Chelsea and Sevilla remain in contact for €80 million-rated Jules Kounde, but is it worth spending that kind of money on the French centre-back?
Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League trophy back in May, as Thomas Tuchel revived a team full of stars and tuned it perfectly enough over half-a-season to lead the Blues to only their second success in Europe’s most coveted competition. But the real challenge comes now for the German tactician and his merry brigade.
Since 2016/17, Chelsea haven’t tasted glory in the Premier League, having always playing catch-up with Liverpool or Manchester City in this period. The dominance of the two clubs, mostly the latter, has been consistent and could continue into the next season. However, Chelsea’s performance in the transfer window will truly determine their title credentials.
Tuchel wants to get rid of players he does not fancy. Olivier Giroud has already left, and the club are desperate to move on Tammy Abraham to free up space in the squad. They seem ready to spend big on Erling Haaland this window, who would potentially cost them €175 million.
A top-striker is necessary after scoring only 58 times compared to Champions Man City’s 83 league goals. The Premier League champions, meanwhile, conceded 32, while the Blues shipped in 36, which is not particularly concerning. It’s not a bad return considering City were the best defensive team in the league. However, to solidify their backline next season, they would need a top-rated centre-back.
A number of defenders have been linked with a move to Stamford Bridge over the past weeks, but Chelsea seem to have narrowed in on Jules Kounde, with Sevilla demanding Chelsea cough up the Frenchman’s €80 million release clause. Is the Frenchman worth that money? THT analyses whether Chelsea should pay his release clause and if he fits into Tuchel’s system at Stamford Bridge.
Do Chelsea need Jules Kounde?
Kounde has played 89 times for Sevilla so far, mostly in a back-four, partnering with Diego Carlos regularly. However, no one can argue his importance to their defence, although at Chelsea, the system is different.
Chelsea’s slight interest in Ben White earlier in the summer could be justified, as the new Arsenal centre-back fitted Tuchel’s preferred back-three. But their interest in Kounde could be slightly puzzling, considering the number of players already available at the club.
Cesar Azpilicueta had been Tuchel’s preferred choice on the right side of the three-man defence. Kurt Zouma or Andreas Christensen are other available options, while Reece James also played occasionally there. Thiago Silva occupies the central berth in the three, with Antonio Rudiger firmly established on the left side of the defence.
Staying with current options, Christensen and Zouma have provided a good enough outlet when required, while Azpilicueta has done nothing to suggest the right side might be a source of weakness. Could it be that Tuchel wants the Spaniard and James to battle for a right-back/wing-back position and pit Kounde on the right side of the central defence? Zouma looks like the fall guy to make way.
Meanwhile, Christensen could compete directly with Silva for the central berth, although he could be the primary cover for all three defensive spots. The Danish star has experience playing for the club, is considered valuable by the club and remains rated by Tuchel.
Nonetheless, given Azpilicueta and Silva’s age Kounde could be a valuable addition to Chelsea, especially to strengthen the right side of the back three. The Frenchman has speed and agility to his game and should complement James better than Azpilicueta on their side. Overall, the Sevilla centre-back will be a good addition considering he also chips in with valuable goals and assists from time to time.
Could Chelsea afford Kounde?
Chelsea have a bloated squad heading into the new season, and Tuchel needs to trim his team to optimal numbers to accommodate new faces. The club is actively looking to offload many fringe players alongside big-name stars such as Zouma and Abraham. The Blues are hoping they get top value for these players and part-fund the big-name targets on their wishlist.
In the scenario that Chelsea do agree to pay the €80 million release clause on Kounde’s contract, they will surely have to fund the money from player sales. While Zouma will have good value among English sides, Abraham is reportedly worth £40 million. Other players like Ross Barkley, Danny Drinkwater, Emerson, Zappacosta and Michy Batshuyi will fetch decent fees too.
Chelsea’s primary target in the summer remains a top-class striker, and Erling Haaland is their desired name. The Norwegian will cost nearly €175 million, a price tag that even surprised the Dortmund striker recently. However, the club could find resources if they have to pay a high fee for Kounde in the coming weeks; Chelsea have deep pockets to find a solution.
Is Kounde worth €80 million?
The big question though, is Kounde worth the massive release clause amount?
Simply put, the French defender is highly rated but surely not worth €80 million. Transfermarkt projects his value around €60 million, and that is how much Chelsea should be willing to pay. The Blues have gained a reputation to pay over the odds on players, who may not represent the value. Kepa Arrizabalaga is a prime example of that. The club made a massive mistake paying a huge release clause in his contract and are stuck with him for another four years.
The Frenchman has developed into a promising centre-back playing for Sevilla, who clinched him off Bordeaux, paying over €25 million. Alongside Diego Carlos, Kounde has formed a solid partnership in a back four, winning the Europa League back in 2019-20.
Earlier in this window, Tottenham explored bringing Kounde to North London and offered Davinson Sanchez plus a reported €30 million in cash and Sevilla showed positive signs towards accepting the offer, before the French star declined a move to Spurs, citing problems with their ambitions. So one is forced to wonder based on the alleged deal whether Sanchez is worth €50 million, or if Kounde is not worth €80 million.
Chelsea tried their hand at a similar deal, offering Kurt Zouma in part exchange. Sevilla showed no interest in the player, demanding the Blues pay Kounde’s release clause in full. It would still reportedly take €45 million even if Zouma is included.
Alternatively, Chelsea could sell Zouma to English clubs and get a reasonable transfer fee in return, rather than undervaluing his potential by sending him to Sevilla for Kounde. Moreover, there could be a potential ‘Real Madrid’ problem with Kounde, as the Frenchman harbours hopes of moving to Real Madrid, although they are yet to come knocking on the door, despite their sale of Raphael Varane.
There’s the off chance that next season if Madrid’s interest resurfaces, the Frenchman could want to jump at the opportunity. It would put the Blues in a difficult situation to shift a player costly player and profit. Irrespective of that scenario, Chelsea will have to negotiate their way down to a figure similar to what Arsenal paid Brighton for Ben White recently rather than shelling out €80 million.
Chelsea will look past wants and needs in their pursuit of Kounde. The club are thinking straight; if a player like the Frenchman will make their team better, they want him. The same thinking is behind their pursuit of Haaland, and they certainly are not worried about paying huge transfer fees.
Kounde will certainly provide a different dimension to the Chelsea team with his arrival. His style of play, speed and young age could see him develop into one of the Premier League’s top defenders in the coming years. If the relationship goes sour, Kounde will have a great resale value, but he could be a great asset for the club’s future. Irrespective of those factors, Kounde is not worth paying €80 million for.