Six defenders Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta could sign cheaper than £53m star Dayot Upamecano

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta’s intentions to strengthen his defence are, at this point, no secret. There have been an ever-increasing list of centre halves in particular linked with the Emirates.

Top of his shortlist, though, is RB Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano. The 21-year-old Frenchman has been linked by the Arsenal hierarchy for some time.

And it appears Arteta believes Upamecano can be a cornerstone of a new-look Gunners back-line for the foreseeable future.

But although he has a £53million (€60m) release clause in his contract, which expires in the summer of 2021, Leipzig sporting director Markus Krosche believes the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic means no club will move for the defender, despite interest elsewhere from the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona.

The north London club might have struggled prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 to raise funds given their lack of Champions League football in recent seasons and now appear even more hard-pressed to land Upamecano.

So which centre-backs from across Europe could Arteta consider as alternatives to the France under-20 international for a lesser fee?

Ben White

With Liverpool particularly fond of White, he wouldn’t come easily, but the 22-year-old is worth fighting for.

On loan at Leeds in the Championship this season, the highly-rated Englishman hasn’t missed a single minute of league action and has been vital to the Yorkshire giants’ promotion push.

Strong in the tackle with a good reading of the game and ease on the ball, the homegrown defender would certainly improve Arsenal’s options at the back and is capable of being an immediate starter.

White’s parent club Brighton will prove hard negotiators but around £25m to £30m might be enough to prise him away from the Amex Stadium.

Marash Kumbulla

A front-footed defender, Hellas Verona’s Kumbulla is another who is excellent on the ball but boasts good defensive abilities.

The 20-year-old Italian-born Albanian has been a regular for the Serie A side this season, although it is his first campaign in the club’s first team.


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A £25m price tag has previously been bandied about for the defender, whose high ceiling has caught the attention of clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund per reports.

And at his young age, there’s an abundance of time for Albania international Kumbulla to repay any faith Arsenal would be putting in him.

Evan Ndicka

Another youngster also at 20 years of age, Ndicka has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool in recent weeks after starring for Eintracht Frankfurt.

A Rookie of the Season contender last term, the defender has racked up over 60 appearances since his switch from Ligue 2 outfit Auxerre in the summer of 2018.

The France under-20 international is a left-footed centre-half but boasts the versatility to take up multiple roles, even including playing as a holding midfielder.

Despite his towering presence, Ndicka has good pace and an ability to get forward and deliver a cross, having played at left-back for Frankfurt this term.

There has been no specific price tag mentioned in reports, but Arsenal could hope to land the Frenchman for half of the fee they’d pay for his countryman Upamecano, even not even a bit less.

Daniele Rugani

A player previously on the radar at the Emirates, Rugani will surely be keen to leave Juventus after just three Serie A appearances this season.

Rugani is under contract until 2024 but has hardly been used by Juve boss Maurizio Sarri, who would surely take up the chance to cash in to fund his own summer plans.

The Italy international has a point to prove having fallen by the wayside in Turin, where he has yet to make 100 appearances across all competitions despite being at the club for nearly five full seasons.

An imposing physical defender, the 25-year-old isn’t quick but position himself well and is good in the air, offering a good goalscoring threat at the opposite end. Given his drop in stock, Arsenal should be able to get him for between £15m and £20m.

Jerome Boateng

The most senior name on this list, and also a well-known former Arsenal target, Boateng looks set to be available this summer.

The Gunners enquired about him in January and were quoted a fee of around £12.8m – but that figure will surely have dropped since with just over a year left on his deal in Bavaria.

The 31-year-old World Cup-winning centre-back’s powers have waned since he was one of the best in Europe but he’d still offer short-term quality provided he can avoid more injuries.

The German would be one to boost the ranks for two or three years, rather than a player to fill the position for a decade.

But if he was to help secure a return to the Champions League, he’d repay his investment and offer Arsenal the opportunity to pursue a top-tier long-term centre-half option like Upamecano.

Pablo Mari

A name familiar to Arsenal fans, Mari has spent the second half of the current coronavirus-interrupted campaign on loan in north London from Flamengo.

The Brazilian has made just two appearances, in wins over Portsmouth in the FA Cup and West Ham in the Premier League, with his side keeping clean sheets in both.

At the age of 26 and given his ball-playing abilities, it seems a relative formality Mari will become a permanent Arsenal player once his loan deal expires.

Arsenal have the option to sign him on a full-time basis at around £8m – a bargain in today’s market.

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