LaLiga’s Best Young Players Series: Jules Koundé at Sevilla
Written by Andrew Miller
As part of our new collaboration with scouting platform FIVEYARDS (@FIVE__YARDS on Twitter), we at La Liga Lowdown are delighted to bring you a new regular feature. Each week, we will introduce a public vote for followers to select their favourite young player for each LaLiga club. The winner of the Twitter poll will then be profiled on our site using FIVEYARDS data.
This week’s player comes courtesy of Andalusian giants Sevilla, by way of Bordeaux. Already looking like one of the bargain purchases of the last few years and a true rising star in Spanish football, your selection was French centre-back maestro Jules Koundé.
Undersized centre-backs will always be the subject of scrutinous questions in football. It’s the simple nature and design of the position, but Koundé is quickly breaking down those barriers. At 5’10”, the French under-21 international stands in stark contrast to his 6’2” Brazilian partner Diego Carlos in Julen Lopetegui’s back line, but what he lacks in size, he more than makes up with sheer skill and natural talent.
The Lowdown: Story and Stats
Joining Sevilla in 2019 for fee of around €25m, the Bordeaux youngster made an instant impact at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán. Koundé started in 25 of his 29 games during the 2019/20 season and despite being one of the shortest central defenders in the league, finished in the top 4 for percentage of aerial duels won at 74.5%.
His defensive maturity is only half the story, however. Koundé has the footwork and technical ability of a ball-playing midfielder. His intricate passing and ability to carry the ball forward has re-defined the way Sevilla play in recent months, and he even scored a wonderful solo goal in a recent 2-0 Copa del Rey win at home to Barcelona. The move started with Koundé deep in his own half bringing the ball out of defence with both composure and urgency, then exchanging passes with Suso before beating three Barça players with a slalom dribble and two more with the shot.
Julen Lopetegui’s masterstroke of freeing up the Frenchman to roam forward recently has opened up space for the wide players to stretch the field and utilise his ability to bypass the midfield completely with a long pass forward, which he’s completed 70% of in his two seasons in Spain so far. But it’s not only his ability to move the ball forward that’s opened up Sevilla’s attacking system.
Koundé’s ability to run with the ball at his feet provides a perfect balance with his central partner in Deigo Carlos. He ranks in the top 10 this season for progressive carrying distance at 2914 yards, a figure very close to last season’s total, but in 11 fewer games. As a comparison, to show how crucial the 22-year-old is to Sevilla, Koundé has the 10th-most touches in the entire league this season, with almost identical numbers to Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets.
A 72.2% successful tackle rate shows real maturity for the former Bordeaux defender in his timing and temperament, and that paired with a top-6 successful dribble percentage at 86.4% proves that Koundé is more than capable of winning the ball back and holding possession with his footwork.
Making a Name for Himself on the Big Stage
Koundé was already a highly-touted prospect at the time of his move to Sevilla, but the Frenchman’s development has been a breath of fresh air for the club as they continue to build upon recent European success. As one of the standout young players in LaLiga, a globally-renowned hotbed for scouts of Premier League clubs looking for the ‘next big thing’, Koundé is exactly where he needs to be to shine at this point in his career, playing alongside experienced internationals under a top managerial mind with a clearly defined role in the starting XI.
A Bright Future
Whether it’s continuing with Sevilla or moving on to another giant of European football, Jules Koundé’s career trajectory has no limit. Already an incredibly gifted and technical ball-playing centre-back with a sharp and keen defensive instinct, that elusive call-up to the senior France team appears to be getting closer and closer as the days go on.
Although not yet a finished product, Jules Koundé has the mentality and intelligence to excel at any level, even with the doubts over his height in a more “physical” league.
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