Scout Report: Jules Koundé
PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Jules Koundé?
Jules Koundé made his debut for Girondins de Bordeaux in January 2018. It was to be a month of upheaval for the club: within weeks of his debut, Koundé watched as the man who handed him that debut, Jocelyn Gourvennec, was sacked and replaced with Gus Poyet. That decision would result in the departure of club captain Jérémy Toulalan, who had tethered his future to Gourvennec and subsequently left a gap in the heart of the Bordeaux defence for Koundé to fill.
Though Bordeaux were languishing in the bottom half of the table when Poyet arrived, the club thrived under his command and Koundé did too, striking up a partnership with January arrival Pablo in the centre of defence. The club found some stability, and finished the season by qualifying for the Europa League.
Alas, controversy is never far away at Bordeaux. Amidst further boardroom unrest, Poyet was sacked at the beginning of the 2018/19 season for voicing his discontent at the club’s summer transfer business. Fortunately for Koundé, the managerial merry-go-round that followed did not affect his season as much as it did the club as a whole; that term the Paris native started 37 Ligue 1 games under three different coaches.
Bordeaux’s instability afforded club’s around Europe the perfect opportunity to swoop for the 21-year-old. Eventually, Sevilla broke their transfer record, signing Koundé for €25 million. He was not an immediate success on the pitch, though – in his second game, he gave away the penalty that would begin a capitulation at the hands of Eibar, but he nonetheless became an undisputed starter from then onwards. He formed a strong partnership with Diego Carlos, and the two became an integral part of an impressive rearguard that helped Sevilla qualify for the Champions League.
Jules Koundé's Style of Play
Standing at a relatively small 6’0”, Jules Koundé is a surprisingly dominant player in the air. Winning 74.5 percent of his aerial duels, as per StatsBomb data, he is currently Sevilla’s most aerially dominant player, despite being multiple inches shorter than team-mates Sergi Gómez and Diego Carlos.
Even with this context, teams still target him: Koundé is Sevilla’s most active defender in the air, facing 14 more aerial duels than Diego Carlos in 9.1 less 90s than the Brazilian over the course of the 2019/20 La Liga season.
Due to his stature, Koundé is unsurprisingly quicker and more agile than the majority of his peers, and has been used during his career as a right-back when required – representative of a growing trend amongst players of his profile across Europe. The 21-year-old’s speed is a key component of his game, and makes him a tough proposition for the attackers with the courage to attack him one-on-one.
Koundé’s speed and overall physical ability can help mask the mistakes that come with his relative inexperience. One such recurrence in his game is simply being caught positioned too high up the field. As much as it can be masked, this has been consistently punished during his time at both Sevilla and Bordeaux.
Part of this is by design though, as at both Bordeaux and Sevilla he has had an auxiliary role that tasks him with occasionally breaking forward into the penalty area when opportunities arise. However, this has yet to bear much fruit, as the Frenchman has scored just six times in over 100 appearances at senior club level.
Otherwise, his reading of the game is generally good, and has to be when partnered with a no-nonsense defender like Diego Carlos – who is the more active of the two. The pair seem tailor-made to partner each other, which is likely why they were both signed in the same summer to play in a demanding high-line under Julen Lopetegui.
Koundé compliments Carlos by tracking the off-ball runs that opposition players make behind him when he engages with an opposition forward on the ground; Carlos does likewise when Koundé is challenged in the air. In a high-press system this tandem is vital in ensuring turnovers and stopping the opposition from bypassing the press.
Sevilla conceded the third-fewest goals in La Liga last season, despite their cavalier approach to pressing and attacking – with the Franco-Brazilian partnership at the heart of their defence key to the club’s success. Though anybody would look small next to Diego Carlos, Koundé is no pushover. Stocky in stature, he has a willingness to get stuck into the nitty-gritty side of the game and can often be hard in the tackle, whether that be sliding or standing.
On the ball, the central defender possesses a varied arsenal of ball-progression techniques which has become more refined since his move to Andalucía. With Luuk de Jong leading the line, Koundé will often hit direct passes toward the Dutchman, accurately and at chest height to minimize the chance of De Jong’s marker winning the duel.
As alluded to previously, Koundé also has the pace to burst into midfield and open options further up the pitch. Although this does result in him getting tangled in the odd midfield skirmish, it is a valuable asset in varied build-up play and something that he should not be dissuaded from doing.
Forecasting Jules Koundé's Future Prospects
With the European Championships delayed a year, the short-term goal of Jules Koundé will be to make the France squad for next year’s tournament. Given the nation’s current options to partner Raphaël Varane are Kurt Zouma, Presnel Kimpembe and Clément Lenglet, Koundé will be in with a chance if he can build on his foundations from his first season in Seville.
Koundé is already being linked with Europe’s elite, with the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool rumoured as potential suitors. But for the first time in his career, he seems to have found some stability: he will be playing in the Champions League next season under a well-respected coach in Julen Lopetegui, who himself oversaw youth development in the Spanish national team setup.
Still just 21, he will ideally continue to develop at Sevilla and not rushed be into any career-defining decisions – he has over a decade of his football life in front of him, after all. Sevilla have proven to be a prime platform for which to launch a career and, if compatriot Lenglet’s trajectory is anything to go by, patience will see Koundé rise to the top.
Jules Koundé is a great athlete that plays much bigger than his height would suggest. He is strong in the air, quick across the ground and is rugged in challenges. He is also capable of playing at right-back.
Jules Koundé is a great all-rounder, but can still work on his ability to progress the ball in possession by taking more risks. Defensively, he needs to be careful not to be sucked into midfield too easily, vacating the space behind him.