Jules Kounde in action

With a little over two weeks to the start of the 2021/2022 Premier League season, clubs have clicked into gear with their transfer activity. Five out of the ‘top six’ clubs have signed or are closing in on signing a centre back for big money, with champions Manchester City the only ones keeping their powder dry in the department. Big money centre backs are back in fashion and the Premier League is putting on its best pieces. We will run through the various deals and you can be the judge on which club is getting the best deal.

Raphael Varane

The only place to start with, is the most high profile of them all. Manchester United have secured the services of Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane for £42million. The Frenchman who was in the last year or his contract with the Galacticos wanted a new challenge and decided on the red side of Manchester for the next chapter of his illustrious career.

Raphael Varane in action for Real Madrid

The merits of the deal are obvious, he is as experienced as they come, having played over 300 games for the Spanish giants and almost 80 times for the French national team. He brings alongside the vast experience, a winning mentaliy that comes from winning 18 trophies with Los Blacos including four Champions League titles. Having won the World Cup in 2018, his medal haul is bursting full as he can even boast more Champions League titles than his new club!

At 28 years of age, he is still in his prime and his combination of pace, passing ability and strength should merge well with his new partner Harry Maguire, who captains the side. After finishing second and losing the Europa League last season, Ole Gunnar Solkjaer will be hoping the addition of Varane, alongside Sancho will help get his side over the line to finally lift silverware.

Raphael Varane won the highest percentage of aeriel duels (76%) out of La Liga centre backs in the 2020/21 season.

Ibrahima Konate

Liverpool signed fellow Frenchman Konate from RB Leipzig for £36million before the 2020/21 season had even come to a close. They triggered his release clause after securing Champions League qualification in a tough campaign which saw them lose every senior centre back in their squad.

Ibrahima Konate poses in a Liverpool shirt

Liverpool’s centre back crisis was well documented last season as they lost the colossal Virgil Van Dijk to a nasty ACL injury after a Jordan Pickford horror tackle. Weeks later, Joe Gomez also broke down with his own knee injury ruling him out for the rest of the season. Joel Matip, the last man standing, didn’t stand for long, also getting his own season ending injury before half of the season had played out. The need for a centre back was more than apparent and they moved decisively in this window having dallied in the winter window.

At just 22 years of age, they’ve secured a centre back who can realistically stay in their team for the next decade. ‘Ibou’ is a huge presence at 6ft 4inches and he combines that physicality with a grace on the ball and pace to match. He captained the France U21s in the U21 European Championship this past summer and joined up with his new teammates on the first day of pre-season. He is the only centre back on this list who has actually had pre-season with his new club so at least has a head start.

Ibrahima Konate made 95 appearances for RB Leipzig after making his debut as an 18 year old.

Joules Kounde

What is it with French centre backs this summer ey? European champions Chelsea are currently in the process of finalising a deal for highly rated Sevilla centre back Joules Kounde to the tune of £25million + Kurt Zouma (another French CB!). The 22 year old was coveted by both Real Madrid and Barcelona but with those two still feeling the effects of the pandemic on their finances, it’s left a path for Chelsea, backed by the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovic, to steal a march.

Joules Kounde in action for Sevilla

Tottenham Hotspurs also registered their interest but were turned down by the player due to their lack of Champions League football this coming season. Kounde is very quick and adept with the ball at his feet. He can as well play right back and is comfortable with both feet. He is not the tallest of centre backs but still wins more than his fair share of headers. His partnership with Diego Carlos was the bedrock of Lopetegui’s Sevilla side last season.

Thomas Tuchel will be looking forward to adding another ball playing centre back to his ranks. With Thiago Silva just a few years shy of 40 and Zouma heading the other way, Kounde will join Antonio Rudiger, Andreas Christensen and captain Cesar Azpilicueta to bolster the department. He didn’t play in a back three for Sevilla so must adapt fast if Tuchel keeps the system which brought them so much success last term.

Jules Kounde won more headers (118) than any Sevilla player in the 2020/21 La Liga season.

Cristian Romero

Cristian Romero in action for Atalanta

Tottenham Hotspurs having been turned down by Kounde, swiftly switched attentions to Argentine centre back Cristian Romero. The 23 year old is expected to cost the London club £40million from Atalanta where he is on loan. Atalanta have an agreement in place with his parent club Juventus, for almost £15million and want to flip him quickly for a profit.

The 23 year old was excellent at the Copa America as his partnership with veteran Otamendi, helped the cause as Argentina won the Copa America. Romero has spent three seasons in the Serie A having played two seasons for Genoa before joining Juventus and then heading out to Atalanta on loan.

With Toby Aldereiweld moving to Qatar and Jan Vertonghen the wrong side of 30, Spurs’ need for fresh blood in the heart of defence is something new boss Nuno Espirito Santo is looking to solve. He will be hoping a deal is sewn up before the start of the Premier League season as The Lily Whites aim for a top four finish.

Cristian Romero was named Serie A defender of the year in the 2020/21 season.

Ben White

Arsenal have signed Ben White from Brighton for an eye watering £50million. The most expensive player on this list (depending on how much you think Zouma is worth), the Englishman will carry that price tag around his neck and will have to prove himself with a quick start to his Arsenal career.

Ben White striding forward with the ball

The 23 year old is quick and is also comfortable in possession, so much so, that he was used in midfield on occasion by Brighton boss Graham Potter. His impressive performances caught the eye of England manager Gareth Southgate who included White in his squad for the Euros. Although the 23 year old didn’t play a single minute, it must have been an invaluable experience just being around the setup as There Three Lions went all the way to the final only to lose on penalties to Italy.

Having been the rock at the back for Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United in their Championship winning season, Brighton fought off suitors for Ben White and insisted they will keep him to aid their survival hopes in 2020/21, and how! Mikel Arteta is hoping White will come in and replace Brazilian David Luiz at the heart of the Gunners defence alongside Gabriel as they search for a route back into the big time with a top four finish.

Ben White contributed to Brighton having the joint-best defence in the bottom half of the Premier League last season with 46 goals conceded.

The Premier League is welcoming five quality centre backs, all between ages 22 and 28. The best league in the world keeps getting better. Just who is getting the best deal though? Answer will be revealed by the end of the season.


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