Depth is the only real concern for Antonio Conte’s Inter when it comes to central defence.
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.
The form of these four this season left Inter with the joint second best defensive record in Serie A before the suspension, but I’m sure Conte would like to improve on his current cover options; Andrea Ranocchia and Danilo D’Ambrosio. Rumours surrounding a transfer for Skriniar, meanwhile, will seemingly never disappear.
So, here are four options for the Nerazzurri to target in the next window…
Very few would’ve heard of the 20-year-old Albanian before the start of the campaign, but Kumbulla has enjoyed a mightily impressive season with Italy’s surprise package Hellas Verona – establishing himself as one of Europe’s under-the-radar but 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’s played as the left centre-back in an aggressive 3-4-1-2 for much of the season under Ivan Juric at Verona, where he’s given the licence to roam into the attacking third to provide an extra 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’s been involved in 11.58 defensive duels per 90 this term, winning an impressive 70% of them. For context, Juventus
Overall, Kumbulla’s role in Juric’s system is very similar to the one Bastoni plays at Inter and it’s hard to envisage the 20-year-old having any difficulty adjusting to Conte’s demands.
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
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.
He’d provide an experienced head in the dressing room, but this is a move Inter should steer away from.
Potential Price: Free
The 20-year-old has risen to prominence at Schalke
The Turkey international possesses a high footballing IQ which rarely sees him caught out of position. Kabak’s proven to be comfortable in playing in a higher defensive line where he can use his remarkable recovery speed to catch up with opponents and his aggressiveness to knock them off the ball.
We’ve also seen him develop into a more effective ball-player at Schalke as well, with Benjamin Pavard often taking this responsibility in the Stuttgart backline. Kabak’s 57 total passes, 4.17
He’d certainly be a good fit at the Nerazzurri and an ideal fallback option if they fail to land Kumbulla.
Potential Price: £25m – £33m
The Nice star is set to attract plenty of suitors in the next transfer window as the French club will look to get the 21-year-old off their books before he can depart on a free at the end of the season.
And although there hasn’t been any interest as of yet for the Frenchman by Inter
Sarr’s regularly played on the left side of a back three under Patrick Vieira and he’s proven to be effective at covering the void left by a surging wing-back down the flanks. He’s also aggressive and proactive in his defensive work and his career average of 2.15 interceptions per 90 highlight his knack of being one step ahead of his opponents.
It’s in possession where Sarr excels, though. 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