With just over a month left in the 2021 summer transfer window, clubs have stepped up their efforts to get deals over the line ahead of the final weeks of the window when it becomes a frenzy of transfer activity. 

It is widely considered that the most serious clubs do their business early having identified their targets and quickly swooped in to confirm those deals. However, the three international tournaments this summer have slowed down the flow of business deals and even more so in this cloudy financial climate.

Nevertheless, European Champions Chelsea have kicked into life after a long period of inactivity regarding incomings this summer. While the desperate search for a striker has reached a cul-de-sac with top target Erling Haaland, the Blues have been busy behind the scenes with a deal almost in place for Jules Koundé.

Fabrizio Romano has suggested that personal terms for the defender have already been agreed and that he is set to sign a five-year deal in West London should Chelsea and Sevilla agree on a fee.

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The French international is one of the best young defenders currently in Europe and Sevilla rejected an offer from Manchester City last year, whilst Koundé reportedly rejected this summer’s approach from Tottenham, instead awaiting the call from a more prestigious club.

As Koundé looks set to bring an end to his two-year spell in Seville this summer, Football Castle provides the several qualities the Frenchman will add to Thomas Tuchel’s Chelsea.

Target Acquired

Although the attention all summer has been on acquiring a reliable goalscorer, Chelsea look set to secure their primary target in the central defensive position this transfer window.

Koundé is a prototype modern-day defender with his pace, strength, and ability to start quick attacks with excellent forward passing or a mazy run with the ball. A right-sided defender who can also slot into right fullback, he looks ideal to play in the right centre-back role which captain Cesar Azpilicueta excelled in at the end of last season.

The Paris-born player is not as tall and burly as a typical central defender, but he’s deceptively good aerially and is no slouch in the physical aspect. “Growing up, it was often said to me that my size could be a problem for managers,” Koundé told Foot Mercato not long after breaking into the Bordeaux first team in 2018. “It’s true that sometimes at my height you can’t always challenge in aerial duels but you can always manage the opponent.

“I’ve always had good timing, I like aerial duels and I jump relatively high, so that really helps. But my small size has never been a problem for me.”

In truth, Koundé won 3.56 aerial duels per 90 minutes in La Liga last season at a success rate of 63.8%. Those lessons will bode him well in England.

Jules Kounde
Kounde making one of many headed clearances last season. (Getty Images)

At Chelsea, he can handle the pressure in the air and elsewhere, too, having been Sevilla’s record signing in 2019 after a €25million arrival from Bordeaux. Koundé proved himself as he played a key role in Sevilla’s Europa League triumph in 2019/20.

Valuable step up in quality and ambitions

Having spectacularly led Chelsea to their second Champions League triumph in under six months in charge. Thomas Tuchel is aiming to win the Premier League next season, and he knows that requires strengthening the spine of his team into a rock-solid one that can last the distance over 38 matches.

Chelsea offering €30-35million and out-of-favour Kurt Zouma to sign Koundé is a brilliant piece of business in itself, and an astute one technically. 

Despite the outstanding revival that Antonio Rüdiger enjoyed last term, there are still doubts over whether the back-three alongside Thiago Silva and Azpilicueta can recreate that role in a marathon Premier League title bid, due to their advancing years.

That veteran backline with a combined age of 96 years will be adequately bolstered by Kounde’s youth and quality. Yet, the youngster would be delighted at the opportunity to learn alongside some of the finest defenders in Europe.

Tactically, Koundé would fit right into Tuchel’s system of aggressive pressing from his three centre-backs. Rüdiger was particularly encouraged to join in the press from midfield as well as step forward with the ball to advance the play last term, and Koundé’s qualities are tailor-made for that role on the other side. 

The 22-year-old is adept in possession and completed more dribbles per game than any other central defender in Europe’s top five leagues in 2020/21.

Koundé’s signing would be a significant upgrade on the options at Tuchel’s disposal since arriving at Stamford Bridge. It is an acquisition that should make them challengers on all fronts.

The first signing of the Thomas Tuchel era is a nod to Chelsea’s policy of the best young talents from their famous academy supplemented by the very best talents across the continent. And it looks set to begin a trail of incomings before the transfer window shuts. 

Indeed, given his tender years, Koundé can be a crucial Chelsea player for many years to come.

Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin
July 28, 2021
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Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin

Chief Editor of the Football Castle, Bolu Alabi-Hundeyin is a football junkie and writer of the beautiful game.

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