For those of you not familiar, Davide Santon is a 19 year old right footed wide defender currently playing for Inter. He's widely viewed as one of the best young right backs in the world, but his position is currently filled by Maicon, who may be the best right back in the world at the moment. Due to the presence of Maicon, he's being forced to play out of position at Inter in order to get any playing time at all. He'd likely find more opportunity here at Chelsea, as we have been sorely lacking an attacking presence on the right hand side.
While many of the rumors we hear from the media aren't worth the paper they are printed on, the connection to Santon appears to be solid. His agent, Renzo Contratto, recently made some comments about the player's discontent with Rafa Benitez in an interview:
"The player is unhappy with the situation because he keeps playing in different roles, meaning there is no clarity from the coach."
[Note by Schmidtxc, 12/21/10 7:02 PM EST ] As I wrote this, reports out of Italy suggest Benitez has been sacked
Contratto also had some comments specifically in regard to English clubs:
"Of course he wants to move to England and he has a number of different options, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. We have a number of meetings lined up for the coming days with them, we'll know more after that point. He deserves and wants to play for high level clubs, his eyes are now away from Inter. A move in January would be possible but it will more than likely happen in the summer. He's waiting for the World Club Cup to end, we'll then sit down to have a meeting with the management at Inter to decide his future."
This rumor appears to have some legs, although as noted by Contratto it seems more likely to happen in the summer rather than in January. Still, Santon is a name that we will likely keep hearing, and with very good reason. It's also possible that Contratto is just looking for a better contract for Santon, but playing time at Inter will remain hard to come by as long as Maicon is there. We'll take a look at Santon and why we'd be interested after the jump.
Santon was born January 2, 1991, meaning he'd turn 20 at the start of the January window. This is a hugely interesting birthday, as it means Santon would qualify as an under 21 year old player this season, next season, and even in the 2012/2013 season, making the cutoff for that season by a single day. He's been with Inter since he joined ther youth system at the age of 14, and played the majority of his early years as a wing forward. Jose Mourinho sensed that his skillset would provide a distinct ability to create mismatches as a right sided back, and started having him learn the position.
Like many Chelsea youth, Santon was named as a reserve for the first time in several champions league group stage games. Santon didn't get to make his debut, as Inter struggled to finish second in the group, finishing only two points from the bottom of the group. Santon finally made his first team debut 1/21/2009 against Roma, and earned very high praise from Mourinho. He impressed Mourinho enough that he was started in Inter's next champions league game against eventual runners up Manchester United. During that game he impressed greatly, holding Ronaldo to minimal impact and making him look more like this guy (at first I thought that was Wayne Rooney). He drew high praise from Ronaldo himself, who said after the game:
"I was impressed by Santon; he is a really interesting lad and a great footballer."
2009 was so impressive for Santon that he was called up to the Italian senior national side in June. He's played in two friendlies,was a reserve for 1 WC qualifier, and was on the squad for the entire 2009 Confederations Cup. He looks to be a regular fixture in the Italian national team going forward, and should feature prominently in the European Championships in 2012. He's also been named to the squad for all six of Inter's UEFA games, so he is considered cup tied this season.
Since that season, he's generally been looked upon as one of the most promising right backs in the world. His attacking skillset is good enough that Inter has been using him as a right wing again to get him on the pitch, as Maicon has a clear hold on the right back position for the moment. He's also been used on the right side of the midfield, where he has impressed. Santon has played the positions well enough, but clearly seems unhappy with Benitez and his training methods. The rumored price on Santon has been anywhere from 8.5-11.5 million pounds, a price which would likely be a bargain for Chelsea given our lack of defensive depth and right footed attackers. I'd expect to be hearing plenty of rumors about Santon in the coming weeks (and likely this summer), but this is one we should all hope has some legs.