Barcelona are still some way off being back to their best, but for as long as they’ve got Jules Kounde on the books, they’re firmly on the right track to return to the top of the mountain.
The French defender is not only one of the best young prospects in world football for his position, but he’s also a leading talent in the footballers pre-match fits department – an area that is not paid enough attention to within the beautiful game.
Seriously, the guy comes dripped out every single week. Limited edition or retro football shirts, jewellery galore or a designer piece that he’s taken straight from fashion week, he’s doing his best to ensure pre-match fits are given the same importance in football as they are over in NBA.
But while we massively appreciate his commitment to that, we’re gathered here today to talk about his footballing exploits, because he’s pretty bloody good at that, too.
Kounde is the epitome of the modern footballer, particularly the modern defender. Technically sound, immensely versatile and athletic, he’s a manager’s dream.
Crucially, though, he isn’t afraid to get ugly when it matters.
Sure, we can all appreciate the art of masterful positioning and defenders who prefer to be on the ball spraying passes like a quarterback. But when it comes down to brass tacks, what really matters is if your defender can produce last-ditch challenges that are as good as a goal at the other end.
Some can, some can’t. It’s a skill to be able to get ugly when it matters. Kounde not only possesses that skill, but he’s defying the laws of physics and somehow producing awe-inspiring, last-gasp challenges that look more aesthetically pleasing than ever.
Porto felt the wrath of his freakish abilities as Barcelona hung onto a Ferran Torres goal to snatch a 1-0 win away in Portugal in the Champions League, with a lot of that coming down to the 24-year-old blowing all of our minds in one slick sequence involving a mad dash and a tackle that looked like it was generated in a lab.
It’s so good that you actually need to watch it a few times to figure out where – and how on earth – he makes such a clean tackle.
You can almost feel how fuming poor Pepe is. Latches onto the end of a through ball and has a clear run at goal, not a defender in sight.
All he has to do is charge his way towards Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and wipe that smug, pristine new hairline off his forehead. But before he can, Kounde appears out of nowhere like a prime Randy Orton, and somehow sticks in a foot to poke the ball away from the attacker.
We’re still not actually sure how he recovered so much ground to the point where he didn’t even need to put in a crunching, beautifully ugly slide tackle in. He was so confident in himself that he managed to clear the ball – at just the right moment – with a standing challenge.
That is unmatched aura.
Kounde isn’t too cool for a bit of emotion afterwards, though. Nobody is. Celebrates his victory like a man possessed – and so he should.
After producing a tackle for the ages, one that wouldn’t look out of place in a CGI recreation, an almighty shriek was the natural response.
A champion of the pre-game fit and a last-ditch tackling expert who swallows up ground like a Formula 1 car – on steroids. Jules Kounde, the world is yours.
By Mitch Wilks