PETE JENSON: Jules Kounde was blocked from a move to Chelsea last summer but his faultless attitude at Sevilla means he remains one of LaLiga’s best centre-backs – he remains the perfect fit for Thomas Tuchel
- Jules Kounde hasn’t let a failed move to Chelsea last summer bother him
- The Sevilla centre-back has been one of the best defenders in LaLiga this season
- A ball-playing defender, his ability to step into midfield would enhance Chelsea
- He remains their top defensive target ahead of a summer of change in London
It was true last summer and it’s still true 12 months later – Jules Kounde would be the perfect fit for Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.
Former Chelsea favourite Gus Poyet said as much last year when asked about the player he coached at Bordeaux in the second half of the 2017-18 season.
Poyet, currently Greece coach, trying to guide them to Euro 2024 said: ‘Because of his pace and his power you can play a really high line. There are not many defenders who like to play really high up and have a lot of space behind but he doesn’t care about that because he’s confident that he can deal with it.
Sevilla star Jules Kounde has been brilliant this term despite being denied to leave last summer
The France defender was blocked a move to Chelsea after Sevilla rejected their transfer offers
‘He has an innate calm. You probably you cannot learn that. And if there is something you have to do with Jules – and usually you have to do the opposite; normally you have to push players to go forward – but with Jules you have to stop him sometimes because he loves to participate in the game so much. But he has got the quality to do it!’
Kounde honed his ball-playing talents under Poyet requesting extra sessions with the former Uruguayan international so that he could improve his ability to come into midfield and not just play easy balls on his side of the pitch but spectacular crossfield passes to switch the play.
Kounde’s ability to play like a midfielder when needed is something Sevilla use as alternative when they are struggling to break down teams. His arrivals from deep as the extra man in the attack are difficult to deal with. He can also play at right back.
And his attacking extras are not to cover defensive shortcomings. First and foremost he is a defender and one who is robust enough to cope with the Premier League. He may not have the silhouette of his defensive partner Diego Carlos but he rarely gets bullied or out-jumped.
Naturally a ball-playing centre back, Kounde has once again been of LaLiga’s best defenders
Poyet says: ‘I don’t want to compare him with anyone because he is still young but we can go to the [Fabio] Cannavaro and [Roberto] Ayala examples. That kind of defender who looks small but they win every ball in the air.
‘When you meet Jules and you know he’s a centre-half your first reaction is: “oh, he’s not over six foot”. But then you see him training and you see him jumping and you see him competing and you say: “It’s not an issue”.’
Chelsea made him their number one defensive target last season but Sevilla held out for more money and he stayed. Keeping players for one more season rarely works out brilliantly for the team doing the holding on but Kounde’s attitude has been faultless since he stayed and although he hasn’t had his best season, he’s so good that even in a slightly below-par campaign he has been one LaLiga’s finest central defenders and part of the reason why Sevilla have the best defensive record in the division.
Speaking to Sportsmail earlier his season Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui spoke about Sevilla’s capacity to turn big money down for their players. After Chelsea were rebuffed in the summer, the club also said no to Newcastle when they came for Kounde’s defensive partner Diego Carlos.
Kounde is part of the reason why Sevilla have the best defensive record in LaLiga this season
‘Players understand that their best guarantee of continuing to advance in this profession is to keep performing well in the club they are at; the club that invested in them at a time when they were not as well known and continues to invest in them,’ he said explaining why most carry on performing despite the missed opportunity to earn more in Diego Carlos’ case, and compete for more in Kounde’s case.
‘Sometimes it’s not easy,’ Lopetegui admitted. ‘But they are in a very good team where they are liked and respected and the best way for them to defend and further their careers is to keep performing well.’
Kounde ended the season well and his injury-time equaliser against Villarreal earlier this month means they go into the last game of the season this Sunday already with Champions League football assured.
It’s true too that while Sevilla did not push on this season after keeping Kounde – another Champions League finish is admirable but they wanted another trophy or a title challenge – he remains a player they will sell for far more than they paid for him when he arrived from Poyet’s Bordeaux three years ago. And as was the case 12 months before, Chelsea will be getting one of the best young defenders in Europe.
He was on target at Villarreal earlier this month to secure Champions League football again
Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel will be hoping he can call upon Kounde’s services for next season