Criticism at the highest level of football can end a player’s career if he is unable to cope with the pressure. This pressure is even more intense if the team you play for is one as demanding as FC Barcelona. However, many players take advantage of this criticism to motivate themselves and get back to their best. We put the spotlight on the case of Jules Koundé.

After a very promising season at Sevilla, in the summer of 2022, Barça would pay 50 million euros for the French player. Despite his good qualities as a centre-back, Xavi would opt to field him at right-back.

Although Koundé himself has always stated that he doesn’t like playing in this position, the truth is that his first season with Barça was more than correct and he was a key player in the league title won.

After establishing himself as the undisputed starter on the right flank, Koundé’s ghosts arrived this season. After a season of defensive solidity, the French centre-back began his second season at an appalling level.

Inaccuracies with the ball, mistakes in the build-up, clamorous errors, etc. All this became a regular occurrence from the start of the season and continued until the beginning of this year, which caused many fans to put him on the exit ramp as one of the must sells for next summer. However, Xavi always put his faith in Koundé and he is now reaping the rewards of his patience.

Since Xavi announced his departure at the end of the season after the defeat against Villarreal, the team has achieved a defensive solidity similar to what it showed last season. One of the reasons for this improvement in defence is the level that Jules Koundé has been showing in recent months.

Improvement in the physical aspect:

To explain the player’s improvement, a very important factor is his physical condition. Koundé knows what is at stake for Barça at this stage of the season and he has been working hard physically to reach the final stretch in the best possible condition.

The Frenchman has been seen many times already training in the post-match sessions with the substitutes in order to get a better physical tone. This Saturday, despite only playing 28 minutes against Cádiz to give him minutes, the player himself shared an image on social media, in which he was seen training in the gym in Barcelona at four o’clock in the morning.

Koundé knows that Barça will need his best form to be able to face the most important game of the season so far. At the Parc des Princes, Raphinha stole the headlines for his brace, but one of the main culprits of that victory was Koundé himself.

The Frenchman didn’t have an easy job, as he had to deal with the world’s most differential player in Kylian MbappéAnd the reality is that he dried him out. The two compatriots will meet again on Tuesday, so we will have to see if all this training was worth it to stop the Parisian winger.

Koundé’s improvement isn’t only on the defensive side, but he is also much more comfortable on the ball and doesn’t get into as much trouble as he used to. This is the result of the training sessions that Xavi has done with the Frenchman as a pivot, which has helped him a lot with his ball handling.

Offensively, he has also improved. From being a purely defensive player, he is less and less afraid to go forward, forming a very incisive right wing with Lamine Yamal. This is very much in the team’s favour, as the Frenchman is a player who creates a lot of danger with his good centres.

In principle, Xavi will leave at the end of the season, so it remains to be seen if the Frenchman is important for the next coach or if he will be released. Given his current level, everything suggests that he will be in charge of the right-back position that has been orphaned for so many years at Barça, but football is a sport in which anything can happen.

Main image: @FCBarcelona_es.

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