Top level defenders have rarely been in greater demand with a whole host of leading sides reportedly considering their centre-back options this summer, the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and both Manchester sides entering the market for new additions.
Arsenal are on the verge of adding to their ranks with the signing of Gabriel Maghalaes and Thiago Silva has now completed his free transfer move to Chelsea, though several of Europe and the Premier League’s finest remain keen to bolster their central defensive ranks.
We’ve decided to profile some of the stars linked with a move in recent months, here are six of the most in-demand centre-backs in European football this summer:
It just wouldn’t be a summer transfer window without the name of Kalidou Koulibaly being linked with almost every major club on the continent, the Senegalese international having established himself as one of Europe’s premier centre-backs during six seasons with Napoli.
The Italian side have shown a reluctance to lose their prized asset in recent years but a turbulent season in Naples could see him finally depart this summer, Napoli having missed out on qualification for next season’s Champions League and set to undergo a rebuild at the San Paolo Stadium.
Manchester City have been the side linked strongest with a move for the 29-year-old, with Pep Guardiola keen to secure another new centre-back following the confirmed capture of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth.
Koulibaly’s arrival would be a major statement of intent as the club look to wrestle back the title from Liverpool next season, a player regarded amongst the finest on the continent in his position and possessing the pedigree to solve City’s defensive fragility.
The centre-back is unlikely to come cheap, however, and it remains to be seen whether City – of any of Europe’s major sides – are prepared to invest significantly in a player who turns 30 next summer.
Samuel Umtiti’s stock has fallen somewhat following a difficult period at Barcelona, whilst the current turmoil surrounding the club is likely to lead to the departures of several first-team players.
The France international could be one of the players to move and has regularly been linked with a move to the Premier League in recent years, the likes of Everton and West Ham all reportedly monitoring the situation of a defender who has struggled for fitness over the past two seasons.
Umtiti is a formidable player when at full fitness and despite occasionally appearing awkward in possession is a fine distributor of the ball, playing a key role in the France side that were crowned as world champions just two years ago.
Manchester United are previous admirers and are known to be in pursuit of a left-footed central defender this summer, with a move for Umtiti making sense if the Frenchman can prove his fitness after a frustrating period on the sidelines.
The 26-year-old has made just 23 league starts over the past two seasons, but could prove a sensible option for several leading sides with reports Barcelona will consider sanctioning a loan deal.
Manchester City are keen to overhaul their defensive options this summer and, having already confirmed the capture of Nathan Ake from Bournemouth, are continuing to be linked with new additions, a scenario which could spell the end for John Stones at the Etihad.
The England international has struggled for both form and fitness of late and has failed to progress as hoped since moving to Manchester from Everton four years ago, despite an impressive haul of silverware including two Premier League titles and a domestic treble.
Stones remains a fine player in possession but his nonchalant style has also led to a series of mistakes, whilst question marks remain over the defensive capabilities of the ball-playing centre-back.
The 26-year-old appears to have lost the trust of Pep Guardiola and a new challenge could be necessary if he is to remain in the forefront of Gareth Southgate’s plans with England, with former side Everton and newly-promoted Leeds United amongst those linked with a move.
Stones is approaching the peak years of his career and regular first-team football is vital to his hopes of fulfilling his potential, a situation which appears unlikely should he remain at City beyond the summer.
Ben White’s impressive season on loan at Leeds has drawn the defender plenty of admirers across the Premier League, the newly-promoted side having seen three bids rejected by Brighton as they bid to secure the youngster on a permanent basis.
White formed part of the side which were crowned as Championship winners last season, playing in every one of Leeds’ league fixtures and helping the side to an impressive 22 clean sheets, making more interceptions and winning possession more times in the defensive third than any other player in the second tier.
Comfortable in possession, the 22-year-old has all the attributes to step up to the highest level this season, though it remains to be seen in the colours of which club amid strong interest in his services.
Recent reports have suggested the centre-back is close to penning a new deal at Brighton despite the approach from Leeds and admiring glances from a host of clubs including Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool.
There are many who feel extending his stay at Brighton is merely a short-term measure before an inevitable move to one of the Premier League’s biggest clubs, however, insiders at Leeds believing White could make the England squad for next summer’s European Championships with a full season of football at Premier League level.
Diego Carlos made headlines across Europe after his overhead-kick led to a winning goal for Sevilla in this month’s Europa League final, the defender’s acrobatic effort forcing a Romelu Lukaku own goal and sealing yet more continental silverware for the record six-time winners.
The Brazilian had been on the radar of the Premier League’s leading clubs for some time before that match-winning intervention against Inter Milan, however, with Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal all linked with a player who has thrived since moving to Spain.
The 27-year-old only moved to Sevilla from French side Nantes last summer but he has proven another fine purchase for the club’s reputable recruitment team, excelling at the heart of the defence as Julen Lopetegui’s side enjoyed a strong second half to the season.
Carlos has all the attributes required of a modern centre-back and thrives in the defensive side of the game, though his eagerness to win challenges can also lead to rash moments, including the conceding of several penalties throughout the Europa League’s knockout stages.
He did, however, finish top of La Liga’s ratings for clearances and headed clearances last season, and Sevilla – a side known for their money-making moves in the transfer market – could be in line for a huge profit on a player signed for just €15m last summer.
Dayot Upamecano has been linked with almost every leading club in European football in recent seasons, speculation that is only likely to intensify following another outstanding season for RB Leipzig. The 21-year-old has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga in recent years, his ability to play out from the back and domineering physical presence making him the prototype of the modern centre halve.
The French youngster was the stand-out player from Leipzig’s first venture into the Champions League knockout stages, the German side upsetting the odds to reach the semi-finals before being eliminated by PSG in the last four.
Dayot Upamecano for RB Leipzig against Atletico:
⬢ Joint-most touches (99)
⬢ Joint-most clearances (5)
⬢ Joint-most take-ons completed (3)
⬢ Joint-most interceptions (2)
⬢ Joint-most tackles (2)
⬢ Most shots on target (2)
His price tag just went up. 🤑 pic.twitter.com/7d4Eg4Msij
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 13, 2020
Upamecano helped Julian Nagelsmann’s side top their group before keeping clean sheets in both legs of their last-16 victory over Tottenham, though it is his performance in Leipzig’s quarter-final victory over Atletico Madrid that will live longest in the memory. The 21-year-old was the best player on the pitch as Leipzig progressed to the last four, registering 100% for tackle success and take-ons completed, the ball-playing defender showing he belongs amongst Europe’s elite.
The highly-rated youngster, somewhat surprisingly, signed a contract extension with Leipzig recently, but after his eye-catching displays in Lisbon this month he is bound to be at the top of plenty of high-profile coaches shopping lists this summer.