkable progress he has shown since his senior Ajax debut as a 16-year-old is the fact that he is now the club captain.
The teenager has just completed his first season as the Ajax captain. And, when one sees what the Dutch giants achieved in the campaign, it is not hard to see why certain clubs are after him. After all, leadership is trait that is seldom seen in players these days, which is one of the prime reasons why teams are so erratic in the modern game.
But, coming off a campaign that saw de Ligt helped guide Ajax to the Dutch domestic double as well as a UEFA Champions League semi-finals run, he is rightly the defensive equivalent of a Kylian Mbappe. As for his suitors, de Ligt has been courted by the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid.
From being on the verge of joining Barcelona to being on his way to Manchester United, the future appears to be highly uncertain for the 19-year-old, albeit in a good way. Having said that, it can not be denied that de Ligt has what it takes to settle into the defences of any of the interested clubs we have named.
However, it remains anyone’s guess as to whether de Ligt could end up plying his trade next season, having iterated that Ajax are his only dream club, but also talked about interest from other clubs. Either way, de Ligt remains a player who has exciting times ahead of him, with every suitor offering him something interesting to pick.
Current Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Suitor(s): Manchester United, Juventus, Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona
Expected Transfer Fee: £25 million (Reported Release Clause)
Most Likely Destination: Juventus
Another player whose future is far from certain. Toby Alderweireld very nearly left Tottenham last summer, when Manchester United had been hell bent to sign him. Fast forward a year, and the links have not been as forthcoming, considering he is now in this thirties.
Alderweireld though, is a player who still remains on top of his game and played a key role in Spurs’ run to the Champions League final. His fantastic ball-playing abilities would make him a natural fit at many of the clubs that want him.
Defensively, very few can match up to the abilities of the experienced Belgian, but like de Ligt, he too has leadership abilities that have stood Tottenham in good stead over the years. As for the suitors, Juventus look the best placed to land Alderweireld, if they are serious about their interest.
The Bianconeri have seen Andrea Barzagli hang his boots up at the end of the 2018-19 season while Giorgio Chiellini is in the twilight of his career as well. Manchester United and Real Madrid have also shown interest, but do not seem to be seeing Alderweireld as priority.
Juventus appears to be the ideal destination for Alderweireld, whose contract talks with Tottenham are going absolutely nowhere. Unless Spurs are prepared to lose him for free, we could see the big Belgian make his way to Italy for what can easily be termed as a £25 million steal.
Current Club: Real Betis
Suitor(s): Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona
Expected Transfer Fee: £44 million (Reported Release Clause)
Most Likely Destination: Real Betis
A name that not many would have envisaged being a highly sought-after defender in Europe. But, such has been the impact that Junior Firpo has made since breaking into the Real Betis first-team setup last year that he is now being courted by the usual suspects in our feature this time around.
Fresh off completing his first full season with Los Verdiblancos, Firpo has impressed with his ability to make an impact on either end of the pitch, a trait not seen in many full-backs these days. That he can also double up as a left winger, if required, only adds to the appeal.
Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester appear to be keen on the 22-year-old for various reasons. While Real Madrid need a long-term successor for Marcelo, Barcelona want someone to be Jordi Alba’s backup and Manchester United are looking to provide competition to Luke Shaw.
In such a scenario, Real Madrid should appear to be the most appealing prospect on a personal level. But, Firpo has insisted this week that he is committed to Real Betis, which is why we believe that the young left-back will continue his development at the Seville-based club instead of getting lured by the riches on offer by the big clubs.
Current Club: AS Roma
Suitor(s): Manchester United, Arsenal, Juventus
Expected Transfer Fee: £36 million (Reported Release Clause)
Most Likely Destination: AS Roma
Finally completing a Perfect Five for Manchester United, who have been the running theme of suitors in our presentation today. The list is rounded off by yet another centre-back – Kostas Manolas. They appear to be quite in demand this summer, don’t they?
The Greek defender has been quite highly sought-after in the transfer market for a while now. But, for one reason or another, he has decided to stay put at AS Roma, who themselves have done well to fend off interest in the highly regarded defender for a few years.
This summer, Manchester United (surprise surprise!), Arsenal and Juventus have been linked with the 27-year-old. But, the fact that he would cost around £36 million means Arsenal could be handicapped in their chase for another Greek centre-back this summer.
As for Manchester United, with no Champions League football on offer, a move for Manolas might be too difficult to pull off as the reason he has been linked with an exit from AS Roma is due to the fact that Roma too, missed out on securing qualification for the UEFA Champions League.
Juventus present an interesting prospect, but in the end they could be weighing up their options between Manolas and Alderweireld. With a lot of uncertainties looming, chances are Manolas could be staying put at AS Roma yet again.