Man Utd back in for La Liga star amid doubts over underperforming duo
Manchester United are back in the mix to sign Sevilla defender Jules Kounde after he missed out on a transfer to Chelsea in the summer, according to reports.
Kounde is one of the most in-demand centre-backs across Europe. Soon to turn 23, he has already built up plenty of experience but still has room for further growth. After joining Sevilla from Bordeaux in 2019, he has made 102 appearances for the club.
The pinnacle so far for Kounde was winning the Europa League with Sevilla at the end of his debut season in Spain. He has been of Champions League level ever since and a feeling remains that he can step up to a bigger club.
Sevilla have sold on many talents for good profits in recent years and Kounde may be the next in line. However, they won’t let him go easily.
Chelsea thought they were close to signing the Frenchman in the summer. Unfortunately for them, Sevilla raised the asking price late on. Ultimately, Kounde’s time in Seville extended into a third season.
But that third season may be interrupted half way through. According to AS, fears are growing at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan that Kounde could leave in January.
Sevilla are still seeking his €80m release clause to be paid in full. But they are concerned that there are clubs capable of activating it – and Man Utd are among the primary contenders.
The report claims that United are yet to see the best of summer signing Raphael Varane, another Frenchman with La Liga experience. He has had a few injury issues since joining from Real Madrid.
In addition, captain Harry Maguire has lost some form recently – perhaps as a consequence of not being at full fitness – and there are now doubts over him.
Defence is such a concern for United that they have actually conceded the same number of goals in the Premier League this season as Burnley, who are in the relegation zone after 11 games.
A signing may be required to help shore things up and that’s where AS think Kounde could come in.
United are “monitoring” the 2021 UEFA Nations League winner, the report reveals. Sevilla think it would be “impossible” to keep Kounde beyond this season and are even bracing themselves for a January bid.
If United can meet the €80m exit clause in his contract, Sevilla will have no choice but to let him talk to the Red Devils.
Interestingly, Kounde has experience playing in either a back four or a back three. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been switching between the two systems in recent weeks, but the potential new recruit would be comfortable in either.
Any move for Kounde, in turn, would further decrease the chances of backups like Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly.
Chelsea stepping back from Kounde
And United may have a clearer run at Kounde than they may have expected. Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel recently hinted that his side may step back from their pursuit due to the emergence of Trevoh Chalobah.
“I think every transfer period you need to evaluate again because you cannot say what we wanted in the summer we do in the winter or the next summer. It is not like this,” Tuchel said.
“Your opinion changes, players change, you have evolvement in the group. You have atmosphere that you build, you see who is absolutely reliable and these connections build up and create something special, hopefully, in the group.
“So you cannot say what we tried in the summer did not happen so we will try again for sure in the winter. Sometimes it is like this if we see the same need, but clearly Trevoh is now here with us and he deserves to be here with us. It had nothing to do with if we can sign another central defender or not.
“But he stepped up. The responsibility was even more on his shoulders and he can handle it so far in a very impressive way. This is the situation and it has an effect on our next decisions in the next transfer period. It is always like this.”
Man Utd will therefore be hoping to do what Chelsea could not, by agreeing a deal for Kounde in 2022. But if they can’t do that, they will hope to find a different solution in the way the Blues have.