If you haven’t taken notice of Sevilla centre-back Jules Koundé, it’s time you do.
In his debut season in Spain, the 22-year-old Frenchman was an integral part of Sevilla’s successful Europa League campaign and continued to impress in 2020/21, with Chelsea now closing in on his signature.
It’s time to pay close attention to Koundé, and here’s everything you need to know about him.
Despite being a centre-back by trade, Koundé has spent a fair bit of time out as a right-back, and his Sevilla teammates were so impressed with his skills out wide that they named him ‘Cafu’, after the iconic Brazilian defender.
“In training he takes the ball on the side, runs out and we shout: ‘There goes Cafu!'” centre-back partner Diego Carlos told ESPN.
“He goes and doesn’t come back, he advances until he finishes and scores. He’s a boy who can go back and forth, has a lot of strength and power in his legs.”
During an interview with Onze Mondial, Koundé confessed that he has never dealt well with defeat. When he was eight years old, he used to throw tantrums when his side lost and even ended up kicking his own mother in frustration.
He had to change teams because he couldn’t cope with losing and ended up having to see a psychiatrist to address his anger issues which, fortunately, are no longer a problem.
One look at Koundé’s Twitter account and you’ll see that the Frenchman is well aware that there is more to life than football.
Koundé prefers to use his influence to try to inspire change in the world, tackling various social, political and environmental issues to try and inspire change.
He takes inspiration from Nelson Mandela and also NBA star LeBron James, who uses his platform for the same reasons.
When you think of a typical centre-back, Koundé won’t often spring to mind because of his physicality. He stands at closer to 5’10, and it’s something that he is well aware will be seen as a problem.
“Growing up, it was often said to me that my size could be a problem for managers,” he told Foot Mercato. “I always tried to compensate with my technique, with how I play out from the back, it’s very important,” he said shortly after breaking into the Bordeaux first-team.
“It’s true that sometimes at my height you can’t always challenge in aerial duels but you can always manage the opponent. I’ve always had good timing, I like aerial duels and I jump relatively high, so that really helps. But my small size has never been a problem for me.”
Despite his slight frame, Koundé ended last season with one of the best records for aerial duels in La Liga. According to the player himself, that’s because opponents always underestimate him.
“I win more head-to-head duels than Sergio Ramos because the opponents don’t dare play long on Ramos,” Koundé explained. “They must say to themselves ‘It’s Jules Koundé, he’s not tall, we’re going to take him down in the air’.
“I am often targeted, I feel it. And sometimes, it is pointed out to me. After games, I am often told that. When I watch my matches again, I realise that I play a lot more aerial duels than the others. They say to themselves that it will be easier against Koundé, and that motivates me.”
Koundé relishes aerial battles, but one of his top attributes is his passing range. Bordeaux began to give him more influence towards the end of his time in France and Sevilla are rarely scared of asking him to kickstart their attacks.
He’s known for his love of a long pass, and he definitely has the quality to pull them off, but one concern for Koundé is that he does not yet have the required vision to make him a major threat.
He often misses good runs from his teammates, but that’s something which can be improved as he develops.
You can often tell a lot about a young player from which other stars they like to watch. For Koundé, his favourite player to watch is fellow Frenchman Raphaël Varane, but there are a few others he enjoys.
Koundé credits both Chelsea’s Thiago Silva and Paris Saint-Germain’s Sergio Ramos for helping him grow as a player, and he has always relished lining up opposite those players during his career – make of that what you will, Chelsea fans.