Antonio Conte’s Inter is concerned only with depth when it comes to central defense.
In Stefan de Vrij, the Nerazzuri have one of Europe’s most reliable and under-appreciated defenders, while Milan Skriniar’s ability to cover large spaces and dominant nature in one-v-one situations makes him an ideal fit for the Italian’s system.
Diego Godin has shown signs of demise but has nonetheless proved a sturdy enough option, while Alessandro Bastoni – who replaced the Uruguayan later on in the 2019/20 campaign – is destined to become Italy’s next great centre-half.
The 20-year-old’s proactiveness and ball-playing capabilities have seen him enjoy a stellar debut campaign at San Siro after a series of loan spells since he made the £28m switch from Atalanta in 2017.
Inter finished this season with the joint second-best defensive record of Serie A. Rumours of Skriniar’s transfer will reportedly never die.
These are the four options available to the Nerazzurri for the next window…
The 20-year-old Albanian was not widely known before the campaign began. However, Kumbulla has enjoyed an impressive season with Italy’s surprise package Hellas Verona, establishing himself as one Europe’s brightest defensive prospects.
And Inter are already looking to wrap up a deal for the defender, with Fiorentina also interested.
It makes total sense for the Nerazzurri to target Kumbulla, he seems like the perfect fit for Conte’s system. He has been playing as the left-centre-back in an aggressive 3-4-6-1-2 for most of the season under Ivan Juric in Verona. He’s been allowed to roam into the attacking third to add a body in the final phase.
From a defensive perspective, he loves to play on the front foot and his skills in anticipation are second to none. The Albanian has been involved in 11.58 defensive duel per 90 this term, winning an impressive 70%. For context, Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt has been involved in 5.03 duels, although the Dutchman’s success rate is slightly superior at 72.86%.
Kumbulla’s role within Juric’s system is similar to that of Inter’s Bastoni, so it’s difficult to imagine the 20-year old having any difficulties adapting to Conte.
Potential price £16m – £25m
The Belgian is set to become a free agent at the end of the campaign with Inter believed to be ‘leading the race’ to sign the Spurs man. There has been talk of Godin moving in the opposite direction.
This would be a move that would only make sense if the Uruguayan was to depart, Vertonghen has been subject to a steep downturn in form this season and would surely find it tough in Conte’s 3-5-2, which asks so much from his centre-halves.
While positionally astute and adept at wrapping vertical passes through opposition lines, the Belgian has lost his domineering presence which made him such a force during his pomp. His lack of pace, meanwhile, would see him struggle in defensive transition.
Inter should avoid this move.
Potential price Free
The 20-year-old has risen to prominence at Schalke this season after impressive spells at Galatasaray and Stuttgart as a teenager.
The Turkey international has a high footballingIQ and rarely finds himself out of position. Kabak is comfortable playing in a higher defense line, where he can use his speed and aggression to get the ball off of opponents.
We’ve seen him become a more efficient ball-player at Schalke. Benjamin Pavard often takes this responsibility in Stuttgart’s backline. Kabak’s 57 total passes, 4.17 progressive passes and 9.17 passes out of pressure per 90 are all significant improvements from 2018/19, while his overall pass completion is up 5.7%.
He would be a great fit at the Nerazzurri, and a perfect fallback option if they don’t land Kumbulla.
Potential price £25m – £33m
Nice is expected to attract many suitors in the next transfer window. The French club will try to get the 21 year-old Nice star off their books before he can go on a free at season’s end.
And although there hasn’t been any interest as of yet for the Frenchman by Inter, he’d be a good fit at San Siro.
Sarr is a regular player on Sarr’s left side of a back-three under Patrick Vieira. He’s proven to excel at filling the gap left by a surging flank-back. His career average of 2.15 interceptions for 90 highlights his ability to be proactive and aggressive in his defensive work.
Sarr excels in possession. His 90.3% pass completion is very impressive and his technical proficiency allows him to play a variety of passes – Sarr also averages 4.82 progressive passes this term which is superior to all of Inter’s centre-half options (Bastoni’s 4.76 is the highest).
While there are certainly holes to be picked in his game, there’s little doubting Sarr’s talent and he’d be an intriguing fit for Conte at Inter.
Potential price £30m – £40m