The summer transfer window has been a quiet one so far, but the heavyweight clubs of the Premier League are gradually beginning to increase their spending.
Manchester United recently secured the signature of Raphael Varane from Real Madrid, with Chelsea strongly linked with a move for Sevilla’s Jules Kounde.
The two central defenders – who spent last year in La Liga – could be performing against each other in England next season, but how do the duo compare stylistically?
Both players are impressive across the board, although it is reasonable to suggest that United and Chelsea are exploring very different types of transfers.
Varane is now aged 28, he’s demonstrated a proven ability to win at the highest level of the game and once assessing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad, it appears to be a signature made so that United can win and lift silverware immediately.
Kounde, by contrast, is still just 22 years-old and even though his current level is high, he’s unlikely to have reached his peak years of performance just yet, with those likely to come after development at Stamford Bridge.
The pair of defenders also differ when it comes to strengths and weaknesses, with Varane perhaps more gifted on the physical side of the game.
The former Madrid man is 6ft 3 compared to Kounde – who is around 5ft 10 – and that advantage benefits him when he’s contesting for balls in the air; Varane has won 73.5% of his aerial duels in La Liga over the past two seasons compared to 68.4% for Kounde.
Both players are quick across the ground, with Varane recognised as one of the quickest centre-backs in Europe, although Kounde appears to have an edge when in possession of the ball.
The Sevilla defender has proven to be quite an unorthodox defender, largely because of his offensive tendencies and what he does when on the ball.
He placed 15th in the Spanish top-flight last year for total progressive passes, with Atletico Madrid’s Mario Hermoso being the only centre-back to rank ahead of him in the standings, and he’s very inclined to carry the ball, placing 21st overall for progressive carries, and second for centre-backs behind only Clement Lenglet of Barcelona.
Varane’s numbers across the same offensive areas are fairly normal and represent the contributions that many would expect from a typical centre-back, as he prefers to let his teammates take the risks.
He also seems suited to forming part of a back four, with Kounde seemingly possessing appropriate qualities to perform in a back three, which Thomas Tuchel has favoured since succeeding Frank Lampard as Blues boss.
Ultimately, both players have bags of quality but despite their similarities, they could wind up being very different in England.
Kounde can add world-class potential to Chelsea’s defence while presenting Tuchel with more attacking qualities to maximise, whereas Varane seems to be arriving as a final piece of United’s puzzle as they chase their first Premier League crown since 2012/13.
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