The Fee for Defense

The Fee for Defense

Virgil Van Dijk’s $75 million move to Anfield was deemed an inflated price for a defender, an unproven one in European competitions to be exact.

The Netherlands international went on to prove on many occasions this season why he was worth every penny Liverpool splashed and more. An integral cog in the heart of the defense, Van Dijk has been taking on the mantle as captain for the club when Jordan Henderson is off the pitch. The towering sentinel is just one of many defenders who has made headlines with big money moves.

Matthijs de Ligt, a compatriot of Van Dijk hailing directly from Ajax, has been the talk of speculations for recent weeks. De Ligt is currently one of the hottest prospect in global football as he encompasses the qualities of not just a defender, but one that has matured with the philosophy of total football under the academy of the one and only Johan Cruyff.

De Ligt

On the ball, De Ligt is composed and circulates the ball with ease among his midfield and the full backs. His tendency to close down opponents using his imposing physicality is a valuable asset, and his partnership with fellow starlet Frenkie De Jong is as classy as two veterans, albeit ending after the season with De Jong heading to Barcelona.

Amidst reports however, De Ligt is slated to join De Jong – knowing the ‘special relationship’ between Nou Camp and the Johan Cruyff arena. His reported transfer fee of $75 million would put him right beside Van Dijk as the second most expensive defender in the world. De Ligt’s agent being Mino Raiola, you can expect some fireworks in the fees exchanged.

Manchester City still holds out as the club that spends most on their defenders – Aymeric Laporte ($57m), Benjamin Mendy ($52), John Stones ($47.5m), Kyle Walker ($50m), Danilo ($30m), Nicolas Otamendi ($44.6m) a total of $281.1 million in the last four seasons alone.

Otamendi and Laporte

The various moves for elite defensive players has since allowed City to lift the Premier League title last year in spectacular fashion, scoring 100 goals and only allowing 27. Truth is, for the past three seasons, City has improved in their defense, conceding fewer goals as each year progresses. With seven games left in hand, they are en route to breaking last year’s record with 21 conceded goals now.

Nevertheless, Chelsea’s 04/05 team was the cream of the crop, allowing only 15 goals all year, an ode to Jose Mourinho’s tactical brilliance.

Just last week, two mega deals were finalized and both were for defenders.

Bayern Munich’s transfer of Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid for $80 million, making him the most expensive defender of all time. While Real Madrid signed Eder Militao from Porto for $42 million after he was signed by the Portuguese club for just $3.4 million a year ago.

Lucas Hernandez | Getty Images

The $80 million fee is a record for Bayern, almost doubling the sum paid for Corentin Tolisso. Hernandez was part of the World Cup winning team in 2018′. One of Hernandez’s biggest strengths is his ability to bring the ball to play from the back line, and his aerial presence makes him a threat from set pieces. One thing stands out the most however, is his speed.

Hernandez sets the bar in an era where center backs are no longer sluggish and just blocks of muscle. Known as a pace merchant who can also operate at left back, his top speed was record at 34 km/h. Agile full backs are common with the likes of Marcelo, Hector Bellarin and Joao Cancelo, but pacey center backs are rare commodities – hence the uniqueness of both Hernandez and Eder Militao.

Militao becomes the first addition made during Zinedine Zidane’s second reign at Santiago Bernabeu and his similarities to Hernandez are impeccable.

The Brazilian joined Porto and formed a partnership with Felipe almost as quick as he joined the club. His awareness on the pitch showcases his maturity and the raw talent he possesses makes him an unpolished gem in the eyes of Madrid. With Sergio Ramos at age 32 and Raphael Varane’s transfer saga, Zidane’s swift moves to complete this transfer is obvious.

Eder Militao

Militao, similarly to Hernandez is deployed as a center half but can operate at full back. His pace and strength are second to none and when operating as a right back, can put in laser like crosses, evident in Porto’s two-leg win over Roma in the Champions League. The flair for attacking can be shown even when positioned in the center half, as he tends to bring the ball high up the field to create space for his midfielders to roam. His only weakness? Over zealous in tackling. His tackles sometimes do not warrant a dangerous position from the opponent and may cause a leak in the defense.

With defense a vital part of many title contenders, it is interesting to see who becomes the first $100 million defender.

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