Spurs Chasing A Centre Back: Who Is On The Cards?

The additions of Gareth Bale and Sergio Reguilon to the Tottenham squad last week might have caught the eye, but their transfer business is far from over.

With another 10 days to run in the window Jose Mourinho is hoping to count on at least 2 more signings, one of them might be a striker to be second option to Harry Kane.

Still, next up looks set to be the arrival of a new centre back with two big names linked in recent days. Here we look at who the new face might be.

Why do Spurs need defensive reinforcements?

In Jose Mourinho's world, you can't go and attack as you wish without the safety net of a solid defence behind you. At Tottenham, that reliable defence just isn't there.

Yes, their goals against column looks better since Mourinho arrived – particularly after the Covid-19 enforced break – but ask any Tottenham supporter and you'll be told that they're just waiting on a mistake.

The secondary issue they have is that there simply isn't enough strength in depth. Eric Dier, Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld are the only standout names in the squad. Jan Vertonghen left at the end of this season, making a surprise move to Liga NOS table runners up of last season Benfica.

Youngster Japhet Tanganga, who impressed in full back roles last season, and Cameron Carter-Vickers the other names in the mix. Tanganga is only 21 – and currently injured – with Carter-Vickers probably not cut out for Premier League action at this moment in his career.

When fit, that leaves three experienced defender and a kid with just 11 senior appearances under his belt. Given the fixture schedule that lays in wait, it's a fair assumption that Mourinho would like another experienced head at the heart of his defence for playing a back four.

Throw into the mix that summer signings Reguilon and Matt Doherty are probably more adept as wing backs and it's a fair conclusion to draw that the manager will play a back three on occasion. If that's the case, a new centre back is a must.

Who has been linked?

The main name in the frame is Slovak international Milan Skriniar of Inter Milan. He's a player that has been linked for some time with Mourinho a known admirer. Earlier in the window, reports suggested Inter were open to sending Skriniar to North London but only if Tanguy Ndombele went in the other direction.

Despite a slow season last year, Spurs don't want to lose their record signing without giving him another crack of the whip.

The Skriniar rumour had quietened down until a day or two ago when Fabrizio Romano whipped Tottenham fans into a frenzy by stating that talks had restarted – only this time Ndombele was off the table.

The downside is that Inter value Skriniar at nearing £50m. That figure may be beyond Spurs in this window.

Step forward the second target, Ruben Dias. Portuguese international Dias will be well known by compatriot Mourinho. His potential will have the fan base pretty excited too. Then there is that issue again – how much will Benfica want for him?  

His release clause stands at a reported €100m. Daniel Levy will not sanction that in a million years, but it also means the Portuguese side are unlikely to sell him on the cheap. A compromise will be needed, but the recent deals among both clubs, that include the loan of Gedson last January, might count for an agreement.

Who is the better fit?

Let's forget the financial aspect because both could present a challenge in that regard. Instead, focussing purely on the player, who is the better fit for Spurs?

Age and experience

Both players tick the box where age is concerned. Skriniar is the oldest of the pair but at 25-years-old he's far from past his peak. Dias meanwhile is just 23 meaning his ceiling is probably still a few years off, which is something that fits the usual Spurs transfer model.

The big thing Skriniar holds over Dias though is his experience of top-level football. Skriniar also has Champions League and international experience to his name.

Yes, Dias has played in Champions League ties and in international matches, but he cannot compete with the five seasons Skriniar has spent in Serie A.

Besides, if you are a casual Portuguese League viewer, you might have witnessed that Ruben Dias presents some frailties, specially considering how the Benfica defence seemed quite lost last season in big matches (against rival Porto for example). On the other side, Ruben is already a starter of the Portuguese National Team where he won the Nations League.

Ball playing

Being comfortable in possession is almost a must for all players in today's game whether they're goalkeepers, defenders or central midfielders so who comes out on top when you look at their on the ball contribution?

Skriniar boasts an impressive 92% pass completion with a 69% completion on long passes, which will be something that excites Mourinho given how he likes to utilise a direct route out of defence on occasion.

Dias is also tidy in possession despite having a lower completion ratio than Skriniar at 88.6%. His figures would stack up better but his longer-range passing drops below 60%. That said, he does offer more passes into dangerous areas with a key pass every other game, which is something Skriniar doesn't do.

Defensive qualities

If their passing game is not a million miles apart, what they offer in the defensive sense is a slightly bigger gap. At least it is in statistical terms. Both players average three clearances per 90 with an additional interception and block per game. When you move into the more traditional defensive abilities though – namely tackling and aerial duels – Dias comes out on top.

Skriniar is no mug with a 67% challenge win rate and he wins just over half of his headers. Dias though recorded a staggering 83% tackle success rate in Liga Nos last season and won 61% of his aerial battles. Of course, stats don't tell the whole story with the key variant being the fact the duo play in different leagues. Either way, both stack up handsomely and would improve Mourinho's options.

Who is most likely to sign?

That is the million-dollar question. If I had to hang my hat on one, I'd suggest Dias is the best fit for a few reasons. Firstly, he probably offers a better resale value. That's a huge thing for Daniel Levy. Then there is the financial aspect of any deal.

Both players are probably too expensive for Spurs to sign on a permanent basis now but a loan with an option – or even an obligation to buy – next summer is something Benfica could be interested in. The odds of Inter entertaining a deal like that are slim.

However, Benfica new manager Jorge Jesus (you might remember him as the guy coaching Flamengo on that Club World Cup final against Liverpool) will probably deny the possibility of Ruben to leave with a week left on the transfer window. Benfica had a massive spending already this season – with €80M in signings – and losing Ruben Dias would obligate them to go into the market in the deadline days.

Nonetheless, there is the player impact. Given Dias is Portuguese, you can imagine he'll have huge admiration for Mourinho and a move into the big five leagues – particularly with a club as big as Spurs – might not come around too often. If he pushes for the move, his superiors might restructure a deal to give him his wish.

So here you have our tips for Tottenham’s centerback chase. It’s not completely unlikely they take a U-turn and sign someone else other than the names we mentioned. Take a seat and buckle up because last week of transfers will be as interesting to watch as the Breeders Cup horse race odds on Twinspires.

SEE ALSO | Jose Mourinho Turns Down Juventus Two-For-One Transfer Offer

Who do you think will be their starting center back duo next season?

This article was most recently revised and updated 3 years ago

Greg is a Sports content writer. He has many years of experience in Sports Writing. He was a writer for Opera News and is Editor-in-Chief at GoalBall.