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Assessing Tottenham’s options in the central defender transfer market

Tottenham need some new CBs. Here are some options.

Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League Photo by Southampton FC/Southampton FC via Getty Images

With defense an apparent need for Tottenham Hotspur, there will be a big emphasis this upcoming summer in bringing in one or more upgrades at the position. The collective unit has been far below par. Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Joe Rodon underachieved this past season and proved that reinforcements at the position is a must this summer.

Since his appointment as interim manager, Ryan Mason has consistently opted for the duo of Alderweireld and Dier. For awhile, many thought that Japhet Tanganga would slide in at center back. However, with the youngster transitioning to right back and likely sticking with the position going forward, the writing is on the wall for movement at centerback in the summer.

Out of all of the centerbacks on the roster, the defender who is most likely to be on the roster next year is actually the one who has played the least. In Rodon, while he has not had many opportunities, he has shown great potential and his performances have definitely warranted a place in next year’s squad regardless of which manager is brought on.

While Alderweireld has been a fantastic club servant, his pace and even physicality is beginning to wane. Both Dier and Sanchez have both been given multiple chances and both have clear weaknesses that may not be fixable. Both of their tenures seem to be coming to a close and while ultimately their place on next season’s roster should come down to the discretion of the next manager, it is clear that this duo cannot go forward in starting roles unless there is significant improvement made.

In recent offseasons, Tottenham have vastly improved their midfield. While the questions are up in the air this offseason regarding Harry Kane and Son Heung-min, Spurs need serious investment in the spine of their first team. Let’s take a look at a few options for the centerback position based off of different tiers that range in contract value and wages.

Lower-Cost Options

Joachim Andersen, Fulham

We have talked about it plenty, but Andersen’s name has to be the first one on this list. Most recently in Tuesday’s draw at Manchester United, Andersen came on and immediately brought some comfort on the ball when the Cottagers were trying to play out from the back. That is, however, despite of Tim Ream’s desire to try and give the ball away.

Andersen has shown a lot of improvement and could definitely bring a fire and a hunger that is greatly needed at Spurs. While the Lyon loanee may have his shortcomings, particularly with his pace, he makes up for his with his passing ability and strength in the air.

Jannik Vestergaard, Southampton

A good centerback who has shown a lot of improvement this season under Ralph Hasenhüttl and his strict 4-4-2 formation, Vestergaard is a bigger option who can clog spaces in defense. Standing in at 6’6”, Vestergaard is known for his ability to successfully compete in aerial duels. Because of this, he is also a weapon that can be used for set pieces.

At 28 years old and finishing his second season for Saints, Vestergaard is no stranger to playing in the Premier League. He stays quite composed and is good on the ball, knowing when to make the correct pass. It would depend on the manager brought in, but Vestergaard has traits that could intrigue Tottenham. Add in the fact that he will be entering the final year of his contract, the Danish international could be found at a bit under value.

Perr Schuurs, Ajax

An Ajax academy graduate, Schuurs is a player that this season made the transition from the bench to a more central role, tallying 2700 minutes in all competitions this season. A comfortable player on the ball and a defender who plays older than he is, Schurrs should be getting more buzz.

At just 21 years of age, Schuurs is a capable centerback who is looking like another successful youth investment for Ajax. With Jurrien Timber set to take on an even bigger role next season, Schuurs could be had if the right bid were to come in. Tottenham have done their fair share of business with Ajax, perhaps even at the manager level this offseason. Both Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen originally started at Ajax prior to coming over to Spurs, so Tottenham could opt to go here again.

Mid-Range Options:

Nikola Milenković, Fiorentina

Out of all of the centerbacks on this list, Milenković is one that is garnering more and more interest from clubs across Europe. Entering the last year of his deal, the Serbian international has improved year after year in Florence. Similar to Vestergaard, Milenković is a bigger outlet who stands at 6’4”. At 23 years old with multiple years of Serie A football under his belt, Milenković fits the profile in the type of Spurs could feel comfort in shelling out a bit more money for. He’s been priced at £26m.

Along with his size, Milenković is an intelligent reader of the game who displays decent positioning on the defensive side of the ball while also showing comfort in possession. It appears unlikely that Milenković will sign long-term for Fiorentina, thus perhaps making him available for a big-money move to Spurs.

Maxence Lacroix, Wolfsburg

Since watching a bit more of Oliver Glasner’s side since his links to the Tottenham managerial job, I have become more and more intrigued by Lacroix. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the Bundesliga this season is this Wolfsburg team and their comfort in Glasner’s system. One of the reasons has been their ability to frustrate teams defensively. Up to this article’s writing, Wolfsburg have conceded just 34 goals.

Last summer, Lacroix was bought for just around £5 million. Glasner inserted the Frenchman next to American veteran John Brooks and the duo have reaped serious dividends. Although just 20 years of age, Lacroix is an athletic defender who takes chances and steps up to stop attacks and progress the ball up the field.

While he has some limitations on the ball and onindividual duels in the wider positions, the natural feel at the position mixed with the athleticism is there for Lacroix to ascend into one of the better defenders in Europe. There have been rumors that Lacroix has turned down a contract extension. Technical Performance Director Steve Hitchen has made some enemies out of Tottenham fans, particularly for his portrayal in the Amazon documentary, but a transfer of Lacroix and the potential he would bring would be some coup for Tottenham’s back line.

Ben White, Brighton

When White excelled on loan at Leeds United last season, there were big expectations set for him to replicate that same level of success in the Premier League for the Seagulls. There were questions prior to this season’s Premier League campaign as to whether he would be strong enough to win defensive duels and handle the physicality of the top flight. Under Graham Potter this season, he has once again been exceptional, even if Brighton have not.

For Brighton, the preference has been to consistently press defenders and retain possession as well as build from the back when needed. With Leeds’ unique playing style speaking for itself, Leeds and Brighton have been great engines for White to develop this part of his game. At 23 years old, he shows excellent composure on the ball and has proved that he can operate effectively in a squad that is predicated on being possession-focused. I think White would be expensive, especially considering that he has three years left on his current deal. But if Potter were to come to north London, White could be his first preference at the position.

“One-can-dream” Options:

Raphaël Varane, Real Madrid

Approaching the last year of his contract, it would be remarkable if Spurs were to opt for the route of a big-money move for the Los Blancos centerback. Not only would the transfer likely break the record set of Tanguy Ndombele’s big-money move, but Varane would also demand high wages.

This was a link that perhaps gained some buzz when José Mourinho was in charge, but bringing in Varane would give them the complete package at the position. It has not been their modus operandi to bid a heavy transfer number, but if Tottenham were to sell Kane, perhaps the onus would be to do so. Additionally, with cashflow a concern for Real, perhaps Tottenham could pry a significant asset away.

Jules Koundé, Sevilla

Koundé was simply sensational mopping up defensively for Sevilla in their European campaign towards the end of last season. Once again, Koundé has impressed for Julen Lopetegui. At Sevilla, Koundé has been a reliable youngster who has held his own in their shape-shifting 4-3-3 to 3-2-5 formation.

He is extremely athletic and is good in the air and most importantly, he is equally comfortable with both of his feet. With three full seasons left on his current deal, it seems all but certain that Koundé will be going nowhere, but as mentioned above, one can dream.

Milan Škriniar, Inter Milan

Perhaps the prized jewel in last summer’s transfer window, it reported that Tottenham’s entourage flew to Milan last year to secure the signatures needed to bring in the Slovakian international. Ultimately, Škriniar stayed and helped Antonio Conte’s side win their first Serie A league title since 2010.

At 6’2”, Škriniar has good spatial ability and is good in the air. With Inter’s fullbacks having the license to go forward, Škriniar was often forced to be in the wide areas on an island. His positioning paired with his underrated athleticism gave him the ability to hold his own in doing so. In Škriniar, Tottenham would capture a defender who is comfortable on the ball and can be a powerful workhorse in their back-line. If Škriniar were to be available, I think Spurs would face some other English competition especially after yet another productive season in Italy.

Note: There are obviously many other centerbacks who would fit the criteria of the above three categories. We will continue to look into other options as the summer approaches.