If reported talks to sign Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar are successful, Tottenham will have signed three quarters of a new back four this summer.
So far this summer, they have signed Gareth Bale on loan from Real Madrid in addition to a new full-back pairing in Matt Doherty, from Wolves for £15 million, and Sergio Reguilon, who cost £25m and also arrived from Madrid.
It was reported earlier this week that Spurs are in discussions with Inter to sign £55m-rated Slovakia international Milan Skriniar. On Thursday a picture said to show Spurs technical director Steve Hitchen in Milan was published by Gianluca Di Marzio.
— Gianluca Di Marzio (@DiMarzio) September 23, 2020
Skriniar’s versatility, being able to play in either CB position within a back-four as well as defensive midfield, is said to have more than piqued Mourinho’s interest. However, that aforementioned price-tag is a stumbling block and it remains to be seen whether it’s met ahead of the October 5th deadline.
Who is Spurs target Milan Skriniar?
- Positions played in 2019/20: LCB (1086 minutes) | RCB (1510 minutes)
- Age: 25
- Reported value: £55m
- Football Index buy price: £0.53 | sell: £0.29
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A change in management can see valuable players fall by the wayside. New coaches usually bring in fresh ideas, training methods and a new system. This is true more often than not, because more often than not the previous manager’s ones weren’t working.
For the players, it then becomes a matter of adapting or leaving. Skriniar was by no means totally ostracised last term. That he started in 30 of Inter’s 38 league outings shows he was someone Conte felt he could rely on. Stefan de Vrij was the only Inter defender included in more Serie A lineups last term.
However, there is a general perception that Skriniar lacks the mobility for a back-three defence, and with Conte this defensive shape is a non-negotiable.
Once he lost his starting spot after the Coppa Italia semi-final elimination against Napoli, Skriniar conceded it would be hard to reclaim it. He started just six of their remaining 13 league games and none during Inter’s run to the Europa League final.
“I was used to playing all matches regularly, then the coach started to change lineup as we had to play every three days,” he said, adding: “After obtaining good results without conceding, the coach decided to stick with the same lineup all the way until the Europa League final. I was disappointed that I didn’t play but the important thing was that the team did well.”
But there are reasons Inter feel they can demand over £50m for a player Conte stopped using toward the end of the season. He is a defender Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Barcelona all supposedly tried to sign last year. These claim came from his agent, Mithat Halis, but it speaks highly of Skriniar’s potential that they never seemed implausible at the time.
He has always been a defender exceptionally comfortable in possession. Skriniar completed more passes per 90 than any Inter defender in league play last term (63.07) and with the highest accuracy (92.14%).
The Slovakia international has range, too, and this is evident in his ‘long pass’ accuracy. He attempted 5.8 long passes on average per 90 minutes and 69% were successful. He is also among the top 10 most prolific central defenders in the division for playing the ball into the final third of the pitch, although this is in part a product of the Inter set-up and coaching instructions.
So, in a nutshell, Inter are selling Skriniar because he is one of the most valuable non-essential defenders anywhere right now and Conte wants to fund further additions to his squad (such as Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante).
As such, Inter’s loss would be many a team’s gain. A change of scenery often helps reinvigorate a footballer. Mourinho’s preference for a back-four, which he’s used across Tottenham’s opening two Premier League games, can also be chalked up as another possible motivating factor in swapping Milan for north London.