In the summer of 2022, Real Madrid could be on the lookout for another center back. Los Blancos sold Raphael Varane this summer due to his desire for a new challenge in the Premier League, as well as the possibility of bankrolling extra funds to sign Kylian Mbappe before the 2021-2022 season. Los Blancos also replaced Sergio Ramos with David Alaba, who is also experienced but is nearing the end of his career, whereas Ramos is nearing the end of his.
Despite the strong performances of Eder Militao and the quality of Alaba, the depth at center back is unconvincing. Real Madrid may look to add a top player at the position, as losing both Varane and Ramos in the same summer would be catastrophic. And, given their relentless pursuit of Mbappe until the last minute of the transfer deadline, Real did not get a chance to replace both.
Antonio Rudiger of Chelsea is coming off the best season of his career, in which he reached new heights under top manager Thomas Tuchel.
The Champions League-winning central defender wants to stay in London, but his contract is about to expire. And if the Blues do not meet his significantly increased salary demands, he may be forced to leave. Real Madrid has been heavily linked.
Rudiger is a talented and experienced player, but Real Madrid may prefer someone younger and with a lower salary. And, as good as Rudiger is, there may be better center backs available next summer.
Let's take a look at three examples of such central defenders.
1:Juventus Matthijs de Ligt
We begin with the most well-known name on the list, Matthijs de Ligt. The Juventus star has the potential to become the best center back in the world one day, and many Madridistas understandably believe that de Ligt possesses the leadership and skill-set to succeed Sergio Ramos in the Spanish capital.
De Ligt adores Juve, but he could leave if the Old Lady fails to perform well in Serie A this season.
Failure to qualify for the Champions League could be financially disastrous for Juve, given the financial risk they took with Cristiano Ronaldo, the impact of the pandemic, and the upcoming fees Juve must still pay for key players Federico Chiesa and Manuel Locatelli.
De Ligt could actually replace Antonio Rudiger at Chelsea, but the allure of Real Madrid could be strong enough to tempt him away from another of Europe's historic powers, Juventus. We'll see what happens. De Ligt, if available, would undoubtedly be the best center back option.
2: Sevilla, Jules Kounde
Jules Kounde has been linked to Real Madrid on numerous occasions.
Kounde has the closest ties to Los Blancos of all the center backs who could potentially be available in 2022. Sevilla and Real Madrid have a close relationship because Los Blancos are a major buyer of Sevilla players. And in order for Sevilla's model to work, they must sell. In some ways, they are similar to Borussia Dortmund. Furthermore, both LaLiga clubs have a strong relationship based on players Real Madrid has sold to Sevilla in the 2020 summer transfer window, such as Oscar Rodriguez.
Currently, Kounde is the most valuable player on a Sevilla team that appears to be a Champions League contender. The composed, tactically astute young center back is one of Europe's most polished up-and-coming players, and he can play multiple positions. That should entice Real Madrid, as we have seen with Nacho Fernandez how valuable a utility defender can be.
Kounde has a lot of unique traits that you won't find in any other center back in the world, such as ball-playing ability, positioning, technical quality in the attacking third, ball-carrying, and speed.
Every major club, like Matthijs de Ligt, recognizes Kounde's talent. While Kounde would be less expensive than de Ligt, he may be able to command a price close to his release clause of 90 million euros. Chelsea, once again, are a team to keep an eye on here, as they were on the verge of signing him this summer.
Kounde remains the most logical option for many Madridistas. He is younger, more talented, and less expensive than de Ligt. There is little reason why Real Madrid cannot sign either star if they are serious about signing a center back next summer.
3: Dortmund, Manuel Akanji
The final candidate on this list is Manuel Akanji of Borussia Dortmund, who has more than recovered from a poor run of form a year ago to become one of Europe's best defenders. There is a legitimate case to be made that he is the best center back in the Bundesliga, which is significant given how close this league is.
Akanji excels at so many things. He is one of the smartest players you will ever see on the field.
Just look at his math skills! Matthijs de Ligt is rightfully praised as a leader, and the same should be said of Akanji. He has emerged as a stalwart for Dortmund, playing in a system that values center backs even more than Real Madrid's. Yes, I mean it! Dortmund are one of the most high-octane, attacking teams on the planet, which means the two center backs are constantly putting out fires with little to no help.
Despite this, Akanji never loses his cool, always has his teammates' backs, and has become more vocal in the last year.
He isn't as vocal or the type of player like Rudiger (or Ramos) who will get into a fight with the opposing team to help his teammates, but he exudes a quiet leadership that can blossom into something more if the situation calls for it.
Akanji was a standout for the Swiss national team and one of the best players at Euro 2020, despite being overshadowed by players who receive more attention. Real Madrid's top target may not be Akanji, but he should be on the list. At the age of 26, he is reaching the pinnacle of his career.
Dortmund should be willing to sell Akanji, even if it is a difficult decision to make. The fact that Akanji is most likely their most important player complicates matters. Erling Haaland is their best player, but Dortmund is not only content to lose him; they also have two talented strikers in Youssoufa Moukoko and Steffen Tigges. They also have some good attacking players, including legendary No. 10 Marco Reus and new signing Donyell Malen.
But who are their most effective defenders? They lack a true defensive midfielder, defensive fullbacks, and their only other center back option is the aging Mats Hummels.
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