Centre-backs are set to be in demands this summer with a number of Premier League clubs targeting marquee additions to the backline.
From domineering duel winners to ball-playing experts who excel in building from the back, there are several defensive stars who are set to find themselves at the centre of the transfer headlines.
We’ve looked at five top-class centre-backs that Premier League clubs will fight over this summer.
Kim Min-jae has had a meteoric rise in recent seasons with the South Korean centre-back having risen from relative unknown to one of Europe’s most coveted centre-backs within two seasons.
The 26-year-old was playing his club football in the Chinese Super League as recently as 2021, but has since emerged as Serie A’s most dominant defender at Napoli, via a season at Fenerbahce, and contributed to an unforgettable season for Luciano Spalletti’s side.
South Korean defender Kim Min-jae was playing in the Chinese league for Beijing Guoan until 2021.
He signed for Fenerbahçe for €3m before joining Napoli this season for just €18m.
Now, he’s led Napoli’s defence to their first Scudetto in 33 years 👏 pic.twitter.com/d03WPOWRzi
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 5, 2023
Min-jae has filled the void left by Kalidou Koulibaly’s departure from Naples last season and has been a commanding figure as Napoli have been crowned champions for the first time since 1990.
Napoli have won the league in style and Min-jae has been central to that success, topping Serie A for aerial duels won among defenders (91) and leading the division for touches (2986), progressive carrying distance, percentage of dribblers tackled (85.2%) and ranking fourth overall for clearances (120).
Manchester United have been strongly linked with a move to sign the defender this summer, while Liverpool and Tottenham have also been credited with tentative interest. Given a rumoured release clause of less than €50m that will become active in July, expect Europe’s top clubs to table offers.
Left-footed central defenders have never been more appreciated as sides build from the back and Evan N’Dicka could be the subject of several offers for his services this summer.
N’Dicka is out of contract at the end of the season and set to leave Eintracht Frankfurt on a free transfer. The Frenchman formed part of the side that won the Europa League in 2021/22 and has had another impressive season in the Bundesliga, ranking fourth in Germany’s top tier for clearances.
The 23-year-old is a powerful presence and comfortable defending in wide areas, while his recovery pace is suited to the demands of a defensive structure with a high line. N’Dicka’s 6ft 4in frame makes him robust enough to handle the rigours of the Premier League and his availability on a free transfer will have alerted a number of England’s top clubs.
English sides will need to move quickly in order to secure the centre-back however, with Roma pushing to sign N’Dicka as a free agent. Barcelona have also been linked.
Jurrien Timber turned down interest from the Premier League last summer to remain at Ajax, choosing to remain with the Dutch side to ensure continuity ahead of the 2022 World Cup last winter.
Manchester United had made an approach to sign the Netherlands international with Erik ten Hag keen to sign his former player, who won the Dutch Football Talent of the Year and Eredivisie Player of the Year awards during the 2021/22 campaign.
News #Timber: Ajax definitely wants to keep him as he’s their key player! In case of his transfer in summer his price valuation is around €50m at this stage! Ajax has no concrete offers for him yet. Timber wants to join a top club! @SkySportDE 🇳🇱 pic.twitter.com/fu2q9G4KO9
— Florian Plettenberg (@Plettigoal) May 2, 2023
United could renew that interest with uncertainty surrounding the futures of Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof, while Liverpool are also said to have expressed interest in the 21-year-old. Reservations remain over Timber’s ability aerially, but the Dutch defender has the raw foundations and tenacity to succeed at the highest level.
Sky Sports reported earlier this month that Timber is keen on an exit from the Eredivisie this summer, with Ajax set to demand a fee of £43.5m (€50m) for the centre-back.
Josko Gvardiol is perhaps the most coveted central defender in the game right now, with the Croatia international having enhanced his reputation on the world stage last winter.
Gvardiol shone as Croatia reached the World Cup semi-finals and led the tournament for clearances to emerge as one of Qatar 2022’s best young players.
His success in the tournament followed on from an excellent 2021/22 campaign at RB Leipzig, one that saw him lead Europe’s top five leagues for completed take-ons among centre-backs and lead all Bundesliga centre-backs for passes into the final third.
Joško Gvardiol’s 2022 World Cup by numbers:
90% pass accuracy
48x possession won
37 clearances (most)
19 duels won
Croatia’s youngest ever scorer at the World Cup. #Vatreni pic.twitter.com/YPtr3iploc
— Squawka (@Squawka) December 17, 2022
An athletic left-footed defender who is comfortable progressing the ball with strides forward in possession or passes forward into attacking areas, Gvardiol has all the attributes required to succeed in modern defensive structures.
Chelsea made a bid of £77.4m for Gvardiol last summer and any deal for the 21-year-old could break the world-record £80m fee paid for a defender, set by Harry Maguire’s move to Manchester United in 2019. The West Londoners, Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid have all been linked across the past 12 months.
Pau Torres’ name has regularly surfaced when recent transfer windows have opened for Premier League clubs, with the Spaniard monitored by some of the division’s top sides across the past four seasons.
Torres formed part of the Villarreal side that won the Europa League in 2020/21 and turned down interest from rival sides to remain with his boyhood club, following their qualification for the Champions League.
Villarreal look set to miss out on Europe’s elite this season however, leading to speculation that Torres could be sold as the defender enters the final 12 months of his deal.
Aston Villa have joined the race to sign Pau Torres.
His €30m asking price is expected to be too much for Juventus this summer. His most plausible destination is currently the Premier League.
[Marco Conterio] pic.twitter.com/Jj0BuPnRSn
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) May 9, 2023
Manchester United are long-term admirers of the 26-year-old, while both Manchester City and Tottenham are rumoured to be in the hunt for left-side central defenders at the end of the season.
Aston Villa have emerged as surprise suitors, in a move that could see Torres link up with former Villarreal manager Unai Emery in the Premier League. Villa have shown encouraging progress under Emery this season and are expected to invest ambitiously at the end of the season.
Read – Oh Arsenal: Five games that saw the Gunners surrender the title to Man City
Read Also – Remembering the last six players to win the FWA Footballer of the Year award
Subscribe to our social channels:
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube