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Player Profile: Spurs centre-back target Radu Dragusin

Tottenham are interested in a deal to sign Genoa centre-back Radu Dragusin this month, as Ange Postecoglou looks to bring in much needed reinforcements.

Postecoglou’s depleted defence looked set to add Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo, though the North Londoners have since turned their attention to Dragusin, with the player’s agent having revealed talks have been held.

 

“He does not think about money, but about prospects for growth and the team he can play for,” Florin Manea told Play TV, via Football Italia.

“We were contacted by Saudi Pro League clubs, but he did not even want to listen to their proposals. Personally, I have not been contacted by Napoli, Roma or AC Milan.

“In any case, Radu is not thinking about leaving Genoa mid-season, it would be like leaving some unfinished business for him. I have had contact with clubs in the Premier League, including Tottenham and others, but at this moment he does not want to leave.”

Dragusin is a name who is perhaps unfamiliar to the Premier League fan, but the Romanian has quietly been building a reputation for himself in Serie A this season.

The defender first emerged on the radar of Europe’s top clubs as a teenager, when Juventus won the race to sign Dragusin in 2018. He made just four senior appearances for the Turin side, with underwhelming loan spells at Sampdoria and Salernitana in 2021/22 failing to showcase his potential.

Another loan move, to Genoa last season, kickstarted the defender’s development. Recently relegated from the top division, the loan recruit helped Alberto Gilardino’s side bounce back to Serie A at the first attempt.

Dragusin ranked second in Serie B for touches (2310) in 2022/23, as Genoa finished as runners-up in the second tier to earn promotion.

The promotion to Serie A has naturally brought on greater defensive volume, as Genoa go from dominant second-tier side to one looking to consolidate back among Italy’s elite. Dragusin has thrived amid the increased defensive pressure, and ranks third in Serie A this season for clearances (82) and aerials won (57). On the latter metric, he is the leading defender in the division.

For comparison, only Virgil van Dijk, Ethan Pinnock and James Tarkwoski have managed more in the Premier League, while no u-21 player in Europe’s top five leagues can match Dragusin’s total.

This season he has contested more aerial duels (4.7), and won more aerial duels (3.3) than Spurs centre-backs Cristian Romero (3.5 and 2.4) and Micky van de Ven (3.1 and 1.4) per 90 minutes, while winning a higher percentage of his battles in the air (70%) than both Romero (69%) and Van de Ven (44%).

That aerial threat has seen Dragusin score six league goals across the last 18 months, while he ranks in the top seven percent of defenders in Europe’s top five leagues for shots, attacking penalty area touches and non-penalty goals across the last 12 months.

Dragusin’s desire to defend also comes without rashness. He has been cautioned just once in 18 appearances in Serie A this season, for a collision with an opposition goalkeeper.

 

The raw defensive numbers show Dragusin’s dominance in duels, though on the ball his game requires improvement to impress in Postecoglou’s possession-based approach.

The 21-year-old’s pass accuracy (82.45%) is noticeably less than both Romero (92.3%) and Van de Ven have posted this season (94.59%), despite attempting significantly less passes (36.8 – 84 – 67), passes in the opposition half (7.5 – 28.2 – 18.6 ), and forward passes (12.9 – 32.4 – 21) than Postecoglou’s first-choice duo.

The challenge for Dragusin, should a deal be finalised, will be adapting to the high defensive line of Postecoglou’s system. Higher up the pitch, there will be a greater emphasis placed on his retention and use of the ball, and less on the areas where he has statistically shone.

At 6ft 3in, he has the frame to thrive in the Premier League, while possessing the recovery pace required to operate in Postecoglou’s bold defensive line.

Statistics, while important, need context. The contrasting styles of Spurs and Genoa muddy direct comparisons, with the latter far less expansive than Postecoglou’s side. This season, only Cagliari and Udinese have posted a lower average possession than Genoa (42.9%), with Dragusin tasked with sweeping up defensively as the centre-piece of a three-man backline. Spurs, meanwhile are among the most ball-dominant teams in the Premier League with 59.7% of the ball on average.

Napoli’s interest will concern Spurs, who need additions and have firmed up interest in Dragusin. Postecoglou and his recruitment team clearly see the potential in Dragusin, whose determined defending can be moulded into a more complete centre-back with time on the training ground.

Read – AFCON 2023: Five players to watch out for

See more – The Premier League players with the most big chances missed this season

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