Antonio Conte already considers Cristian Romero as one of the best Centre Backs the Premier League has to offer and deems him a permanent member of Tottenham’s squad.
The 23-year-old joined Spurs on a season-long loan spell from Atalanta with a £42.5million obligation to buy in the summer.
A hamstring injury suffered during the November international break with Argentina initially derailed what had been a promising start to his loan campaign. Cristian’s absence saw Tottenham conceding 13 goals across all competitions, consequently struggling to keep a lid on things at the back without him.
But since his return to the first team, Italian boss Conte has been gushing praises to his Argentine rock. Most notably his games versus West Ham and his initial return in the FA Cup fourth-round win against Brighton.
”He’s on loan but we have an obligation to buy. We bought him!”
”He is perfect for this league. But if you can play in this league you can play in all the leagues in the world.”
”Because the intensity, the quality, the physicality that you have here is not present in other leagues. For sure Romero is able to play in this league. This league is a perfect suit for him.”Antonio Conte
Paul Robinson, the former Spurs goal keeper went a notch further when signing praises of Cristian Romero. Robinson is adamant that the Argentine walks into any team in England, remonstrating any ideologies that dare debunk his claims.
”His performances prove that he is the best centre-half [at the club],”
”He is a Champions League player, a top player.”
”If Spurs are going to go places, Romero is the type of player they will need to keep and build around.”Paul Robinson, former Tottenham Hotspurs player
Romero is undoubtedly a crucial cog in the Spurs’ defence, but how does he compare to his counterparts at Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City?
Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk has long been regarded as one of the best defenders in the Premier League ever since his move from Southampton in 2018.
The Dutchman has since joined in the elite category of Premier League centre-backs, featuring Manchester City’s Ruben Dias – who won Premier League Player of the Season the previous term, and most recently Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger.
The trio embody the gauge of just where the threshold begins for other centre-backs hoping to one day emulate the qualities needed to perform at the highest level.
Romero’s injury lay-off means he has played fewer League matches for Spurs this season, while van Dijk, Dias and Rudiger have all played at least 20 top-flight games this term.
Antonio’s sudden appointment as head coach would suggest that Spurs are a few stages behind in their development by comparison to the other three clubs. It can therefore be assumed that Romero is tested more often defensively than his counterparts at City, Liverpool and Chelsea.
His statistics are nevertheless impressive, comparatively holding his own.
Tackling and interceptions are certainly a few of the Argentine’s key qualities, averaging 2.74 in the former and 2.02 in the latter per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season.
The German defender Rudiger boasts the next best statistics in those categories, with 1.17 tackles per every 90 minutes played.
Romero has also shown immovable competence in the possessions won and duels won returns category, standing at a dominant 7.36 and 6.92 per 90 minutes respectively.
Virgil van Dijk, his closest challenger for these categories, dons an average of 6.5 times for possession won and 4.35 for duels won every 90 minutes.
Blocks are another element of the defensive game where Romero seems to excel, with 1.44 per 90 minutes as opposed to van Dijk’s best of 0.6 blocks.
The 23-year-old also very much holds his own re the aerial duels, with van Dijk the only player of those on the list to better Romero’s 3.03 aerials won and 3.32 clearances per 90 minutes.
The only area of Romero’s game that tends to be fragile in comparison to the trio stems from ball distribution from the backline.
He averages just about 54.81 passes per 90 minutes this season, whilst the Portuguese defender Dias averages above 83 in a similar time frame.
Romero also has the lowest clean sheet per 90 minutes ratio with 0.14.
His overall passing accuracy is also inferior to the other three defenders, but an 85 percent passing accuracy is nothing to undermind. A statistic that also improves when considering passes made in their own half, with Romero returning a pass accuracy above 90 percent.
Spurs average fewer goals against per game without Romero in the team, having conceded just one more goal in the 13 games in which he has not figured than in the others in which he has.
Their win percentage exponentially rises from 37.5 percent without him in the team to 61.5 percent with him.
With the coming season, and Spurs looking to be challengers for the title in the following campaign, it is as clear as day that Romero will surely improve, for he has already shown himself capable of being leader for the Spurs backline. It is only a matter of time before Virgil is usurped as the best centre-back in the world.