Cristian Romero is hot property this summer — and Premier League clubs are vying to snap up the Argentine star.
Manchester United and Tottenham are believed to be at the front of the queue for the Juventus centre-back, who is midway through a two-year loan at fellow Serie A side Atalanta.
As interest in the £39million-rated defender reaches fever pitch, we investigate why Romero is top target for a host of clubs.
Atalanta are set to make a significant profit on Romero, with the Bergamo-based club ready to take advantage of a £13.6m option to buy in his loan deal.
The 23-year-old still has another season with La Dea remaining but they are keen to activate their clause a year early before selling Romero on at a significantly higher price.
After the five-cap international boosted his reputation by winning this summer’s Copa America with Argentina, that fee could reach up to a whopping £51m with add-ons.
Keeping it tight
Juventus must regret letting Romero leave on loan last season.
He helped his new club finish third, above his parent side, as Atalanta secured Champions League qualification.
The Cordoba-born defender was a key part of a defence that conceded the fourth fewest goals in Italy (47) in 2020-21 and kept 11 clean sheets across the campaign.
It was a similar story at the Copa America, where Argentina recorded shutouts in the two group matches Romero started, before thwarting Brazil in the final when he returned to the team after a mid-tournament injury.
A sensational season
The numbers behind Romero’s 2020-21 season paint a picture of a player who has excelled in almost every key area.
Atalanta conceded a paltry 5.41 shots from inside the box per 90 minutes when he was on the pitch, with just 15 players in Serie A posting a better defensive record.
Only Torino’s Lyanco (5.05) won back possession more times in the defensive third than Romero (4.92) per 90, while he also ranks second for interceptions (3.39) behind Hellas Verona defender Koray Gunter (3.51) — though these statistics will be influenced by Atalanta’s high intensity pressing style.
He was also particularly effective in the air, placing 13th in Italy’s top flight for aerial duels won with 3.96 per 90.
Romero’s strengths extend beyond simply the defensive side of the game.
The Atalanta No17 is also an astute operator with an excellent passing range, as Forza Italian Football's Conor Clancy explained last month.
He said: "He has been phenomenal as he won the MVP award for the best defender in Serie A but he is also one of the most deceptively dirty players.
"However, when he has the ball, his distribution and passing is so, so good.
"Romero can pick out a 50-yard pass onto the foot of a striker perfectly but it is something that goes a little bit unnoticed because his defensive work is so good and he is a top, top defender."
Next stop England
Barcelona and Liverpool have previously been linked with Romero but have already secured reinforcements at centre-back in Eric Garcia and Ibrahima Konate.
That should leave the way clear for Tottenham and Manchester United — though the Red Devils are only likely to make a move if they miss out on first-choice Raphael Varane.
With Spurs in the market for two centre-backs this summer, the smart money is on the Argentine heading to North London before the transfer window slams shut.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side will certainly be pulling off a major coup if they can bring Romero to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.