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Stefan De Vrij - Why Man Utd, Arsenal & Liverpool want his signature (and who needs him most)

When Lazio brought Stefan De Vrij in the summer of 2014, many people including the Dutch pundits had predicted that he would go on to make a name for himself in Italy and be regarded as a complete defender before he makes a huge move to one of the biggest clubs within Europe.

However, this has not been the outcome, as the centre-back has had injury issues which have hindered his personal development. This problem mainly occurred in the 2015/16 campaign, where he suffered a knee injury in September 2015 and was on the sidelines for nine to ten months.

Despite the major setback, De Vrij has still managed to complete just over 100 appearances for Lazio in all competition. In that time, he has been part of the line-up that finished as the runners-up of the Coppa Italia in 2015 and the enthusiastic team that beat Juventus in the Supercoppa Italiana in 2017.

Following the recent news of the fact that Lazio have withdrawn all contract talks with the player, De Vrij will be available on a free transfer come the end of the season and is currently allowed to negotiate terms with other clubs until his time at the Stadio Olimpico is over.

He has been linked with a few of the big teams in England, such as Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. So let's see exactly what he could bring to the Premier League.

What should you expect from De Vrij?

When the Netherlands went on a superb run in the 2014 World Cup under Louis Van Gaal, finishing in third-place with an average squad, De Vrij was one of the few youngsters that the coach had faith in and was utilised from the group stage till the end of the competition.

Straight after that, his worth as a player was doubled or trebled as Lazio snapped him up from Feyenoord at the end of July.

Last season at Lazio, most of the focus was based around Ciro Immobile, Felipe Anderson, Keita Balde Diao, Lucas Biglia and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. On the other hand, De Vrij's defensive discipline and positional awareness prevented his side from conceding too many cheap goals.

On top of that, the 26-year-old also managed to help the team by chipping in with a few goals and assists.

Just like a lot of defenders that have come from the Netherlands and are developed in arguably one of the best academies within Europe, he is a player that is comfortable with the ball at both feet and also has the skill to produce many types of passes. He can pick out one of the attacking outlets from his own half, and can produce effective long passes or even the vital through balls into the final third.

Despite the fact that he is slow on and off the ball, De Vrij makes it up with his ability to read the game very well which allows him to be in the right position at the right time.

Also, over the last three to five years of his career, he has adapted well to the many types of systems that are used on a day-to-day basis, whether it's the normal formation of four defenders or the back-three/five setup.

As Lazio play in a 3-5-1-1 formation under Simone Inzaghi, the Dutchman has gone on to form an aggressive and stubborn partnership alongside both Bastos and Stefan Radu at the heart of defence.

The centre-backs take turns in guiding the ball forward and helping the side to progress, though, De Vrij is the man out of the three that would be trusted more in possession.

Which Premier League side need him the most?

Given his abilities and his potential to still be seen as one of the best ball-playing centre-backs within Europe, a move to a team that is not in the top-six of the Premier League would basically be seen as a downgrade for the Dutchman.

At the age of 26, De Vrij should no longer be expecting offers from mid-table sides and should instead wait for the well-known teams to be chasing him very soon.

The easiest team to start off with is Arsenal, who could replace the ageing Laurent Koscielny and soon-to-be retired Per Mertesacker by simply snapping up De Vrij on a free transfer.

So far this season, Arsene Wenger's side have been playing the 3-4-2-1 setup on a regular basis and the centre-back department is an area where they are lacking proper depth, which should give the manager more reasons to why they should bring in the 6ft 2in defender before it is too late.

Meanwhile, with the reports in Merseyside quite often being based around the Dutch international, he would certainly be a more than useful individual for Jurgen Klopp's system.

At the centre of defence, he could partner up with national team-mate Virgil Van Dijk, who is considered as one of the best centre-backs within the league. With both players being aerially dominant and very talented on the ball, Liverpool could potentially and finally be considered as a team challenging for trophies.

Also, De Vrij has been a popular individual when it comes to the transfer rumours focused on Manchester United, as he was first linked with the club just before Van Gaal's reign at Old Trafford in 2014.

With Chris Smalling and Phil Jones constantly completing defensive errors, it would surely be a no brainer for Jose Mourinho to offer Lazio's number three a contract he cannot refuse, especially given the fact that United's board tend to splash the cash on each player they bring in.

At the end of the day, the good news for the 26-year-old is that he is a wanted man and will potentially receive a lot of offers, even from clubs that are more known and successful than Lazio.

Since the Netherlands are not competing in the World Cup this summer, De Vrij will have a lot of time to make a vital decision that is right for him, whether that includes a move to England or elsewhere.

About the author

Asif Norat

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