The Barcelona colossus would be a “warrior” under Howe’s wing…
Newcastle United have joined the long line of suitors for Barcelona centre-back Jules Kounde, with the France international allegedly unhappy at Camp Nou despite winning LaLiga this season.
What’s the latest on Jules Kounde to Newcastle?
According to Spanish outlet AS (via Chronicle Live), Magpies manager Eddie Howe is an admirer of the dynamic defender and could look to commence a transfer bid in the coming weeks, with Barcelona asking for at least €75m (£65m) for his signature.
With reports that Kounde is disgruntled in Catalonia and seeks clarity over his future role under Xavi’s tutelage after spending the majority of the campaign at right-back, Newcastle could take advantage and entice the 24-year-old into a switch to the Premier League.
Chelsea looked poised to complete a deal for the defender last summer before he completed a £50m move to La Blaugrana, but now Newcastle could prise him away after offering a central role in the club’s ambitious sporting project.
How good is Jules Kounde?
The 5 foot 11 machine is a burgeoning force in European football and is a defender with genuine “world-class potential” – as lauded by talent scout Jacek Kulig – having played 38 matches across all competitions since joining Barca from Sevilla, scoring once and providing six assists.
The 19-cap Frenchman has clinched the LaLiga title to complement his Europa League success with The Red and Whites in 2019/20, but indeed played 21 matches at full-back as opposed to 17 at his preferred central deployment and could now be seeking a route out of Barcelona after just one season.
As per FBref, he ranks among the top 1% of central defenders across Europe’s top five leagues for rate of assists, the top 2% for shot-creating actions and the top 2% for progressive passes per 90, though it is important to remember that he has fluctuated between central and wide defensive positions this term.
Regardless, the £226k-per-week phenom is one of the best ball-playing defenders around and has been hailed as “sensational” by analyst Marcus Bring, with one tactical report once illustrating his agility and efficacy in contributing with crisp passing during offensive transitions.
Dubbed a “warrior” by Frank Leboeuf, the one-time Bordeaux prospect could be the perfect heir to Fabian Schar’s position in Howe’s Tyneside team.
Schar has been transformational for the Toon this season and has been integral in securing top four, starting 36 Premier League matches.
The 31-year-old is out of contract in one year however, and while technical director Dan Ashworth might be inclined to offer him a new deal, maintaining the ascension could warrant the arrival of a gem of Kounde’s ilk.
The £40k-per-week Newcastle titan ranks among the top 6% of positional peers over the past year for rate of assists, the top 2% for shot-creating actions and the top 9% for aerials won per 90, with a knack for contributing from an attacking standpoint that Kounde could replicate, as the evidence suggests.
With Newcastle seeking clarity over their future among Europe’s elite, Kounde would be a “simply awesome” addition, as also described by Kulig, and Howe must complete a swoop this summer.