Football is a famously fickle game, something that was demonstrated once again over the weekend as, after talks of crisis for the last fortnight, Arsenal responded with an emphatic 5-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The scoreline might slightly flatter the Gunners, but Mikel Arteta’s side have well and truly barged their way back into the Premier League title race.
While things look to be back on track on the pitch, the transfer rumours have been flying in, and Ajax’s young star, Jorrel Hato, is a name that is consistently linked to the Gunners.
However, while the young Dutchman looks to be an exciting prospect, Edu and Co would be much better served signing another defensive star touted for a move to N5 this month.
Arsenal look to Lisbon for defensive targets
According to a report from Portuguese outlet Record, Arsenal are still ‘interested’ in Sporting CP’s defensive star Goncalo Inacio.
The report has revealed that alongside the Gunners, Chelsea, Machester United, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Newcastle United have also all maintained their interest in the talented centre-back, with a number of those sides – including the north Londoners – having sent scouts to watch him play on several occasions now.
This interest from some of Europe’s most prominent and wealthiest teams is far from ideal for Arsenal, but the potential fee required to sign the 22-year-old isn’t.
Record claim that the Sporting man has a release clause of €60m – about £51m – inserted into his contract, and while that is still a lot of money, it isn’t egregious for one of the continent’s most sought-after young defenders, especially when compared to the €100m (£86m) plus that journalist Suleyman Öztürk expects Hato to be sold for.
How Inacio compares to Hato
The first thing to say is that based on their performances this season and the hype that they are both generating Arsenal would do well to sign either Inacio or Hato, as it would be a pretty good bet to assume that the pair will be playing at the top level for quite some time.
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The 28-year-old could rival Bukayo Saka for a starting role.
However, there are a few reasons why a move for the “simply amazing” Sporting man, as described by talent scout Jacek Kulig, ahead of the Dutchman just makes sense.
The first is the aforementioned price, as the €40m (£34m) differential is simply too significant to ignore in this era of intense FFP scrutiny, and with rumours that Hato is set to sign a new deal with Ajax, that price difference could become even more prominent.
Then is their age. The Rotterdamn-born prospect is still just 17 years old, and for as impressive and mature as he has looked so far this season, to expect him to come into the Premier League and instantly challenge for a spot in Arsenal’s backline could be a recipe for disaster, especially if he moves with a massive price tag hanging over his head.
The “insane” Inacio, as dubbed by U23 scout Antonio Mango, on the other hand, is 22 and has a few seasons of senior professional football under his belt already, which should make the transition to English football far easier.
Finally, when comparing the pair’s underlying numbers, nothing jumps out as a justification for spending significantly more money on a less proven defender, and, if anything, it is the Sporting man who comes out looking slightly more impressive.
|Gonçalo Inácio vs Jorrel Hato
|Stats per 90
|Passes into the Penalty Area
|Percentage of Tackles Won
|All Stats via FBref for the 2023/24 Domestic Season
For example, he produces significantly more progressive passes and passes into the penalty area per 90 than his young competition, and while he makes fewer tackles per 90, he wins a greater percentage of them. On the surface, Inacio looks like one of the most composed centre-backs around, notably ranking in the top 1% of defenders in leagues similar to the Portuguese top-flight for passes completed per 90 minutes.
Ultimately, both players look destined for a great career at the very top of the game, but if Arsenal want to sign a defender who can have an instant impact on the team, they should be looking at Inacio, not Hato.