One player highly thought of and sought after is Bari defender Andrea Ranocchia, who is one of the hottest defensive prospects currently plying his trade in Europe. Manchester United seen particularly interested along with cross town rivals Manchester City and Chelsea.
The 21 year-old, Italy under 21 international has been in superb form for the newly promoted side as they surged up the Serie A table. Currently on loan from Genoa he is rated as one of the best up and coming defenders in Serie A.
This season Bari had only conceded 15 goals, with Ranocchia in the team, before his knee injury. At the time, that was one more than Champions, table toppers and unanimously the best team in Italy, Inter Milan. That means they had a better backline record than heavyweights such as, AC Milan, Juventus, AS Roma and Fiorentina. This is in part down to the brilliant performances Ranocchia has produced this season, brilliance that has been missed since his lay off.
Starting his career at Arezzo, Genoa quickly snapped up this talented player in the summer of 2008, and loaning him to Bari last year while they were in Serie B. Here he further developed his talents and was a key component as Bari were promoted as Champions.
His timing of a tackle and reading of the game have gained the interest of the big clubs in England, even though he has recently signed a contract extension to 2013 with Genoa, the £12 million price tag may seem value for money considering his ability to score goals as well as stopping them.
In particular, Manchester United see him as the perfect antidote to relieve the issues they have with the back-line. It is widely regarded that Nemanja Vidic will leave in the summer to either Real Madrid or Milan and Rio Ferdinand’s injury problems are well documented, plus even when he has played this season the mistakes of three years ago seem to have crept back into his game.
You then ask who else they have in reserve. Undoubtedly Jonny Evans has proved his class this season ably deputising for both Vidic and Ferdinand when called upon, you could even go as far as to say he is a starter in the team given his level of performance.
Wes Brown would be considered as another back up, but injuries have clearly impacted on the defenders physical ability. Any pace which he had seems to be gone and he tends to dive into tackles a bit too regularly, hence becoming a defensive liability.
Sir Alex Ferguson has therefore been looking around for replacements, Ranocchia has been tipped for a place in Italy’s World Cup squad if he recovers the form before he was injured and I am sure Sir Alex will be monitoring the situation closely.
Some of you may also be wondering about January signing Chris Smalling. Well, for me it is a risky signing. Granted he may have only played a similar number of top flight games but his experience before this was with non-league Maidstone. Three U21 have followed, but whether he can make the step up to one of the best teams in Europe is questionable.
A defensive shake up at Manchester United could well be in the offing with the young Italian at the heart of it.