Converting Koundé into a centre-back

The last question I was asked in the Tactical View interview, a section of La Pizarra del DT, was on Jules Koundé. The defender is dazzling for Sevilla in a centre-back role, a position we played him in when he was with us at Bordeaux. We take a look back at the change in position and some anecdotes on the young Frenchman.

First impressions of Koundé

When I arrived at Bordeaux, the team had a key away game at Nantes. If they lost, they would find themselves in a difficult situation, staring relegation in the face. 

At the time, I was watching the match with the owner of the team in Paris, hoping Bordeaux won. Some people might have thought that if they had won, I wouldn’t have got the job, but it didn’t matter to me. If they gave me the job, I would have had 3 more points to play with. They did win, and that very day news broke out that I would be the new manager.

During the first week of training, I had my eyes on Koundé, as, at only 18 or 19 years of age, I could see how powerful he was, even though he wasn’t that tall. Personally, I like it when the centre-back, when alone, pushes up the field to enforce a sense of superiority, and when he trained in this position, he did it so confidently, I almost had to stop him from going too far. 

Ambition and a will to learn

I remember when we were going through a little rough patch, he came to see me and asked if he could train on his own for the afternoon. He had noticed that he was finding diagonal changes of play difficult, and he wanted to put some extra work in to see how he could improve.

For me, he played 90 minutes in every game. The next year he felt much more involved in the team, he wanted to score goals and so started working on free kicks. I remember when there was a meeting with the players who normally took free kicks and he told me “you’ll see, in a couple of years it will be me taking them”

Signing for Sevilla

Within a year, when I no longer managed Bordeaux, I had a phone call from Sevilla asking about Koundé as a person, and I told them everything. We managers help each other out when we trust each other. We exchange information on players about whether they train well, look after themselves, moan, etc. That’s not to say that if we have something bad to say then the player doesn’t get signed, but of course that extra bit of inside information always helps.

That’s why, when they signed Koundé and he played so well, I was especially happy. At only 21 years of age, there’s talk of the possibility of him going to Real Madrid or Manchester City, which would be the pinnacle.