What does the future hold for Barça's Kounde: right-back or centre-back?

What does the future hold for Barça's Kounde: right-back or centre-back?

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The defender is not playing in his preferred role as often as he would like

With Sergi Roberto's muscle injury confirmed, Jules Kounde (24) is likely to end his first season at FC Barcelona with more appearances at full-back than at centre-back. The Frenchman arrived at Spotify Camp Nou to form a luxury pairing with Ronald Araujo at the heart of the defence, but his versatility, the needs of the Blaugrana and the configuration of the squad, which after the departure of Héctor Bellerín in January was left without a 'specialist' for the right side of the defence, have meant that he has been alternating between the two positions. 

At this point in the season, after 32 appearances in the Barça jersey, the Frenchman has played the same number of games at full-back as at centre-back (16). The percentage, 50 per cent, is much higher than the one he registered at the Sánchez-Pizjuán. In Nervión, Kounde played 122 games in the centre of the back four and only moved to the flank on seven occasions: six on the right and once, as an emergency measure against Athletic Club, on the left. The difference in usage between his time in the Andalusian capital and his first few months at Barcelona is abysmal.

His statistics with the Catalan side, moreover, have a very important asterisk. Jules has played at centre-back in all five Clasicos this season, the first because of injuries to Araujo and Christensen, but the rest because Ronald has been chosen to try to stop Vinicius. Without counting these games against Real Madrid, the numbers would not be so balanced; the absence of Sergi Roberto, which could last six weeks, will also tip the balance in favour of the full-back position.

Xavi's alternatives

Xavi does not have too many options to replace Kounde at right-back and allow him to play centrally. When he has not had to focus on purely defensive duties, Araujo has provided little attacking depth despite his sporadic forays from the flank. Eric Garcia and Alejandro Balde have also been less convincing when required to play at right-back. Álvaro Núñez has been an undisputed choice for Rafa Márquez in the reserve team -- he is by far the player with the most minutes for Barça Atlètic -- but he has only trained with the first team on a few occasions.


Although Kounde has publicly insisted that his natural position is centre-back and it is there that he enjoys himself most, when he is with the French national team, he is not having continuity in the centre of defence, either. In 12 of his 20 international appearances -- including the last eight in a row -- he has played on the right. 

It is indisputable, therefore, that the former Sevilla player has not been able to establish himself at the highest level of Spanish and European football as a centre-back. For the moment, he has been forced to play at full-back in order to play regularly.

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