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Bosman brainstorming: 5 central defenders Fiorentina could sign this summer

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With a talented trio at the back facing an uncertain future, this could wind up being an important area to address.

Tottenham Hotspur v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League
Okay, probably not, but still.
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Continuing our series about potential Bosman signings for Fiorentina this summer, let’s shift our focus to central defense. While this is another excellent group of players, it’s not quite as secure as the goalkeeper for a number of reasons and, depending on the mercato strategy, could require further reinforcements. As before, the rules are simple: the player has to be out of contract at season’s end and have some reasonable chance of actually signing for Fiorentina (so no Giorgio Chiellini, for example).

The starting trio of Germán Pezzella, Nikola Milenković, and Martín Cáceres is one of the better units in the league, but none of them are certain to be in town next year; Pezze’s been linked to Napoli, the Mountain is always at the center of transfer rumors, and Cáceres’ contract runs out at the end of the year. The depth behind them is decent but uncertain; Igor certainly looks the part but isn’t a proven producer, Federico Ceccherini is a good squad guy but only capable of holding down the fort against lower-table sides, and Luca Ranieri may need another year of seasoning. Youngsters like Jacub Rasmussen, Pierluigi Pinto, Riccardo Baroni, and David Hancko probably aren’t ready to step up yet either.

Going by that logic, there are two possible types of players that Daniele Pradè and Joe Barone could pursue. The first is potential starters in case any of the top 3 centerbacks don’t return. The second is quality, experienced depth in case the team wants to upgrade on Ceccherini or add another option to the bench.

Jan Vertonghen

The big Belgian is leaving Tottenham Hotspur after a fantastic 8-year stint at White Hart Lane. While you might think that he was moments from retirement if you read the English press, he’s only 32 and probably has at least a couple more seasons at the top level. While he could play anywhere across the back three, he’d fit best in the middle, so he’d probably be a like-for-like replacement if Pezzella does indeed move to Naples, although Vertonghen could conceivably play on the left as well. While he’s competent in the air and more than happy to get dug in, he’s much better on the ball than the Viola captain and would add a new dimension to the team with his passing out from the back, particularly with his very accurate long passing. He also brings a wealth of experience in big games along with his 118 caps for Belgium. With Inter Milan and Ajax both interested, it’ll require a big contract to see off the former and a good sales pitch to pip the latter. The biggest stumbling block would be his wage: €5.9 million is so much money. Although he’s unlikely to command that much now, he’d still require a huge outlay. Still, he’s a top player and would provide a big boost on the pitch, in the dressing room, and aomg the fifth column.

Pros: talent, experience, fit

Cons: contract

Likelihood that he’s a target: 10%

Jemerson

It’s hard to believe that he was integral to Monaco’s successes a few years ago; the fans have turned on him after a string of poor performances this season and he’s fallen behind Guillermo Maripán on the team sheet. He’s still a good player in his prime who even earned a couple of caps for Brazil, so it’s not like he’s garbage. He does need a new start, though, and seems to be looking towards Italy: Lazio are thought to be close to signing him. He’d likely be the fourth centerback there, though, so it’s not yet a certainty. While he does have a Vitor Hugoesque penchant for wild errors, he’s an athletic and talented defender who’d excel on the outside of a back three; he’d likely battle Igor for that spot behind Cáceres if he joined. Ideally, he’d serve as the top rotational option (he can also play midfield in a pinch) and rediscover his form before putting some pressure on the starters.

Pros: versatility

Cons: errors, current form

Likelihood that he’s a target: 25%

Naldo

Not very original, I know, to pick another Brazilian centerback at Monaco (or he was until they ended his contract in January), but here we are. He’s about as fast as you expect a 6’6 (198 cm) 37-year-old to be, which is not at all. He likely couldn’t play anywhere except in the center of the back three, and his lack of pace would make him a target if Fiorentina ever played a high line. However, he’s a fine penalty box defender who is quick to read the game and intervene. As you’d expect he’s a serious threat at set pieces. He’d be a decent backup but probably isn’t the answer as a regular starter, which would likely suit him just fine. He seems to be looking for a return to Germany, though, despite the fact that nobody’s registered interest.

Pros: salary, experience, role

Cons: language

Likelihood that he’s a target: 15%

Naldo

Sike! There’s another Naldo. This one is only 31 and plays for Espanyol, although he’s got experience in Italy with Udinese and Bologna as well. He is perhaps even slower than his namesake despite being nearly half a foot (15 cm) shorter. He makes up for that handicap with his excellent reading of the game and powerful tackling. He doesn’t really look like a huge upgrade on Cecche, to be honest, but his fit in a deep, no-nonsense block may make him a better option for the bench than the Italian.

Pros: role, wage

Cons: language, relative talent level

Likelihood that he’s a target: 10%

Ezequiel Garay

Although he’s been good enough that Valencia may exercise their option to keep him an extra year, the 32-year-old Argentine is also rehabbing a torn cruciate ligament which could scare los Ches away, especially with several other decent options on the roster. As another pace-deficient but powerful and intelligent defender, he’d probably have to play in the center of a back three. He’s good enough that he’d be guaranteed a starting spot, so he’s likely an option if and only if Pezzella cuts ties with the Gigliati. While he’s undoubtedly a very good player, his wages (€5 million), his injury history, and the fact that he’s a Jorge Mendes client mean that he may not be worth the trouble unless the Viola really, really need him. On the other hand, signing him would be the sort of statement of intent that Rocco Commisso seems fond of.

Pros: talent, experience

Cons: injury history, salary, agent

Likelihood that he’s a target: 15%