Just 12 months on from Chelsea’s eye-watering transfer splurge that saw Roman Abramovich shell out roughly £220m on five new signings, the Blues owner is on the verge of opening his chequebook once again.
Not only is Abramovich willing to pay as much as £150m for hotshot forward Erling Haaland, it’s recently been revealed Chelsea are in advanced talks for highly-rated Sevilla defender Jules Kounde.
Discussions with Sevilla are already ongoing – with personal terms understood to be practically agreed – though the La Liga outfit are keen to generate as close to Kounde’s €80m (£68m) release clause from the sale as possible.
Such an extortionate price tag would likely fend off interest from most teams, but given Chelsea’s history of big-money signings it seems likely an agreement will be reached at some point in the near future.
So, with Kounde potentially on his way to Stamford Bridge, what will the two-cap France international bring to Thomas Tuchel’s side?
First of all there’s the question of whether Kounde would fit in to Tuchel’s starting XI. The 22-year-old has formed a formidable partnership with Diego Carlos at Sevilla, yet Julen Lopetegui’s preference for a back four means Kounde hasn’t got a lot of experience in a back three – a system he’ll more than likely have to adapt to under Tuchel.
Despite not having much experience of playing in a back three, Kounde can play with both feet – despite being predominantly right footed – and can play on either side of a two-man centre-back partnership, so slotting into Chelsea’s system shouldn’t cause too much of a problem.
One of the most impressive facets of Kounde’s game – and more than likely the main reason Tuchel has taken such a keen interest in the youngster – is his ability with the ball at his feet.
Since Tuchel was appointed as Chelsea boss, Andreas Christensen has become a pivotal part of the Blues’ back line despite spending the majority of the first part of the 2020/21 season on the fringes of first-team action.
There are plenty of weaknesses to be exploited in the Denmark international’s game, though his ability to sit at the heart of defence and play out from the back has seen him become a key man in Tuchel’s side – Kounde can offer exactly the same.
The France international is as close to a complete centre-back as you’re likely to find, boasting pace, strength and a solid reading of the game.
The only thing you could possibly pick at if looking for a fault in his game is his relative lack of height, yet his impressive leap more than makes up for that and he won more headers (118, as per FBref) than any of his Sevilla teammates in the 2020/21 La Liga season.
Kounde has also proven himself capable of filling in in a number of positions across the back line since bursting onto the scene with Bordeaux four years ago – playing at full-back and wing-back at times – meaning he could be a decent utility option for Tuchel moving forward, though the Chelsea boss will obviously want to play him in his most comfortable role at centre-back where possible.
Should the Blues decide to splash out on the Sevilla man this summer, he’ll more than likely be a nailed on starter considering the money it will take to prise him away from the La Liga outfit.
However, given the fierce competition for places in the Chelsea defence – with Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi’s respective departures still leaving five senior centre-backs at the club if you factor in Cesar Azpilicueta – you’d be forgiven for asking yourself ‘do they actually need him?’.
It’s definitely a fair question to ask, but with the aforementioned Azpilicueta and in particular Thiago Silva entering the twilight of their respective careers, Kounde not only represents a great player for the present but he’s also a sound investment for the future.
Kounde is an excellent player who would probably slot seamlessly into most teams in Europe right now and if Chelsea can secure his signing they’ll be a force to be reckoned with next season.