Jan Vertonghen is one of the names that has dominated the rumor mill since it was revealed that he would snub a new contract offer from Ajax and would be leaving the team with one year to go on his contract.
Well, today, if Goal.com are to be believed, the Vertonghen rumors will finally come to an end. Tottenham are on the verge of signing Vertonghen for a bargain £8.1 million, a move that is sure to perplex and infuriate many Gunners fans.
For the neutral fan, though, that's one less overprinted and overdiscussed rumor to worry about. The question is: Who's next?
That's what we'll address in this slideshow. Ahead, I present to you the 10 best central defenders that'll be available in this summer's transfer market.
If you still don't know who Javi Martinez is, you've probably been living under a rock. The guy's name has been all over the rumor mill, but you can go here to quickly refresh your memory.
Here's the skinny on Martinez's transfer situation: He is easily the hottest centre-back on the transfer market this summer.
Despite what various unreliable sources may try to tell you, Mats Hummels and Thiago Silva are going nowhere, leaving the title of best centre-back available in the transfer market to go to Martinez.
One element that will play in Martinez's favor is the fact he'll most likely be starting at this year's Euro championships. Carles Puyol's knee surgery has ruled him out of Euro 2012, and Martinez is Spain's next best option in the position (more on that here).
Another element is his versatility. He's a solid centre-back, but he's equally adept as a defensive or central midfielder.
By the end of this summer, Martinez's transfer value will likely have shot up, and with Martinez under contract with Bilbao until 2016, Bilbao will be under no pressure to sell one of their star players for cheap.
Manchester United are already dying for a player of his quality, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid jump into the medley before the end of the summer.
Here's where the fun begins. Beyond Vertonghen and Martinez, the name-recognition factor in available centre-backs drops quite a bit.
Still, someone like Stephane Mbia could prove to be a real asset for a team in need of added quality at centre-back.
Mbia is in his prime (presently 25 years old) and with only two years left to go on his contract, he could very likely be available for transfer from Marseille.
It's unlikely Mbia will mind leaving Marseille either, considering the club are set to finish the season well outside the league's European spots (top four). They currently sit in 10th place.
Mbia has already made clear his desire to join Manchester United or Chelsea "in the next five years." He could get his wish fulfilled much sooner than expected.
He might not be getting much playing time at Real Madrid, but Raul Albiol can still very much get the job done at centre-back for a team lacking quality options in the position.
It's a testament to his quality that Real Madrid sought to obtain him in the first place, and his 31 Spain caps show that he was a very highly rated player while at Valencia.
At 26 years old, Albiol still has time to find a decent-level club and return to being the player he was with Valencia.
Tribalfootball reports that Albiol is interesting in leaving Real Madrid, but may be blocked by Jose Mourinho, who values him as a squad player. However, if Albiol is adamant about leaving, it's unlikely that even Mourinho will be willing to hold him against his will.
Furthermore, with only two years to go on his contract, Albiol shouldn't demand an excessive transfer fee.
Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly made an inquiry about Albiol with Madrid, but if he decides to leave Madrid, PSG won't be his only suitors.
Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa may just be the best central defender in Ligue 1 right now. That's right, I'd put Yang-Mbiwa ahead of guys like Mamadou Sakho and the rest of Ligue 1's big-named defenders this season.
Younes Belhanda and Olivier Giroud rightfully have gotten much of the credit for Montpellier's amazing run at the title, but their effort would've been for nothing without Montpellier excelling on the defensive side of the game as well.
That's where Yanga-Mbiwa comes in. The 22-year-old defender has been a wall this season, averaging three interceptions and almost six clearances per game. This has allowed Montpellier to concede only 33 goals in 36 games, the league's second-best total this season.
Like Mbia, Yanga-Mbiwa has also issued a "come and get me" statement to the teams of the Premier League.
He has sounded out Manchester United and Arsenal, but with a year to go on his contract, he may be willing to go to whatever team is willing to pay up to Montpellier in the summer. Newcastle United, anyone?
To put it quite simply, Mateo Musacchio is too good a player to play for a team performing as badly as Villarreal.
Mussacchio made his debut for Villarreal at the age of 19, and at 21 is now ready to make the next step up in his career.
If Musacchio's agent is to be believed, that next step could come at Roma. Roma are in need of new players at centre-back with Juan aging, Simon Kjaer underperforming and Gabriel Heinze aging and underperforming at the same time.
Villarreal's towering centre-back could be just what Roma need. He'd certainly match up with the youth policy adopted by Roma, where the club recruit only developing players for their team.
Wherever he goes, Musacchio is sure to be a steal for whatever team gets him, as he has developed well and still has much room to grow.
Speaking of towering defenders, here's another one: Douglas Teixeira.
While Bryan Ruiz and Luuk De Jong have gotten most of the plaudits in previous years for their work on offense, it's FC Twente's Douglas that's kept things tight at the back.
Now it seems his good work has finally been recognized by Newcastle United, who are looking to add to their foreign contingent, whose results this season have been very promising.
Aston Villa also appear interested, though it would absolute baffle me to see Douglas leave a team constantly playing in Europe for a team that almost got itself relegated this season.
Remarkably, Douglas will be a free agent this summer. Expect a free-for-all from a variety of middle- to upper-table clubs for his signature.
As usual, even Barcelona's rejects often become among the best players in their respective positions (see: Jordi Alba and Cesc Fabregas).
Alberto Botia was offloaded by Barcelona in the summer of 2009. Since then, he's become a solid defender, and arguably Sporting Gijon's best player.
With Carles Puyol ruled out of Euro 2012, Botia is another player who stands to benefit, as he could very likely earn a call-up to the national team as a backup centre-back.
That, in turn, could lead to a return to Barcelona for Botia, as this is the final summer in which Barca can activate their buy-back clause and bring Botia back to Catalonia.
Barca should act fast, though; they're not the only team interested in Botia's services this summer.
Angelo Ogbonna somehow survived the January transfer window and remained at Torino in Serie B. His team is now in Serie A, but it'll be interesting to see if he chooses to stay with them or capitalize on their success.
After earning two caps for the Italian national team, Ogbonna has become a major target for AC Milan. He's been previously linked with Manchester City and Arsenal and called the future of the Italian soccer by some.
Presently, Ogbonna is sticking to the story that he has never thought of leaving Torino, and indeed, with a contract recently signed tying him to 2016, it may be a bit silly of him to move on from his club so soon.
However, if he keeps on improving, the big clubs will keep on calling. He's already a centre-back desired by numerous clubs this summer, but if he keeps performing, he'll find himself pursued even more actively by Europe's big clubs next summer.
Bleacher Report World Football Lead Writer Will Tidey wrote this about Vital Dede back in January, when he was being tracked by Manchester United:
According to caughtoffside.com, Manchester United are interested in signing Brazilian defender Dede.
The 23-year-old currently plays for Vasco da Gama in Brazil, where his performances have earned him international recognition. Dede made his debut for the national side in September last year.
Here's a great excerpt from the caughtoffside article to tell us a little more about him:
"In his home country of Brazil, he has earned the moniker of Dedeckenbauer – in homage to legendary Germany captain Franz Beckenbauer of course – and his average of a goal every five games is mightily impressive."
Dede has racked up over 100 appearances for Vasco da Gama, and twice been selected as a central defender in the Campeonato Carioca team of the season (2010 and 2011).
With Manchester United showing signs of defensive fallibility of late, and with Nemanja Vidic ruled out for the rest of the season, the suggestion here is that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is looking for reinforcements.
Dede clearly looks like an investment for the future, but with his reputation soaring and his current deal running until 2014, United would surely have to pay a hefty price to get him.
Clubs have gradually become less interested in Dede as he has continued to emphasize his desire to remain in Brazil with Vasco de Gama, but he is undoubtedly a big, strong centre-back that many European clubs would love to have.
If you're looking for this season's Raphael Varane in Ligue 1, look no further.
Kurt Zouma made his debut for AS Saint-Etienne at the age of 16 this season, but his gradually improving performances have expectedly drawn interest from both Manchester sides.
Having appeared in 24 league games this season and made 16 total starts, Zouma is the real deal and very much a star in the making.
Both of the Manchester sides' interest is documented, but I doubt there's a club in the world that wouldn't want to get their hands on AS Saint-Etienne's latest prodigy.