Tottenham tipped to beat Atletico Madrid to experienced Serie A defender who Conte loves

Antonio Conte, Tottenham, November 2022 Credit: Alamy
Antonio Conte, Tottenham, November 2022 Credit: Alamy

Atletico Madrid have been eyeing a January swoop for Inter Milan centre-back Stefan de Vrij – but Tottenham are now leading the race for the Dutchman, according to reports. 

The 30-year-old is an experienced player who has won multiple trophies in Italy, but is now coming to the end of his contract, garnering interest from a host of top European clubs.

Antonio Conte has of course worked with the defender before at Inter, which is giving Spurs an added advantage in their pursuit.

TEAMtalk reported a couple of weeks ago that De Vrij was offered a new contract with the Nerazzurri, but they fell well short of his wage demands, meaning his current deal will expire at the end of the season.

It’s unsurprising that Inter are keen to keep hold of their man, as he’s been a solid performer since joining from Lazio in 2018.

Last season, in 30 league appearances, De Vrij averaged 1.3 successful tackles, 1.1 interceptions and 1.7 clearances per game, helping the his side to nine clean sheets as they narrowly missed out on the Serie A title by two points.

In his time at the San Siro, the Netherlands international has won one league title, a Coppa Italia and an Italian Super Cup, with De Vrij being key to all three successes.

He has also chalked up a total of 36 Champions League appearances during his time at both Lazio and Inter, so he has experience playing at the highest level.

Up until recently, Atletico had been leading the race to sign De Vrij, but according to reports coming out of Spain, Tottenham have now taken the lead.

It would be a smart buy for Antonio Conte, as he looks to strengthen his back line this winter.

So far, the Italian manager has been relying on the likes Eric Dier, Clement Lenglet, Ben Davies, Davinson Sanchez and Cristian Romero as his centre-backs.

Whilst the latter has performed well, the other four have left a lot to be desired at times, with Spurs keeping only four clean sheets so far this season.

De Vrij could bring a winning mentality to the Spurs dressing room and as mentioned, Conte already trusts him as a solid operator after working with him in Italy.

Atletico turn attention to forgotten Leicester man

While it looks like Diego Simeone’s number one defensive target will be pinched by Spurs, the Rojiblancos are still crying out for defensive reinforcements.

Apart from Reinildo Mandava, who is naturally a left-back, Jose Gimenez and Stefan Savic are Simeone’s only solid options at centre-half, who have both suffered from injuries and poor form of late.

With that in mind, Ateltico may turn to their second option on their shortlist: Leicester City’s Caglar Soyuncu. 

The Foxes defender has featured just once in the Premier League this season and seems to have fallen out of favour with Brendan Rodgers.

The 26-year-old is reportedly valued at around £22million, but Atletico may be able to get a cut-price deal as the Turk’s contract terminates at the end of the season.

Before falling behind Daniel Amartey and Wout Faes in the pecking order at Leicester, Soyuncu was considered to be consistent defender with and an aggressive physicality that would fit with Simeone’s style of play.

Of course, the centre-back was also a key part of the 2020/21 Leicester side which finished fifth in the league table and won the FA Cup, playing 32 matches in that campaign.

If Tottenham do sign De Vrij this January, as is reportedly expected, Soyuncu could be a decent alternative for Simeone.

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