It’s going to be the defenders in demand once this summer’s transfer window finally opens.
Manchester City were simply unable to keep pace after an early season injury to centre-half Aymeric Laporte left their back line looking makeshift and fragile.
Defensive weakness has prevented Pep Guardiola’s Man City keeping pace with Liverpool
Manchester United are certain to enter the market to look for a defensive partner for Harry Maguire (left) as an upgrade on Victor Lindelof (right)
Chelsea have been let down by defensive weaknesses on many occasions this season
Chelsea’s defence has been susceptible to mistakes with Frank Lampard’s team conceding far too many soft and sloppy goals.
And Manchester United have also looked vulnerable at the back, with unnecessary conceded goals potentially costing them Champions League football next season.
Then there’s Arsenal, who have repeatedly been let down by their back line in a season of struggle that could see them miss out on Europe entirely.
So we should prepare for a scramble in the transfer market with those leading clubs competing for the world’s best defensive talent.
Sportsmail takes a closer look at some of the top defenders potentially on the radar of the Premier League elite once the window opens.
25, Inter Milan and Slovakia, centre back
Where could he go? Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich
There have already been plenty of headlines about Skriniar with the Slovakian drawing admiring glances from both Manchester clubs as well as the likes of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
Inter value Skriniar at around the £60million mark but would be thrilled if a bidding war ensues.
He has been a mainstay of Inter’s defence for three seasons now but they’ve certainly been leaky since football’s resumption, with their once-certain title challenge evaporating.
But that’s unlikely to deter this assertive centre-half’s many suitors given his ball-winning qualities both in the air and on the ground, as well as his Champions League experience.
Inter’s Milan Skriniar (left) is attracting interest from the two Manchester clubs among others
29, Napoli and Senegal, centre back
Where could he go? Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool
Koulibaly has been linked with a Premier League move for quite some time and after a turbulent season at Napoli, now could be the perfect time for a switch.
Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have been linked with a player long considered one of the world’s most accomplished centre-backs.
Koulibaly exudes authority at the back and will bring a wealth of valuable Champions League experience to any new club.
While the player is fond of Naples, the club has definitely taken a backward step in recent months and after six years, a change of scenery would be healthy.
Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly has long been considered one of the world’s best centre-backs
28, Bayern Munich and Austria, left back/centre back
Where could he go? Manchester City, Chelsea
Alaba’s name has been mentioned in the same breath as Manchester City since the Court of Arbitration for Sport decision to overturn their European ban led to talk of a spending spree.
Pep Guardiola worked with Alaba during his time in charge of Bayern Munich and it isn’t difficult to be impressed by the left-back, who’d offer an upgrade on current options Benjamin Mendy and Oleksandr Zinchenko. He can also operate at centre-back.
Alaba has won every conceivable honour with Bayern but with his contract due to expire next summer, the German champions may be tempted to cash in. He is valued at up to £60m.
Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has already said the club doesn’t want to see players walk away for nothing and so Alaba will be given autonomy to decide his next move. Chelsea are also thought to be keen if he becomes available.
David Alaba poses with the German Cup after Bayern’s win – but will he move to Man City?
25, Bournemouth and Holland, centre back
Where could he go? Manchester United
Twitter was alive with speculation that United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had tried to persuade Ake to move to Old Trafford when he chatted with the defender after a recent game with Bournemouth.
Certainly if Bournemouth do suffer relegation out of the Premier League, Ake will be one of the assets they will probably have to sell.
His former club Chelsea have a buy-back option but would they really go for someone they sold back in 2017?
No Bournemouth player has exactly covered themselves in glory this season but it’s clear Ake is capable of playing at a higher standard.
Tongues were wagging after Solskjaer spoke with Bournemouth’s Ake after a recent match
23, Leicester City and England, left-back
Where could he go? Chelsea, Manchester United
It’s very much been a season of two halves for Leicester – outstanding before Christmas, patchy since – but there’s no doubt Chilwell has been a stand-out performer.
The England left-back has been linked with Chelsea in the main with some murmurings that he could replace Luke Shaw at United.
In an age when full-backs are expected to offer as much in attack as defence, Chilwell certainly ticks a lot of boxes with his forward runs and crossing.
His future may well depend on whether Leicester’s slide continues long enough to see them miss out on the Champions League next season.
Ben Chilwell (right) has impressed during a season of two parts for Leicester City
19, Monaco, centre back
Where could he go? Manchester United
The teenager is reportedly on the radar of Man United and certainly fits the profile of the up-and-coming young players Solskjaer likes to sign.
Badiashile does have plenty of experience for a 19-year-old, with 41 first-team games under his belt for Monaco, a figure that would have been higher but for the curtailment of Ligue 1.
Whether he would be capable of slotting straight in alongside Maguire at the heart of United’s defence is another matter, especially with Axel Tuanzebe, 22, a homegrown young option.
Monaco’s Benoit Badiashile, 19, has enjoyed plenty of game time for someone so young
21, RB Leipzig and France under-21, centre back
Where could he go? Most of the Premier League…
It appears most of the Premier League elite are linked with Upamecano, who would command a fee north of £50m.
The Frenchman is only 21 but seems like he’s been around forever, having played three-and-a-half seasons at Leipzig and a handful of matches for Red Bull Salzburg prior to that.
Wasn’t in the greatest of form when the Bundesliga returned from lockdown, with Leipzig’s title challenge falling away, but there’s no doubting the quality of this powerful and speedy defender adept with the ball at his feet.
It’s been reported that Arsenal are among the favourites to sign him but that could be dependent on whether they qualify for Europe.
Leipzig’s Dayot Upamecano appears to have plenty of admirers in the Premier League
27, Sevilla, centre back
Where could he go? Liverpool, Tottenham
Carlos only signed for Sevilla last summer and has a contract running until 2024 but that hasn’t stopped speculation linking him with Liverpool and Tottenham.
Reports in Spain say the Brazilian has a release clause of £67m and Sevilla would be willing to sell should someone meet that as the financial impact of Covid-19 bites.
Sevilla have qualified for next season’s Champions League and Carlos has been a significant part of their good performances.
At ease in a team that plays out from the back, he’s good aerially and has one of the Spanish league’s best tackling success rates.
Sevilla’s Diego Carlos (left) has emerged as one of the best defenders in LaLiga this season
23, Benfica and Portugal, centre back
Where could he go? Manchester City
The Benfica defender has reportedly been scouted by Manchester City with Guardiola looking for a new central defensive partner for Laporte.
Dias came through the youth ranks at Benfica and has been a first-team regular for three seasons now, helping them win the league title last season. He also has 17 Portugal appearances.
One potential sticking point over any move is that a change in his Benfica contract last year saw his release clause rise from 60m euros to 100m, which may cause even the wealthiest of Premier League clubs to think twice.
Benfica and Portugal defender Ruben Dias has reportedly caught the eye of Manchester City
27, Porto and Brazil, left back
Where could he go? Chelsea, PSG, Juventus, Inter
Chelsea are the English name among a cluster of top European sides linked with Porto’s left-back Telles, with PSG, Inter and Juventus also in the mix.
He certainly boasts a very good goalscoring and assist-making record in the Portuguese league with 12 goals and 10 assists this season.
In that regard, he may be more productive than Chilwell as Chelsea search target a left-back and could also be a cheaper option too at not much more than £20m.
Alex Telles (left) in action for Porto – the left-back has emerged as a potential Chelsea option
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