La Liga

Jules Kounde is the centre-back every team should be targeting

Tom Gott
Jules Kounde is a wanted man
Jules Kounde is a wanted man / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The summer of 2021 could be all about centre-backs.

As we profiled recently, there are so many top-tier defenders who could be on the move this summer, with every top side across Europe seemingly interested in making at least one change to their back line before 2021/22 arrives.

Young centre-backs seem to be all the rage right now. The likes of Villarreal's Pau Torres and RB Leipzig duo Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate are thought to be on the radar of pretty much everyone, and with good reason. They're three of the best up-and-comers around.

Upamecano is expected to be on the move
Upamecano is expected to be on the move / Boris Streubel/Getty Images

However, there's one centre-back who should be right at the top of everyone's wish lists, and that's Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

The 22-year-old Frenchman is already one of the world's finest in his position, but he's just getting started.

A product of the Bordeaux youth academy, Kounde made his Ligue 1 debut in January 2018, helping his side plug a gaping hole in their defence almost immediately, and it soon became obvious that he was going places. He was far too good for a Bordeaux side who finished the 2018/19 season in 14th.

Sevilla recognised that, throwing just short of £23m at the Bordeaux to bring Kounde over to Spain, confident that the youngster was going to be the next French defender to break through. Aymeric Laporte and Raphael Varane both blossomed into stars in Spain, and Sevilla had no doubts that Kounde would be next.

Varane led the emergence of French defenders
Varane led the emergence of French defenders / Denis Doyle/Getty Images

That next-level experience has helped Kounde fine-tune his game. He's now a risk-averse, composed defender who has perfected the art of dispossessing opponents with very little effort.

Partnered with the oft-aggressive Diego Carlos, Kounde has learned how to be the responsible one, despite his young age. He does not lunge into tackles and is prepared to wait for the perfect moment to strike. It's risky, but Kounde's elite positional awareness makes everything so much easier than it could be.

While defenders his age are often guilty of being a little too overzealous in their attempts to recover the ball - Upamecano is the perfect example of a player whose recovery pace helps bail him out at times - Kounde has already developed that maturity, and that's what sets him apart from the rest.

Many others feel like somewhat of a work-in-progress, with the flaws that typically come with youth needing to be ironed out, but Kounde is already a step ahead. He's already figured it out.

With that maturity comes an ability to know how to pick the best moments to move forward. His positional awareness comes into play in all areas of the field, likely stemming from his youth career as a right-back, so Kounde knows how to be a genuine threat in attack when the time is right.

The man nicknamed 'Cafu' brought that eye for goal in the recent 2-0 win over Barcelona, embarking on a solo run of which the Brazilian legend would be proud, embarrassing Samuel Umtiti and firing home to give his side one foot in the Copa del Rey final.

Kounde's brilliance isn't exactly a secret. Sevilla were confident enough to break the bank for him in the first place, and they rejected a bid of close to £50m from Manchester City last summer. Real Madrid and Barcelona have been linked this time around. Scouts around Europe have taken note.

He'll be more expensive than Upamecano, whose £38m release clause is a bargain most teams can't afford to pass up on, but spending extra on somebody with elite-level status like Kounde should be a no-brainer.

He's as close to a guaranteed defensive fix as you're likely to find these days, and at 22, he's capable of saving any team for the next decade. If you can afford him, go get him.

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