Jules Kounde is on the path to enjoy a highly successful career at a world class club, of that there is barely little doubt.
The France defender has long been admired by many of Europe’s biggest sides, with interest from Real Madrid, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in the past year alone.
However, this summer it appears Manchester United are perhaps edging closer to bringing Sevilla’s star centre-back to Old Trafford in a surprise swoop.
In demand Jules Kounde has emerged as a surprise transfer target for Manchester United
Solskjaer will be keen to add reinforcements to his defence before the start of the season
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is already preparing another LaLiga raid for Raphael Varane from Real and could be tempted to switching his formation to a three-man defence which would consist of Varane, Kounde and club captain Harry Maguire.
While much is known about England star Maguire and the experienced Varane, Kounde at just 22-years-old is still only potential – albeit he has displayed plenty of talent already to show he could become a world class defender.
Kounde’s abilities tick many boxes that Solskjaer’s side are currently lacking and he could hold the key pieces the Red Devils need to launch their first serious bid for the Premier League title since they last won it in 2013 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
One immediate benefit is that just by bringing Kounde to Old Trafford, Solskjaer would be getting two for the price of one.
Despite standing at 5ft 8in, Kounde carries a strong aerial threat in both penalty boxes
The centre-back’s strength makes him a tricky opponent for many attackers, including Barcelona’s Lionel Messi (both pictured in October)
Not only does Kounde star as a centre-back but he is also very comfortable playing as a right sided full-back. This gives the United boss freedom to play with a potential three-man defence or even move Kounde out to the right should he look to replace/step-in for Aaron Wan Bissaka – or even switch his formation mid-match.
Although it wasn’t a position he played in much last year, he did feature at right-back during his only appearance at Euro 2020, playing the full 90 minutes alongside Varane in France’s 2-2 group stage draw with Portugal.
Kounde’s real selling point though is his all-round ability that marks him out as a modern day centre-back despite what would appear to be his concerning height of 5ft 8in – a disadvantage when trying to establish yourself aerially especially as a central defender.
However heading isn’t one of Kounde’s weaknesses. On the contrary, it’s one of his assets and it makes him a strong threat in either penalty box.
Kounde’s surprising aerial strength sees him overcome his height disadvantage with his explosive leaping ability working in tandem with his excellent reading of the ball flight and timing to jump to make him a strong aerial battler.
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
While at Bordeaux in 2018 he spoke of his aerial skill, saying: ‘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 defence. Size is just a detail for me, it’s a very small aspect of the game and the job.’
Kounde’s defensive pursuits from largely the right side see him adopt a more aggressive measure given his strength in challenging opponents and while this can help tame a striker it also sees him run the risk of giving away fouls.
It’s on the ball where Kounde could impress United supporters though, with his range of passing and confidence to dribble making his technical ability not far away that of a central midfielder.
Kounde has an excellent passing range, and diagonal long balls from inside his own half to pick out attacking team-mates much further up the pitch are a staple of his game.
In addition though he can also bring the ball out of defence to start an attack, in effect moving into the midfield.
However, Kounde (centre) played at right-back for France at Euro 2020 in a draw with Portugal
Kounde celebrates winning the 2020 Europa League after defeating Inter Milan in the final
This brings an element of risk in leaving him out of position, which Solskjaer would need to cater for, but it does help open up midfield options – a trait that will no doubt please United fans baying for attacking football.
It allows the 22-year-old to not only try and spot a potential pass, but he also has the ability and confidence to take on opposition players.
Kounde missed only four LaLiga games last term, mainly playing in a centre-back partnership alongside Diego Carlos, with Jesus Navas lining up as right-back.
He was influential towards their comfortable finish inside the top four to secure Champions League football following a positive 2019-20 campaign where he won the Europa League.
Such has been Kounde’s impact since joining Sevilla in 2019 from Bordeaux, United may be expected to pay nearly €20m more than the €25m Sevilla managed to purchase him for, with a fee expected to be in the ballpark of at least £39m – although reports claim this could rise to beyond £50m.
Sevilla are reluctant to lose Kounde, who is under contract until 2024, but they are bracing themselves for offers for the 22-year-old before the close of the transfer window.