While none of the transfer rumors I attempt to create myself gain any traction, the speculative transfer of Sampdoria defender Shkordran Mustafi makes too much sense not to discuss. While we still don't know who will be lining Mehdi Benatia's pockets with millions of pounds sterling next season, it is becoming increasingly unavoidable that Roma's top defender is headed for the Premiership, leaving the Giallorossi with a gaping hole in defense.
Thus far, we've been privy to several solid, albeit underwhelming, replacements. Marko Basa was great for Lille and would be a great capture as sort of a second-and-a-half/third choice center back, while the club opted to keep Luca Antei at Sassuolo for another year, and Eder Balanta's fantastic performance for Colombia in the World Cup has the likes of Juventus, Real Madrid, and Barcelona sniffing around his door step, so the subsequent bidding war may put him out of Roma's tax bracket.
So, if you're Walter Sabatini and you're searching for an exciting, effective and budget friendly replacement for Benatia, you might want to take a look at Mustafi. The Sampdoria defender, 22-years-old, while not quite as massive as Benatia, still stands six feet tall (184cm) and weighs roughly 180 lbs (82kg), so he can hang with the bulkiest of forwards. In fact, Mustafi won 65% of his aerial duels last season, three percentage points ahead of Benatia, and his 108 headers won was actually second in the league. So while he may not be a giant, he has impeccable timing and, let's face, the kid can jump.
Speaking of statistics, the rest of your standard defensive metrics were quite kind to Mustafi, as the young German proved to be one of Serie A's most active and effective defenders last season. Mustafi led the league in interceptions, was sixth in clearances, and thirteenth in blocked shots. Again, defensive statistics are subject to a variety of external factors, but the numbers he threw up last season indicate a level of understanding, vision and anticipation far beyond his twenty two years.
Furthermore, when compared to Leandro Castan and Benatia, Mustafi looks every bit as effective as his more experienced colleagues, besting the Roma pair in interceptions, clearances and aerial duels, while edging out Benatia (but not Castan) in blocks and tackles.
The point being, although he's young and this was only his first full season in Serie A, Mustafi may already be one of the league's best defenders, and certainly one of its most promising. Make no mistake, Mustafi's performances, both domestically and during this World Cup, haven't gone unnoticed, so Roma may have some stiff competition for Mustafi, particularly from Juventus.
Mustafi, though young, has already been overlooked in his career, being excommunicated from Everton after only appearance as a substitute in the Europa League. Given his age, Serie A experience, and sheer talent, chances are that he'll never be taken for granted again. Mustafi, even at, say, seven or eight million Euros, would be a shrewd investment for any club.
I just hope that club is Roma.