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Chelsea and Man United are in a tug of war over Jules Kounde but which club would be a better fit?

Chelsea and Manchester United are on a quest to level up at the back – and they could do far worse than Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, the talented French defender whom both clubs are currently in the hunt for. 

The Blues have made the first move for the 22-year-old centre back, with Kurt Zouma being discussed as a makeweight in the deal, but it won’t be an easy transfer to complete with the LaLiga side keen to have his £68.4million release clause paid.

Kounde has been one of the standout defenders in the Spanish top flight for the last two years and also featured in the France squad at Euro 2020 this summer. A move to the Premier League will take his profile up another notch but there will be two things he’ll want to prioritise – regular action and Champions League football.

Sevilla and France defender Jules Kounde could be off to the Premier League this summer

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is keen to take Kounde to Stamford Bridge

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also an admirer

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel (left) and United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are both keen

Both the Blues and the Red Devils can promise the latter, but it’s fair to say his chance of minutes at United is not guaranteed with boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also on the verge of signing his countryman and Real Madrid star Raphael Varane.

So heading to Old Trafford would give himself a challenge as he would have to compete alongside Varane and skipper Harry Maguire. Solskjaer usually deploys a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 but has played with a back three in the past, so Kounde’s signing could force him to switch up his system.

He has all the hallmarks of a Man United defender – strong and confident on the ball while also being tenacious in the tackle, while his versatility will be another factor Solskjaer is after. 

He can play comfortably at right back too, making him an option to come in for Aaron Wan-Bissaka if needed.

The centre-back has all the hallmarks of a United defender, including his strength and tenacity

The centre-back has all the hallmarks of a United defender, including his strength and tenacity

Kounde is mainly comfortable on the right side of a centre-back pairing playing for Sevilla, as evidenced by this SofaScore graphic from his 2020-21 season at the Spanish side

Kounde is mainly comfortable on the right side of a centre-back pairing playing for Sevilla, as evidenced by this SofaScore graphic from his 2020-21 season at the Spanish side

What’s clear is that United are in desperate need of stronger depth in defence, with fans often frustrated with Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly – who both started the Europa League final defeat to Villarreal in the summer.

United have lacked a duo of world-class centre-backs since the days of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, and while signing Kounde isn’t an absolute must, it would present Solskjaer with three top-tier options with Varane set to arrive too.

Forgotten defender Phil Jones is reportedly set to leave Old Trafford on a free transfer this summer, which would clear up some space on the wage bill for arrivals.

He would likely have to battle countryman Raphael Varane for a spot in United's team

Harry Maguire would also provide stern competition for a starting position

He would have to battle with Raphael Varane (left) and Harry Maguire for a place in the team

The Red Devils are hoping to become a complete force next season and challenge for the Premier League title, with Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho coming in to bolster the attack – and Kounde would certainly add to the threat going forward due to his ability to play out from the back and pick out team-mates with diagonal long passes.

But United will have to engage in a tug of war with Chelsea if they are serious about snapping up Kounde, and the Blues appear particularly keen to add him to their ranks at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea have already begun a dialogue with Sevilla, whereas the player is merely on United’s shortlist for now, with officials holding reservations about his smaller frame at 5ft 11in. So it seems Chelsea have the edge in the transfer battle – while their status as Champions of Europe will also go a long way to swaying Kounde.

At Chelsea, however, there are places up for grabs, with Kurt Zouma (left) potentially a tempting makeweight in a deal with Sevilla

At Chelsea, however, there are places up for grabs, with Kurt Zouma (left) potentially a tempting makeweight in a deal with Sevilla

Like United, Chelsea are also looking for strength in depth at both centre-back and right-back, meaning Kounde would also fit the bill – and coach Thomas Tuchel’s options in defence are less untouchable.

Veteran defender Thiago Silva proved he can still cut it at the top level after making 34 appearances last season, but with the Brazilian set to turn 37 in September, you can bet the German would like a fresher face with a bit more pace to come in and add to his roster.

The defence has arguably been the foundation of Tuchel’s work since replacing Frank Lampard in January, revitalising the career of Antonio Rudiger after being previously frozen out, while Cesar Azpilicueta has been as solid as ever.

Tuchel is looking to level up his defence as he bids to claim the Premier League title this term

Tuchel is looking to level up his defence as he bids to claim the Premier League title this term

But signing Kounde would add further steel to the back line and give Tuchel a pleasant puzzle to solve – whereas at United Solskjaer could very well be forced to leave out a big name.

And Tuchel’s preference to play with a back three means there would be more opportunities for Kounde to snap up a first-team spot – and he can also switch to the right flank to cover for Reece James. Azpilicueta had been the second-choice option at wing back but Kounde’s presence would mean he could focus on playing centrally. 

The only main concern might be that Kounde would have to adapt to playing in a back three, having primarily been deployed in a 4-2-3-1 at Sevilla.

Chelsea boast plenty of different options at centre-back, including Andreas Christensen and Zouma, but Tuchel will be looking for a defender who can nail down a spot as an indispensible member of the team. 

Kounde has already had a taster of success in Spain and will want to continue that trend

Kounde has already had a taster of success in Spain and will want to continue that trend 

The former PSG boss will be a huge fan of his passing ability – integral for the way Chelsea currently play under his leadership – while his positioning and strength on the ball will add to an already sturdy unit protecting the solid Edouard Mendy in goal. 

And if it’s trophies Kounde is after, he need look no further than Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea overcame a slow start to the campaign to win the Champions League final against Manchester City last term, and have won four cups in four seasons. Kounde already had a taste of success after winning the Europa League in 2019-20 – beating United along the way.

The Red Devils have not won a trophy since 2016-17 after their heartbreak in last season’s final, with Solskjaer still waiting for his first piece of silverware as boss. 

With the signings of Varane, Sancho and Kounde himself, they have a much better chance of going better this time around, but the youngster will know that success is there for the taking with Chelsea.

Chelsea looks like the best natural fit, where is he most guaranteed regular game time

Chelsea looks like the best natural fit, where is he most guaranteed regular game time 

VERDICT

Kounde would slot straight into Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea line-up and having made their interest in the Frenchman crystal clear by starting talks quickly, the player will feel important and valued.

With three possible slots to take in the German’s back line, Kounde would feel confident of nailing down a regular spot in the team, while adapting to Chelsea’s style of play should be no problem due to his confidence on the ball, even if he has to adjust to a back three.

While his attributes are all tailor made for United, Solskjaer would arguably be better off playing a back four and keeping Maguire and Varane as his first-choice centre-backs, as Kounde wouldn’t be happy to play second fiddle.

With Kieran Trippier targeted by United too, it further lessens Kounde’s prospects of filling in at right back, while Chelsea are in need of cover in that area.  

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