Name: Jules Koundé
Date of birth: Nov 12th, 1998
An adventurous and modern defender, Jules Koundé is proving that top centre-halves do not need to be stereotypical giants. The Frenchman’s confidence and composure on the ball has allowed Koundé to become one of the continents standout young defenders.
Whilst not measuring up to the 6 foot mark, his aerial ability makes him a commanding force in either penalty area. A proactive dribbler, Koundé has moulded a career by relieving pressure from his defensive partners and opening space in the middle third of the pitch. A competent long-range passer too, the Frenchman, on the surface, appears to be a jack of all trades.
Jules Koundé was born in Paris, France. Despite this, Koundé developed his game from a very young age more than 600km away in the small village of Landiras, a 40 minute car journey from the city of Bordeaux. Between the ages of 6 and 15 Koundé went through a number of youth level clubs: Fraternelle de Landiras, Cérons and La Brède FC. When 15, Koundé was signed by Bordeaux and entered their youth system.
The Frenchman’s height, just shy of 6 foot, is a characteristic which Koundé has always been determined not to become a barrier to his chances of becoming a top class centre-half.
Speaking in 2018 he said, “I have always tried to ignore the fact that size can be a barrier in this position. For many, especially recruiters, tall players are required in central defense. Size is just a detail for me, it’s a very small aspect of the game and the job.”
“My small size is therefore no problem for me. With the coach, we have a good relationship. He trusts me and gives me a lot of freedom, especially in the relaunch with the ball. We discuss a lot and that allows me to be efficient. In addition, with Pablo we have a good understanding on the ground.”
Adivina quién está de vuelta…
— Liga de Campeones (@LigadeCampeones) October 28, 2020
Koundé joined Sevilla in 2019 for a club-record fee of €25m. His height was again brought up but Sporting Director Monchi was quick to highlight the Frenchman’s key talent. “He is not tall but he is good in the air, aggressive, is fast and has good ball movement.”
“The Paris-born centre-back has been immense alongside Diego Carlos for Sevilla. Strong in the air, Intelligent, technically gifted and capable of starting moves from defensive positions, he also possesses the ability to hit a cross-field pass. “Growing up, it was often said to me that my size could be a problem for managers. I always tried to compensate with my technique, with how I play out from the back,” he said after breaking into the first-team at Bordeaux.”
“For all the strengths in his game, playing in such a responsible role at the heart of the defence requires concentration and he can often be found wandering out of position.”
“Monchi confirmed that Sevilla rejected a bid from Manchester City in September 2020. Koundé and his representatives were pleased with the interest from City. Koundé’s agent Jonathan Kebe said. “It is a compliment that a club as important as Manchester City is interested in you. But Koundé is different. Despite his age, he’s a very mature person.””
A naturally right-sided centre-half, Koundé plays on the side of his stronger foot. His composure on the ball earned him the nickname ‘the quiet force’ whilst in Bordeaux. This is shown in the Frenchman’s use of the ball when in possession. Calm and collected, Kounde will venture with the ball in an attempt to open spaces and find passing lanes typically unavailable to centre-backs because of their reserved positioning.
From the above heat map, it is clear to see the extent to which Koundé ventures into the the opposition’s half. His confidence on the ball is not only in open spaces, the Frenchman can often take on opponents. Winning fouls or laying the ball off to teammates, his consistency with his use on the ball gives his coaches the confidence to allow it.
Koundé’s play can be risky, however, the reward for his side of relieving pressure and opening up spaces further forward can be invaluable.
The Frenchman’s passing ability also aids in relieving pressure on his side’s defence. Finding the runs of wingers is a forte of the 5 ft 11 defender, spotting player movement and executing cross-field and down-the-line lofted passes.
Defensively, Kounde is aggressive in pursuit of the ball which can lead to fouls. However, his stregnth and presence still allow the Frenchman to recover possession frequently to the benefit of his team. His aerial ability, despite his height, is also very good. The timing of his jumps, reading the flight of the ball and the spring in his accent combine to compensate for his lack of verticality.
His mobility, shown in the way he brings the ball out from the back, also allows him to deal well in 1 vs 1 situations. Covering advanced right-sided full-backs when caught out of position and remaining disciplined to cover the departed spaces.
Jules Koundé Twitter account: @jkeey4
This article was edited by Tom Canton.
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