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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The left-sided centre-backs set to dominate the transfer window

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Centre-backs who are natural on the left side of defence have become increasingly important for top teams, with improved passing angles, build-up speed, and balance as a result.

Several teams are chasing central defenders at comfort on the left side of the defence and we’ve picked out five who could dominate the summer transfer window.

Jarrad Branthwaite

Jarrad Branthwaite’s breakthrough season at Everton ended in individual acclaim, as the centre-back took home the club’s Players’ Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season awards for 2023-24. A season on loan at PSV Eindhoven a year earlier helped Branthwaite mature and he has established himself as one of the Premier League’s best young defenders this season.

A natural off either foot, the 21-year-old ranked in the Premier League’s top players for clearances (6th) interceptions (7th) and dribblers tackled (8th) last season, as part of an Everton defence with the fourth-best defensive record in the division.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Jarrad Branthwaite (21) was the only Premier League CB in the 90+ percentile for both defensive actions and defensive duel win rate this season

📊 vs Premier League centrebacks
◎ Tackles — 1st
◎ Possession-adjusted tackles — 1st
◎ Successful defensive actions — 1st
◎… pic.twitter.com/S5OliYBifr

— DataMB (@DataMB_) June 13, 2024

Branthwaite made his England debut this month though was a surprising omission from Gareth Southgate’s final squad for Euro 2024, given his form this season and the absence of Harry Maguire.

Manchester United are leading the race to sign Branthwaite this summer but Everton – despite their financial issues – could demand a record fee, eclipsing the £75m that took Romelu Lukaku from Merseyside to Manchester in 2017.

Goncalo Inacio

Goncalo Inacio has been on the radar of leading teams in recent transfer windows after starring at Sporting Lisbon.

The 22-year-old formed part of the team that won the Primeira Liga this season, cementing a reputation as one of the most progressive passers in Portuguese football. He led the division for progressive passes, touches, and passes into the final third in 2023-24, while only one player carried the ball further in possession.

Proactive in and out of possession, Inacio has two goals in nine caps for Portugal and will feature for Roberto Martinez’s side at this summer’s European Championship.

382 – Gonçalo Inácio 🇵🇹 made more progressive carries than any other player in the Primeira Liga last season (382). Initiative. #OnesToWatch #EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/fnu8Nphdgp

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 14, 2024

Manchester United and Liverpool are reportedly interested, though Sporting will not entertain any offers below his €60m (£50.5m) release clause.

Riccardo Calafiori

Bologna were one of the stories of the season across Europe’s top five leagues, as Thiago Motta’s side exceeded all expectations to secure Champions League qualification. Despite having the 15th-lowest budget in Serie A, Bologna secured a top-five finish for the first time in 53 years and will play Champions League football next season.

However, Motta has already departed to take charge of Juventus and Riccardo Calafiori is expected to follow suit. Signed from Basel for just €4m last summer, the 22-year-old has been a revelation since swapping from full-back to a more central role. He scored twice and provided five assists while ranking sixth in Italy’s top tier for interceptions and percentage of aerial duels won.

🔎📊 Only two centre-backs in the top 5 leagues ranked in the 90+ percentile for both aerial win rate and progressive carries this season :

🇮🇹 Riccardo Calafiori (Bologna, 22)
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 John Stones (Man City, 29)

Search tool 👉 https://t.co/McR5zrPkTO pic.twitter.com/CrY1hIgsJi

— DataMB (@DataMB_) June 3, 2024

Juventus, however, won’t be alone in chasing a deal for the recent Azzurri debutant, who Bologna value at around €50m (£42m).

Arthur Theate

Belgium’s Golden Generation is creeping towards the end. In defence, Vincent Kompany and Toby Alderweireld are gone, while Jan Vertonghen turned 37 in April. Arthur Theate is one of the players tipped to take over.

The 6ft 3in left-footer is building an impressive reputation at Rennes, with comfort in possession and expansive passing. Across the last 12 months, he ranks in the 93rd percentile of central defenders in Europe’s top five leagues for progressive passes and progressive carries per 90 minutes.

Le sauvetage d’@ArthurTheate 😱😱 pic.twitter.com/WH6sVz2Whw

— Ligue 1 Uber Eats (@Ligue1UberEats) May 9, 2024

The 24-year-old featured predominantly at left-back during Belgium’s qualification for Euro 2024 and his versatility adds to his value. Rennes will expect a significant profit on the £19m fee paid to sign Theate from Bologna in 2022.

Nico Schlotterbeck

Another perfect profile for the left-sided centre-back role, Nico Schlotterbeck has impressed since arriving at Borussia Dortmund from Freiburg.

The 24-year-old was a crucial presence in Dortmund’s run to the Champions League final, forming an excellent defensive axis with Mats Hummels as the Germans shut out Paris Saint-Germain in the semi-finals.

Most passes per game by defenders in the Bundesliga last season (25+ starts):

◎ 80.5 – Nico Schlotterbeck
◎ 78.1 – Waldemar Anton
◎ 75.7 – Hiroki Ito
◎ 70.5 – Jonathan Tah
◎ 69.5 – Robin Koch pic.twitter.com/iz9JkHTvOO

— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) June 13, 2024

He led the Bundesliga for tackle success rate (71%) in 2023-24 and also ranked among the division’s best for progressive carrying distance (1st), progressive passes (8th), tackles won (3rd) and interceptions (8th).

Read – Euro 2024: Five under-the-radar players to watch this summer

See more – Five must watch games in the Euro 2024 group stage

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