Every summer there seems to be one position in particular that all the top clubs want to bolster, meaning targets are few and far between.
This season that position seems set to be central defence once again. We’ve already seen Dayot Upamecano seal a move to Bayern Munich, with the reigning European champions moving swiftly and early to beat off competition from the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United for his signature.
David Alaba has confirmed he will be leaving the Bundesliga side after 13 years with them, with a move to Real Madrid, Chelsea or Paris Saint-Germain looking the most likely for the Austria international.
That leaves the slim pot of potential targets even thinner, but top of most team’s lists will now be Sevilla’s Jules Kounde.
The 22-year-old has become one of the most sought after young defenders in Europe following a string of highly impressive performances over the course of the last 18 months. He was a key figure in the side that saw the La Liga side claim a spot in the Champions League places domestically and won the Europa League, while he’s adopted a more senior role in the side this year to get them to the knockout stages.
Dominant aerially, quick on the ground, excellent in one-on-one situations and very good positionally, Kounde seems to have all the tools to become a top level centre-back. At such a young age too, the fact he has taken a role of seniority and authority is a big plus for top clubs looking to make an investment.
When you look across the top clubs, he would be able to slot in to all of them almost immediately without many issues.
Real Madrid look set to lose Sergio Ramos this summer and if he does stay they could lose Raphael Varane instead, who has only a year remaining on his contract once the summer arrives. While they are severely struggling for cash, they always seem to find the money somewhere if they need to make signings and Kounde’s release clause of €80million means the fee is set at a maximum.
Kounde would be able to come in and play alongside either Ramos or Varane and they wouldn’t see a huge drop off in quality, although they would likely prefer to keep hold of both and spend the money on bringing Kylian Mbappe to the club.
Barcelona are in a similar spot right now, although their central defender options are considerably worse. Gerard Pique is way past his peak, while Samuel Umtiti is never fit. Clement Lenglet is just not that good while Oscar Mingueza and Ronald Araujo have shown promise since stepping up this season, although how good they are is still an unknown.
Again, Kounde would walk into the Barcelona side but with huge cash problems a move is probably unlikely to happen.
In England, the chances of a move are much higher. Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham would all be desperate to improve their defensive partnerships in the post-season and all have the money to be able to make a move happen potentially.
Champions League football will have a big say on who can attract which players and the likelihood is that no more than three of these sides will be in Europe’s premier competition next year.
Manchester United are the side that need him most and he should be their prime target. All the attributes that Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof lack, he has, while he also has some of their strengths too. His age is a big contributing factor also, with a clear room for improvement and an incredibly high ceiling.
While he’s not necessarily the best defender available this summer, with the likes of Ramos, Varane, Alaba and even someone like Kalidou Koulibaly potentially available too, but his upsides are so much more. The fee won’t be far from what selling clubs will want for those players, while his wages would be considerably lower than those.
He’s currently in a position in his career where he can make the transition from the secondary defender to the leader of the back line, in a similar way to Ruben Dias from Benfica to Man City. He has the ability to have that sort of impact at a club and as you’ve seen from the Portuguese defender’s debut season in the Premier League, that can be the difference between a race for top four and a title challenge.
Kounde is the man that everyone’s eyes are on right now and rightly so. You’ll be hearing his name plenty this summer, don’t be surprised to see him end up in England.