Hiroki Sakai would be a solid addition to Crystal Palace’s defence

Crystal Palace are rumoured to be interested in Marseille right-back Hiroki Sakai, according to the Evening Standard.

According to the report, Palace boss Roy Hodgson was keen on Fulham player Ryan Fredericks before he joined West Ham, and he is looking for a player to replace soon-to-be out of contract Joel Ward.

The 28-year-old Sakai joined Marseille in 2016 and has been a mainstay in their defence ever since, and could be available for £12million.

Equally confident on the right or left of a back four, Sakai is a versatile defender that may not offer the pace of Fredericks but is an assured and calming presence at the back, with the ability to join the attack and grab an assist.

He is definitely more of a classical defensively-minded full-back than the current trend of wing-backs, but this could be ideal for Palace as it would ease the pressure on their pacy wingers who want to join the attack as much as possible.

Sakai's statistics for the 2017-18 season

Popping up with three assists this season in Ligue 1, two more than Ward managed for the Eagles, the World Cup-bound Sakai relies on his strong passing accuracy to cut through defences rather than his ability to beat a man and whip in a cross.

However, Sakai really shines with his defensive statistics, an area Palace clearly need to improve having conceded 55 goals last season.

Averaging two tackles, 2.1 clearances and 1.4 interceptions every game, Sakai is tenacious when breaking down attacks and quickly moving the ball onto a teammate, which he does with an 82 per cent success rate.

Full-backs who want to defend are hard to come by these days, and if Hodgson could negotiate towards a price of £9-10million, Crystal Palace would be making a very sensible signing which would bolster their defence for the coming season.

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