Why Southampton should make a move for Rafael Toloi in January
Southampton haven’t had the best of openers in the Premier League, losing 3-0 to Burnley at Turf Moor last weekend. Ashley Barnes delivered an eight-minute double before Johann Berg Gudmundsson sealed the victory with a fine left-footed strike to leave Southampton’s visiting fans crestfallen.
The Saints’ defensive problems were exposed at Turf Moor, Jannik Vestergaard missing the flight of Erik Pieters’ cross that led to the opening goal.
It should have been a simple header for the towering Dane even in the swirling wind but the defender misjudged it, failed to make a contact and Barnes cleverly darted in behind to sweetly strike the half-volley.
Southampton were woeful at the back last season, conceding 70 goals. Things were all gloom and doom at the St. Mary’s before Ralph Hasenhuttl completely changed the atmosphere around the club, guiding the Saints to top-flight safety.
Despite knowing his team’s problems in defence, Hasenhuttl has made a mistake by not bringing in adequate defensive reinforcements over the summer.
Wesley Hoedt, Maya Yoshida and Jannik Vestergaard struggled, while Jack Stephens blew hot and cold throughout the campaign. Jan Bednarek was the rare bright spark at the back in the second half of 2018/19 and Hasenhuttl should have brought in a reliable centre-half to partner the Pole.
Instead, the Austrian signed an inexperienced defender in Kevin Danso on loan from FC Augsburg on the deadline day. While Danso has potential, the Saints needed an experienced centre-half to tighten the backline.
Last year, the Sun had claimed that Southampton were interested in signing Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi and were planning to sign him in January 2019. But a move didn’t go through and the Brazilian stayed with the Serie A club.
Rafael Toloi, 28, had a really good campaign in the Serie A as he helped Atalanta qualify for the Champions League. With that in mind, Southampton shouldn’t hesitate to rekindle their interest in the defender when the transfer window re-opens.
In Toloi, Southampton would get a defender who is thoroughly comfortable on the ball and is good in the air as well. He is a strong presence at both ends of the pitch and can make crucial interceptions for his side in his own half. The Brazilian keeps a cool head under pressure and also has the temperament to succeed at the top level.
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But what stands out is Toloi’s ability to play out from the back and initiate attacks in one blink of an eye. So his style of play will certainly suit Southampton, who play an attacking brand of football under Ralph Hasenhuttl.
The Brazilian defender is out of contract in 2020, so Southampton’s chances of landing Toloi on a cut-price deal in January are high.