Barcelona defender Jules Kounde has admitted he was close to joining Chelsea this summer but was quickly convinced to move to Camp Nou by current manager Xavi.
Then at Sevilla, Kounde had been on Chelsea’s radar for years. He came close to joining in 2021 and was among the top targets of the 2022 summer window, but despite having a bid accepted first, Chelsea watched on as Kounde opted to move to Barcelona instead.
Manchester City were also keen on Kounde, having failed to secure their own deal in the past, but were unable to pursue a move.
Speaking to L’Equipe, Kounde opened up on his negotiations with all three clubs and his reasons for choosing Barcelona.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
“I’ve joined a huge club, which has known good times but recently has seen fewer. I’m coming to a project that I wouldn’t describe as a rebuild, because there was already a competitive team, but rather a rebound.
“I was interested in being part of this new wave, in search of titles, and putting Barça back where they have always been, among the best.
“Then, there was the conversation with the manager. We talked about football, mainly. I felt a real confidence, a real knowledge of my game and my qualities.”
What did Xavi tell you?
“That my qualities correspond to his game plan. Starting from the back, playing high and using my skills of speed and anticipation.
“He always wants an aggressive team. We are one of the team that presses highest and runs the most. He saw me in this system and I did too. I saw myself in this team that I watched make a crazy rise up the table. With Sevilla, we were 15 points ahead of them midway through last season and Barça, with Xavi, had a superb second half of the season.
“I watched them play a lot. I saw the changes Xavi made and in which direction he was going. I liked it.”
Were you frustrated not to join Chelsea in 2021?
“The time of frustration did not last long. It’s not good to be in that state of mind and I immediately had in my head the desire to get back to work.
“I wasn’t at my best then but that was not related to this non-transfer. I still had a good season which allowed me to have options the following summer.”
“It is true that I was not far from signing there this summer. Barça were interested but had concerns, but when I got that phone call and I felt there was a possibility they could bring me in, I did not hesitate for long.”
Did you talk to Thomas Tuchel?
“Yes. I also felt a desire to sign me but I simply preferred Xavi’s speech.”
On Man City
Did Pep Guardiola call you too?
“Yes, but after my first season at Sevilla. It was very tempting, but I had also decided that it was my first year there and that I could not force anything.”
And what happened this summer?
“Yes [Guardiola called again], but players had to leave the club first.”