Jules Koundé smiles. It is his letter of introduction and his shield; also the bridge with its interlocutors. He speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent and apologizes for the delay. “At school he had English and Spanish. I lack a bit of vocabulary, but I express myself comfortably,” explains the 23-year-old Barcelona defender, who was born in Paris and grew up in the suburbs of Bordeaux. He says that he had a happy childhood with his mother, that he never lacked for anything and that he was never pressured to play soccer. On the contrary, his mother wanted him to study. Active on social media, he has taken a stand against racism and Islamophobia. He doesn’t seem too concerned about hiding what he thinks. “I like to speak from the heart. Sometimes, with journalists, I have to be a little careful, ”he says before Barcelona’s visit tomorrow to the Bayern Munich field. And he smiles again.
Ask. Who runs the social networks?
Response. Me. She has always liked me to write and my mother has been very aware of me so that I speak and write well. It’s the way I find to express myself. And I like to do it. It is one of the things that I like most about social networks: they allow me to say what I think, show my opinions. Racism is a topic that touches me, of course. I have not experienced it directly, but through my friends. It is important to me. These are things that affect me, like climate change and homophobia.
P. Is it necessary for a footballer to say that he is gay?
R. There is a player who has already done it. It’s something good. It sensitizes the world of football, which is a bit difficult.
P. Does it mean the masculine? Is the feminine more open?
R. I am also not a specialist. The only thing that interests me is that everyone can live their sexuality as they want.
P. Was he a good student?
P. Good conduct?
R. Also, but sometimes he was a little touchy. I didn’t like negative comments.
P. He chose a bad profession.
R. No… Only at school. With football I am more relaxed. I know that criticism is part of this world. But I hate losing. I think it’s something that comes from when I was little. With my first team, in the neighborhood, we lost a lot.
P. How do you channel that hate?
R. Eager to improve all the time.
P. Like when he asked Gustavo Poyet [su técnico en el Girondins] work in the afternoon?
R. Gustavo was one of my favorite coaches. He had a lot of confidence in me and it didn’t bother him when the players asked him for more work. I wanted to progress and was looking for him to help me practice changes of direction. I spent several afternoons with him and his coaching staff. I enjoyed it a lot. I am calm when I work in the afternoon. You are relaxed, I feel comfortable.
P. With Poyet did you play central?
R. Yes, it is my favorite position and the one I like to play.
P. Is he very vindictive about playing central?
R. Yes, and the coach knows it. In Seville he always played central.
P. Did you talk about it with Xavi?
R. Yes. But I also know that it depends on the rival. There are games in which my profile fits more as a winger and, in others, as a central defender. I don’t look bad from the side. But in my formative stage I have always been central and I consider that it is the position in which I have many more concepts.
P. Deschamps also places him on the side in the selection.
R. I would tell you the same thing. Deschamps also knows that my position is center back; is the one I like the most. But he also knows that I will never refuse to play as a full-back.
P. Do you enjoy winning a duel in the areas more than winning one on one?
R. No, is not that. It is true that I have a good jump. It’s something I’ve worked hard on and continue to work on. I’m not that short (1.78m), but there are strikers who are taller than me and to make up for that difference I have to have a good jump and good timing. I practice jumping with boxes and exercises to strengthen the legs. I need it for my game and I like to do it. I’ve always liked basketball and it’s like I relate it to that.
P. What surprised you about Barcelona?
R. The excitement of the people. They stop you at traffic lights, they touch your car window. I understand that is why this team generates. We have made several signings and the fans have been excited.
P. And in the game?
R. Sometimes in training I think: “The ball here goes very fast”. But in France something similar happens to me.
P. Do you know what levers are?
R. I’ve heard of levers, but I don’t really understand them.
P. Was the wait long?
R. Yes, but I was confident that the inscription would be resolved. I focused on what I had to do. I think that Xavi was also with the same desire as me so that he could start playing. But he had no choice but to train hard and wait.
P. Is it true that you were close to signing for City?
R. Yes, in my first year at Sevilla.
P. Did you speak with Guardiola?
R. My name is. He told me that he loved me and that he believed I would fit the way he played.
P. Was it similar to the conversation this summer with Xavi?
R. At a certain point, yes. I talked a lot about football with both of them. And that’s what I like. The first thing, in the conversations I had with them, I realized that they had both seen me play. They knew my capabilities perfectly. They didn’t talk just to talk. They were very precise conversations.
P. Is this Bayern less scary?
R. Not afraid, not less afraid. Neither now nor when I faced them with Sevilla. We do know that it is a very strong team in all lines. A champion. But I am sure that we will compete very well. We have everything we need to win both games. We trust us.
P. Tell me about your references.
R. I like the personality and leadership of Sergio Ramos. Also his ability to be decisive. I’ve paid a lot of attention to Thiago Silva’s anticipation and vision of the game. And in Varane, which is a bit of a mix between Ramos and Thiago Silva; fast, forceful But I have other references.
R. Nelson Mandela. I have been inspired by several people, but he is special. I read some book about him and I am interested in his history. Being in jail for your ideas is a powerful thing. That is fighting.
P. Do you want to break the football bubble?
R. I don’t know if I’m a normal footballer. I seek to be a normal person. I have my interests, I’m curious… I really like football, but I have other passions.
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