In other news, water is wet, fire is hot, and Forest are #$%)*#$. Also, Grant Morrison is awesome.
It feels like we just did this last summer. Perhaps it was the summer before last? You get the idea. This position hasn’t received the attention our chronic gap on the right wing has, but it’s been a long-term concern and now it’s become an urgent one as well. The recognized fullbacks in our squad are: Timothy Castagne and Luke Thomas. That’s it. Daniel Amartey and Marc Albrighton can fill in on the right if needs must, but that is the extent of our depth.
Going over our proposed targets from the summer, we should cross some of them off the list. Tyrell Malacia went to Manchester United, Sergio Gomez went to the blue side of Manchester, and David Raum switched to RB Leipzig. Javi Galan is still at Celta Vigo, but no one besides me seems to rate him. Kai Wagner remains in Philadelphia, but he was always a long shot. Fali Candé plies his trade for relegated Metz in the Ligue 2 and would be a solid option if we wanted to roll the dice on a player outside the top leagues.
In assembling this new list, I’ve tried to focus on players who:
- Are 27 years old or younger.
- Play in a top or top-ish European league.
- Are left-footed left-backs.
- Play for clubs outside of the Champions League slots in their respective leagues.
The idea is to focus on players who are more than just stop-gaps, but who also can step in and help out immediately and who might be more realistic than the absolute top players at the position. Let’s see what we’ve got:
Contract Expires: 2026
Pedraza is the kind of player it seems Rodgers would like. He’s a fullback whose greatest contributions occur during the build-up phase. Pedraza is excellent at advancing the ball with the ball at his feet and creating chances. He’s not the most adept passer, and he’s middle-of-the-pack when it comes to his defensive duties.
He might not be the easiest player to pry loose as Villarreal have him under contract until 2026 and they are an ambitious club. It would probably require a bid in the €20m range, so it would come down to whether or not we saw him as The Answer at the position and whether or not they feel Pedraza has another level in him.
Contract Expires: 2023
Otavio is a hard-nosed, defence-first left-back who will win you the ball any way possible. Well, almost any way, as he’s 5’8” and isn’t the greatest at aerial duels, but you get the idea. He’s extremely quick and positions himself well to intercept passes, making him an excellent fit for a high-pressing scheme. In addition, Otavio has chipped in with four assists this year which is a new wrinkle for him.
He’s the oldest player on this list, so he’s unlikely to grow beyond what he is now or turn us a profit when he moves on. On the other hand, he’s out of contract this summer and might not require more than €5m to secure his services.
Contract Expires: 2027
Caio Henrique is almost the polar opposite of his countryman Otavio. Henrique is very much a winger trapped in a fullback’s role. His attacking contributions are impressive: He scores, he gets assists, he creates shots, and he gets the ball forward at pace.
On the other hand, he doesn’t seem nearly as interested in the defensive duties associated with being a defender. He’s below-average in all ball-winning actions, and in some cases, in the bottom 10% of his position. Given his attacking prowess and his contract status, we’d be looking a price of around €20m or more.
Contract Expires: 2025
If we’re looking for the player with the most upside, Parisi is that player. The Italian is an absolute force as a defender, excelling at his defensive duties and throwing his body in the way of everything that comes at him.
On the other hand, he’s very much the unfinished product in the attacking half of the pitch. Neither his passing nor his shooting are where they need to be yet. Empoli are not the most expansive of sides, so some of it comes down to his role on the pitch, but there will be some growing pains if he comes to the King Power. His contract isn’t up for a few years, so I’d estimate it would take something in the €15m to get him.
Contract Expires: 2023 (club option to extend 1 year)
Statistically, Smal is the most complete player on this list. He does everything competently, he does some things very well in defence and in attack, and, for the record, at 6’0”, he is not “small.” He’s one of those players who do very well in both the xG/xA and the real goals and assists numbers, which suggests that this is really what he is.
For me, the biggest concern is that the Eredivisie is a such a wild card of a league and there’s always a concern that a player who thrives in the Netherlands will struggle in England. The video I’ve seen suggests he’s up for it, but I’m not a professional scout (not that that stops me from cosplaying as one). Given his contract situation, I would expect €5-10m would be the price Twente would accept.
Contract Expires: 2025
Paal has come into his own since leaving PSV Eindhoven for QPR. He’s a tenacious defender who excels in the air in spite of his 5’8” stature. He’s a ferocious tackler as well, relishing the physical battles. Unlike many of the players with similar defensive profiles, he’s also capable of contributing to the build-up and even chipping in with a key pass or two.
Of course, the concern here is the league in which he plays. The Championship is English football, but it’s not top-level English football. For the Arnhem-born Suriname international, making the jump from QPR to the Premier League might be a bridge too far.
This was a pretty restrictive set of conditions, so the players aren’t quite as exciting as the ones we look at over the summer. Nonetheless, I think there are some attractive, realistic options here. I’ve said my bit, now it’s your turn. Who do you think we should sign at left back this January?
Yet Another Left Back Poll Because Why Not?
This poll is closed
Robert Skov, because we know Jake really wanted to include him and he was just trying to be "professional"
No one! Fullbacks are overrated!