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Barcelona signing Jules Kounde forward of Chelsea is a coup for the membership and for LaLiga


As is usually true in the course of the ceremony when a club unveils its new signing, probably the most fascinating factor stated when Barcelona paraded Jules Kounde at their coaching floor on Monday wasn’t uttered by the participant. As an alternative, it was stated about him.

It got here when Mateu Alemany, Barcelona’s new director of soccer and “get-it-done” man who ensures the membership’s dealings at the moment are strong, clever and strategic, insisted on going again to the query as to why the €55 million defender wasn’t already a Chelsea participant. Alemany emphasised that he’d a number of occasions advised Kounde (through his agent Jonathan Kebe) that “… if you’d like issues sorted out shortly, then take a type of different huge gives you have acquired, however cease calling me as a result of I’ve acquired no information…”

Barca’s consultant was emphasising how brutally difficult it has been for the membership to barter the financial “levers,” with Sixth Avenue and, worth several hundred million euros, which have left the membership liquid and hungry to spend. He appeared out into the massed ranks of media to search out Kede, who was seated there with a few of Kounde’s household, and requested: “What was it, Jonathan? Did you telephone me each single day, or solely each two days, for the final two months?”

Alemany made crystal clear that Kounde had chosen Barcelona as his vacation spot over two months in the past and regardless of weeks of the membership being unable to offer him any hope or encouragement, the 23-year-old had stubbornly resisted Chelsea and waited patiently for the inexperienced mild from Camp Nou. Underneath regular circumstances, a France worldwide like Kounde would by now be a pillar of Chelsea’s rebuild following Roman Abramovich’s departure. However he wished to remain in LaLiga, he wished to affix Barcelona and, above all, he wished to play for Xavi.

In Kounde, the Catalan coach has grabbed a severely proficient defender who: is aware of LaLiga inside out; suits his new membership’s enjoying philosophy to perfection; can play in a couple of positions relying on formation; has damaged the pattern of younger, wonderful LaLiga footballers who’ve been unable to withstand the decision of the Premier league, and whose agent has solely simply accomplished a wonderful €80m deal to take Aurelien Tchouameni to Real Madrid.

It’s a win for the membership and the coach, but in addition for LaLiga. No success for one more Premier League predator this time.

I’ve met and interviewed Kounde a couple of occasions, and he’s fairly the character. For instance, it may not be a worldwide expression, however in the UK we grew up with “hard-men” footballers being described with the phrase “he’d slide deal with his grandmother if it helped his workforce win.”

Step ahead Kounde … nicely, practically. He is beforehand admitted to Onze Mundial in his native France: “My mum needed to put up with quite a bit once I went by a troublesome section as a child. My native workforce was a little bit of a catastrophe, we misplaced quite a bit, and I could not tolerate that. It drove me loopy and after a foul recreation, I might be a nightmare at residence. I might be in a foul temper all weekend: atrocious behaviour. I acquired into such a rage that I ended up kicking my poor mum.

“Finally she sought skilled recommendation and the physician advised her ‘do it again to him. If he kicks you, kick him again. He’ll quickly settle down!’ That interval did not final lengthy, nevertheless it wasn’t nice on the time.”

Today, Kounde is way from a hothead. Take word that regardless of being a quick, aggressive, “see-the-ball-win-the-ball” sort of participant, he is been booked a mere 26 occasions in 227 membership and worldwide matches. Few lunges and nearly zero dissent; his misjudgements are uncommon. That is a correctly outstanding stat. Nonetheless, Barcelona followers will recall that certainly one of his two crimson playing cards in Spain was for chucking the ball at Jordi Alba throughout a heated and really bodily 1-1 attract Sevilla, when the left-back elbowed and shoulder-barged him twice in brief succession.

It is a “rating” that ought to now be shortly sorted. Alba loves a gritty competitor… simply as long as they’re carrying the identical color shirt as him.

Kounde’s different crimson card? When Espanyol‘s Javi Puado man-handled and tugged him again 4 occasions over 15 metres and Kounde tried to push him off. It was a very comfortable expulsion, however on every event, it confirmed a bit remnant of the child who used to kick his mum’s shins.

The defender lastly determined that sufficient was sufficient at Sevilla again in April when Los Rojiblancos, 2-0 up on the break in opposition to eventual champions Madrid, collapsed to an ultra-dramatic 3-2 defeat in added time. Kounde hammered his workforce for having “tossed a superb first half within the bin” and criticised Sevilla’s “lack of character and persona” within the second half. Harsh phrases, even when correct, however career-changing. It was time to go.

This can be a man who is often serene, enjoyable, interested by life, multilingual and completely obsessive about music partly because of the dad he barely knew being a proficient drummer. “My mum purchased me a bit drum equipment that… how do I put it… was extra of a toy. I keep in mind spending a lot time with it. It drove my mum barely loopy as a result of it was actually noisy and I used to be continually enjoying it. I feel that this yr, or subsequent, I will begin taking piano classes as a result of my mom performed the piano and it is a stylish instrument.”

Do not be fooled by Kounde, although: he is cultured, however powerful, particularly if he detects below-par requirements or attitudes. It is a trait that was hammered into him. He is beforehand defined the place this demand got here from: “Becoming a member of Bordeaux [Kounde’s first senior club] was powerful at first — me being shy and withdrawn did not assist. My coach, Jean-Luc Dogon, labored actually exhausting to get me to open up and produce extra aggression to my recreation. I am actually grateful to him.”

Varied coaches at Bordeaux solid the man that Barcelona simply introduced in. “Jocelyn Gourvennec was a tough man,” stated Kounde. “I would miss one go whereas a teammate would miss two or three, however Gourvennec would come down on me like a ton of bricks and let the opposite man off. It felt very unfair on the time, nevertheless it positively left me with a powerful work ethic plus a willpower by no means to take my foot off the fuel.”

I used to be working for LaLiga TV with Chelsea, Uruguay and Actual Zaragoza legend Gustavo Poyet, himself a former Bordeaux coach, the day that Sevilla signed Kounde. Off-camera, Gus instantly advised me: “Improbable child, he simply likes to go for adventures up the pitch, however as long as he continues together with his angle and his willingness to defend in addition to assault, he’ll grow to be a wonderful participant.” He was proper.

Kounde remembers that spell: “Gustavo actually believed in me and gave me big confidence in my very own skills. He wished us to like every thing about soccer, to take dangers, play creatively and luxuriate in being a part of a gaggle. Perhaps one of the best coach I ever had!”

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What’s subsequent for Kounde is a interval of experimentation and, in a way, a survival of the fittest. Over their previous couple of matches, the 23-year-old hasn’t been an computerized alternative for Didier Deschamps’ good France facet, no less than not when Les Bleus play 4 on the again. However final yr, enjoying 90 minutes within the Nations League semifinal win over Belgium and last victory over Spain in a three-man again line, Kounde was Deschamps’ first alternative.

Xavi, theoretically, now has to decide on between Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia, Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen, Frenkie de Jong (assuming he stays, anyway) and Kounde over who begins at centre-back. It guarantees to be a battle royale simply to get a beginning place. Will it’s 4 on the again (so solely two central defenders)? Or is Xavi planning a 3-4-3 wherein Kounde profiles as the proper wing-back/centre-back amalgam demanded by that formation?

As soon as once more, this child’s path to success will rely nearly as a lot on his exhausting yards in France as it should his maturation at Sevilla.

“Breaking by, I used to be used at right-back once I’d beforehand at all times performed as a central defender,” he as soon as stated. “At first, I used to be a complete catastrophe. I keep in mind tortuous coaching periods practising crosses to the forwards, with me sending the ball in all places. I might find yourself crossing it behind them or making it too low or too excessive — it was catastrophic! I used to go residence completely depressing.”

Take word: he is solely given 4 assists throughout his whole membership profession, however he is scored 13 occasions.

Final time Barcelona signed a 20-something, music-loving, exuberantly proficient, right-sided defender from Sevilla and left Chelsea and not using a man they thought they’d satisfied to return to London, it was Dani Alves 16 years in the past. It is quite a bit to dwell as much as, however equally, it is one thing for Kounde to goal at. Doubt him in case you select, however get able to eat your phrases.

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