Nicolás Otamendi has hardly set the Premier League alight since signing for Manchester City from Valencia in 2015.
The £28.5million arrival has been largely inconsistent since arriving in the Premier League.
After the first leg of City’s Champions League tie, he came in for stinging criticism from a former captain at the Etihad Stadium, Richard Dunne.
The 37-year-old told BT Sport: “He has no awareness of where the players are when the game is going on around him.
“He's just focused on the ball completely. It's not good enough.”
And with a number of Manchester City’s summer targets thought to be defenders – the likes of Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk and Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte have been linked with Pep Guardiola’s side – it would be no surprise to see him leave the Etihad.
A potential destination could be a move back to Spain, with the Daily Mail saying Real Madrid want the 29-year-old.
Why do Real Madrid want Otamendi?
Pepe’s departure in the summer is all but official and Zinedine Zidane’s side will need to replace him in the summer – their other centre-back options would be Sergio Ramos, Nacho and Raphaël Varane.
Obviously, they aren’t bad options to have, but with injuries and suspensions likely, the latter especially with Ramos around, you need four options for the middle of defence.
And given that Zidane has tried out three at the back on occasions this season, the need for a centre-back grows even more.
One option could be Jesús Vallejo, who has impressed on loan at Eintracht Frankfurt this season, but given he is only 20, he might need more time to develop away from the spotlight at the Santiago Bernabéu.
So someone like Otamendi would make sense.
At 29, he’s no spring chicken, but could do a job for a while until the likes of Vallejo are ready to become first-team regulars.
And while he may have struggled since his arrival in England, he was very good in Spain.
Indeed, when he arrived at the Etihad, the then Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini said: “Otamendi was arguably the best defender in La Liga last season and so naturally I’m delighted to have added a player of his quality.
“He is an established international for one of the best nations in world football and I have no doubt that he has the right mentality.
“He’s strong, he’s excellent in the tackle and he’s very good technically.”
While Otamendi has impressed on occasion, there’s no way he’s even come close to being the best defender in the Premier League since arriving, so a return to Spanish football may be right up his street.
How does Otamendi compare to Real Madrid’s defensive options?
If you have a look at the Manchester City man compared to the Madrid trio mentioned earlier in terms of league statistics so far this season, there’s nothing that marks him out as particularly outstanding compared to them.
But, to be fair, he probably wouldn’t be bought as first-choice central defender – that would be Ramos – but he be competing alongside Nacho and Varane to play alongside Los Blancos’ captain.
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In fact, he loses more tackles per 90 minutes than any of the quartet.
Otamendi loses 2.26, while no Real Madrid player loses more than two per 90 minutes – Ramos’ rate is at 1.17, Nacho is at 1.96 and Varane is at 1.16.
But on the flip side, only Nacho out of the Madrid options win more tackles per 90 minutes than Otamendi – 2.25 compared to 2.02.
Ramos wins 1.44 while Varane has only averaged 0.92 successful tackles this season.
Obviously depending on the style of play, the defence may be asked to do different things and tackles can be a sign of an earlier defensive error, but the statistics do show that Otamendi loses more tackles than he wins, whereas Ramos and Nacho win more than they lose.
The Argentine also commits more fouls per 90 minutes (1.11) than Ramos (0.85) and Varane (0.64) and the duo also come out on top against him in terms of total duels won.
Otamendi has won 56.4 per cent of his total duels this season, while Ramos has won 63.58 per cent and Varane has won 59.32 per cent of his.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given he plays for Guardiola, Otamendi makes more passes per 90 minutes (64.33) than any of the Real Madrid trio – Ramos makes 58.65, Nacho makes 46.96 and Varane makes 54.97.
And given his rate of passing, it is impressive that his completion rate of 87 per cent is the same as Varane’s and more or less in line with Ramos (89 per cent) and Nacho (91 per cent).
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Would a Real Madrid move make sense?
The hierarchy at the Bernabéu are clearly looking at a number of players to replace Pepe, with Porto’s Felipe Monteiro also thought to be a Real Madrid transfer target.
Otamendi would fit the bill.
He wouldn’t come cheap, but with City looking at other defensive targets and him not being a guaranteed starter, it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him leave the Etihad for less than the amount he arrived for.
The Argentine international previously thrived in La Liga with Valencia, and it would be no surprise to see him return to Spain, where he would form part of a backline with four very good defenders competing for the centre-back places in the Spanish capital.