90min

Centre backs Real Madrid should try to sign - summer 2021

Max Parsons
Pau Torres attracted a lot of interest thanks to a brilliant domestic 2020/21 season
Pau Torres attracted a lot of interest thanks to a brilliant domestic 2020/21 season / Maja Hitij/Getty Images
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It is officially an end of an era at Real Madrid.

First to leave was Sergio Ramos; the legendary Los Blancos captain was a lion in the heart of defence. He put an end to his stunning 16-year career at the club by moving to Paris Saint-Germain earlier in the summer.

And now Raphael Varane, who has been first-choice to partner Ramos in a famously successful pairing, has said goodbye to the club following an incredibly decorated decade. The Frenchman's departure to Manchester United has left a hole in Los Blancos' defence that needs filling.

David Alaba was quickly through the door at the beginning of the window, but with only Eder Militao, Nacho Fernandez and Jesus Vallejo in their first team squad as specialist centre backs, manager Carlo Ancelotti could use another option.

Here's some options for who Madrid should sign (even if they probably won't).

1. Jules Kounde

Jules Kounde
Jules Kounde seems set for Chelsea / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Varane's transfer to Old Trafford is thought to be worth around £45m, so Los Blancos will have generated a bit more for their unusually low transfer fund.

Jules Kounde is a player who has previously stated his will to feature for the Spanish giants and, given his defensive quality, ease on the ball and impressive La Liga campaign last term, he'd fit seamlessly into Ancelotti's side.

However, given the fee Sevilla would want for one of their prized assets and the recent reports that Kounde has agreed personal terms with Chelsea, it seems wholly unlikely that Real could steal him away from under the Blues' noses.

2. Nico Elvedi

Nico Elvedi
Nico Elvedi was impressive at Euro 2020 / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Okay, so he certainly is not a Galactico signing, but Nico Elvedi is the reliable, strong and stoic defender that Madrid need right now.

The Switzerland international has been a key part of Borussia Monchengladbach's side since his arrival six years ago - featuring in170 Bundesliga games for the club - and has helped through three Champions League campaigns.

He further proved his understated yet heroic style in Switzerland's road to the Euro 2020 quarter-finals - the furthest the nation has ever progressed at a major tournament.

The 24-year old is not a star but he's affordable - and he's the type of defensive presence they need to steady things.

3. Cristian Romero

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Cristian Romero won Copa America with Argentina this summer / CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

Another player to have attracted interest following an impressive 2020/21 season, Cristian Romero seems likely to move away from Atalanta this summer.

Tottenham are keen on the player, although a £42m bid has recently been rejected. Should talks continue to falter, Los Blancos could swoop in and get their man - who wouldn't choose Real Madrid over Spurs?

The Argentine centre back enjoyed a stellar campaign in Serie A last term, showing his defensive strength as he averaged 5.1 ball recoveries per 90 and at just 23 years of age, there's plenty more to be seen from him.

4. Maxence Lacroix

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Maxence Lacroix enjoyed a brilliant season with Wolfsburg / ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

While not a name that initially jumps out at you, Maxence Lacroix is a rising prospect of European football.

Arriving to Wolfsburg from Ligue 2 at the start of the 2020/21 campaign, Lacroix quickly forced himself into the first XI and eventually featured 30 times - 29 of which were starts - in the league as Wolfsburg proved dark horses with a fourth-placed finish.

Standing at 6ft 3in, the 21-year old is an imposing presence who likes to actively engage in the press to recycle possession quickly and efficiently - something that, alongside Alaba, could prove costly at times.

That is not to say, however, that he's a liability. During the 2020/21 campaign, Lacroix managed a combined 139 tackles and interceptions - third in the Bundesliga - while completing 174 clearances, ranking joint eighth in the league with Elvedi.

Furthermore, the Frenchman is usually the more passive of the central defensive pairing and allows his partner to roam upfield and create from deep - a trait that would complement Alaba perfectly.

5. Stefan De Vrij

Stefan de Vrij
Stefan de Vrij won Serie A with Inter last season / Marco Canoniero/Getty Images

A more experienced option would be Stefan De Vrij.

The Dutchman is now 29 and has been a top quality centre back in Europe for a number of years. While not the speediest, De Vrij is intelligent in his reading of the game and possesses excellent playmaking abilities from the back line.

The 29-year old also comes off the back of a brilliant Serie A campaign with Inter, playing a crucial role in a back line that let in just 35 goals as I Nerazzurri won the Scudetto.

The Dutchman undoubtedly has a couple of years at his current level left in him, although Los Blancos certainly wouldn't be getting potential with the fee they pay.

6. Sven Botman

Sven Botman
Sven Botman is one for the future / Sylvain Lefevre/Getty Images

Moving back to exciting options, Sven Botman has been a revelation in Ligue 1 since his transfer from Herenveen to Lille in the summer of 2020.

The 21-year old was largely faultless as Les Dogues went on to end Paris Saint-Germain's three-year reign of the Ligue 1 crown.

Instantly asserting himself on the Lille starting XI, Botman played 37 times in the league to create a perfect balance of experience and youthful quality with Jose Fonte - something Los Blancos could look to recreate on a level above with the Dutchman lining up alongside Alaba.

7. Matthias Ginter

Matthias Ginter
Matthias Ginter in Euro 2020 action for Germany / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

It seems as though Matthias Ginter has been around forever but the German is still just 27 years of age, giving him a fair few years at the top of his game yet.

The defender has very rarely not been an integral cog to his side's machine, so far amassing 263 Bundesliga appearances in his career.

The Gladbach star's trophy haul is limited (because, you know, Bayern), but he has nevertheless earned two domestic honours; the award of the German national team's player of the year for 2019 and was part of the squad that won the 2014 World Cup.

He's reliable, affordable and, usefully, very versatile.

8. Pau Torres

Pau Torres
Pau Torres is at the Olympics for Spain / Masashi Hara/Getty Images

Pau Torres has attracted interest from a number of suitors this summer, following a solid display throughout the 2020/21 season for Villarreal.

The 24-year old averaged 5.3 defensive interventions per 90 in La Liga last term, and was a key figure in Unai Emery's Europa League-winning side.

While not the most physical of players, the Spaniard is an elegant and intelligent defender and enjoys being a part of a possession-based side, having regularly demonstrated an impressive passing range last term.

9. Niklas Sule

Niklas Süle
Niklas Sule is a reliable defender / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

From elegance to pure brutishness.

Niklas Sule is a giant of a man, using his unnerving strength and the whole of his 6ft 5in frame to dominate opposition. While injuries have somewhat taken his speed away, the 25-year old still managed 2.7 ball recoveries per 90 in the Bundesliga last season and showed his versatility by doing a job at right-back - even providing an attacking threat.

The German is a proven champion, having won everything there is to win with Bayern Munich, and a consistent performer who maintains a solid and unwavering defensive style.

He wouldn't necessarily come cheap - particularly after Bayern's loss of Alaba and Jerome Boateng this summer - but he'd be a guaranteed assurance in Los Blancos' back line.


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