CHELSEA and Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde.
The 22-year-old has already achieved plenty in his career but is determined go further, believing he can ‘become more than a footballer’.
Kounde was born in Paris but raised in a small village near Bordeaux, a port city on the south-west coast of France.
The future defender was a good student in school, although his passion was football – joining his local village team Fraternelle de Landiras aged five.
Speaking about his love for the sport to French magazine Onze Mondial in February 2020, Kounde said: “Naturally, I’ve always liked it.
“It’s a bit cliche what I’m going to tell you, but I’ve always had a ball by my feet.”
After spending time at three local clubs, Kounde was recruited by six-time French champions Bordeaux in 2013 as an U15.
His journey to the academy was tough, not being selected two years earlier and missing the final round of trials with an injury when his time came.
Kounde was fortunately spotted by ex-France international Yannick Stopyra, part of the squad that finished third at the World Cup in 1986.
You won’t find anyone to speak ill of him. Discreet, kind, always positive: it is unanimous in Bordeaux.
Yannick Stopyra, Academy Coach
Stopyra recognised the teenager’s obvious quality and offered him a one-year contract – and although he was late to the party, he soon became one of the academy’s stand-out players.
Kounde captained the youth team to the U19 title, convincing first-team manager Jocelyn Gourvennec to give him his Ligue 1 debut against Troyes in January 2018.
The centre-back, who can also play at right-back, made an immediate impact – keeping a clean sheet to help Bordeaux win 1-0 and end a run of four consecutive defeats.
Although Gourvennec was sacked just days later, his successor – ex-Chelsea midfielder Gus Poyet – was willing to give Kounde a run in the team.
The teenager went on to make 18 league appearances, dragging the team to a sixth-place finish and Europa League qualification.
Within five years, Kounde had gone from being an academy reject to a France U18 international and a Bordeaux regular.
His early success was just the tip of the iceberg, though, as another stellar season in Ligue 1 persuaded one of Spain’s European regulars to invest.
Although Bordeaux finished 14th, Kounde made 51 appearances in all competitions to prove he could consistently perform at top-flight level.
That was enough for Sevilla to splash out a reported €25million, around £21m, for his services – with the player signing a five-year deal.
He has the quality – and he can play for great European clubs.
Diego Carlos, Sevilla Team-mate
Discussing the move with Onze Mondial, Kounde said: “When I left Bordeaux, it was a well-considered choice.
“Sevilla was the perfect club to take a step forward. And then, I felt that LaLiga was more serious than Ligue 1… It was the right time for me.”
And Kounde quickly established himself, making 29 league appearances to help Sevilla finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League.
But an even bigger prize was just on the horizon.
Sevilla travelled to Germany in August 2020 to complete their Europa League campaign, delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The LaLiga side were not regarded as one of the favourites – but wins against Roma, Wolves, Manchester United United and Inter Milan secured a record sixth title and Kounde’s first major honour.
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The Frenchman was crucial to Sevilla’s success, earning a place in the Europa League Squad of the Season and reportedly impressing Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
A move to the Etihad looked likely during the summer but City couldn’t agree a fee – and the Premier League team signed Ruben Dias instead.
Discussing the failed transfer with Canal Football Club via Get French Football News in November 2020, Kounde said: “I spoke with Guardiola, I had him on the phone, it went very well.
“We had a discussion… I was interested in going it was a super opportunity, I had guarantees around playing, but it wasn’t done.”
But the player wasn’t deterred by the saga, adding: “It shows what they think of me, that I work hard and can improve.”
Kounde got back to work, helping Sevilla finish fourth again and reach the knockout stages of the Champions League last term.
His consistent form saw him included in France’s squad for Euro 2020, a significant achievement considering the quality available to manager Didier Deschamps.
Although Kounde failed to flourish as France suffered a shock defeat to Switzerland, his stock wasn’t damaged – and he continues to be linked with the biggest clubs in Europe.
United are thought to be keen on bringing the defender to Old Trafford and rumours suggest Chelsea are closing in on his signature.
Arsenal and Tottenham have also been linked with the Frenchman, although neither side can offer him Champions League football.
He’s had a great season with Sevilla.
Didier Deschamps, France Managaer
And Kounde won’t shy away from playing for one of Europe’s elite when the opportunity comes, telling the press in May: “I will perhaps have to change clubs this summer.
“But nothing has been finalised yet, I have not decided anything. My goal is to play at a big club to try to always progress and to win trophies.”
And the player doesn’t just want to achieve success on the pitch, he wants to use his growing profile to help change the world for the better.
Kounde told Onze Mondial: “I want to be more than just a footballer.
“I just want to be myself and be able to say what I want, what I think and express my opinions without claiming anything.
“I want to be a great player for myself first of all – and if my notoriety can be used to defend of help causes that are not highlighted enough, that would be perfect.”
With Europa League success, international recognition and England’s biggest clubs interested, Kounde has the footballing world at his feet.
What will happen this summer, if anything, remains to be seen – but expect the youngster to have a big impact on and off the pitch during the coming years.
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