Like most short people, Jules Koundé has been short all his life. And like most short people, Jules Koundé has been told that he’s short, all his life.
“At one point [Bordeaux U19] coach Jean-Luc [Dogon] told me: ‘I’m very happy with you, I have no problem with your size, but in the future, it might be a problem.’ [And] he was right. I know that it cooled some coaches and it is still the case today.”
That was Koundé talking to Onze Mondial magazine back in early 2020, part of a massive and wide-ranging interview that it’s certainly worth checking out considering that the 22-year-old looks likely to be joining Chelsea this summer in a big-money transfer from Sevilla.
Of course, Koundé isn’t actually short, certainly not by “real world” standards. He’s 181cm tall, or just over 5’11” in silly units. But because said silly units begin with a 5 rather than a 6, he falls below the arbitrary standard expected of center backs, especially in the Premier League.
And that has raised some concerns over his potential arrival and ability to succeed in the league, even if heading isn’t all about just height (timing, jumping, positioning, strength all play a big role) and even as the game starts to wake up to the potential dangers of headers and aerial duels, and is set to introduce some limits in that regard next season, at least in training. Concussions are no joke, kids!
Koundé doesn’t think the constant heightism around him is very funny either, and he’s been using those narratives and criticisms as extra motivation to help him succeed.
“It’s surprising, a lot of coaches are wondering about my height. It is surprising that I can be good in central defense while measuring 1.81 m. [And] I feel targeted [by the opposition] but that, in fact, gives me additional motivation to know that my size will make them think that they are going to be able to step on me because I am not 1.90 m tall. [Thus] I win more headed duels than Sergio Ramos because the opponents don’t dare play long on Ramos.
“They must say to themselves: ‘It’s Jules Koundé, he is not tall, we are going to beat him in the air’. [So] I play a lot more aerial duels than the others. They say to themselves that it will be easier against Koundé, and that motivates me. And it’s a part of my game that I’m working on because I know I’m going to be targeted [and] yes, if I face a striker of 1.90m who has the ability to jump high, it will necessarily be more complicated. So, I prepare myself by working to be ready on match day.”
He may not be monstrously tall, but he sure sounds like a Mentality Monster, as Emma Hayes might say.
Run faster, jump higher. Bring it on.
“You can target me, I’ll be there and I’ll respond.”
-Jules Koundé; source: Onze Mondial via Google Translate