When Arsenal, Liverpool, Wolves, Inter and AC Milan are all credited with interest in the same player, you know it’s probably time to stand up and take notice.
That is exactly what is happening with Club Brugge’s defensive revelation Odilon Kossounou, who is generating interest from all over the continent according to reports in England.
The 20-year-old Ivorian has starred at the back for a Brugge side who look set to win their 17th league title this season, but who is he, and what is causing the queue around the block?
Let’s take a look.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: a report by The Mirror that frames Kossonou as a midfielder who has been converted into a defender in Bruges. That really doesn’t seem to be the case.
While Kossounou has occasionally featured in midfield for Brugge (the club are on record describing him as a ‘central defender who has even proved his value as a defensive midfielder’) there can be no doubting where his best position is.
Transfermarkt and WhoScored both agree he has spent the vast majority of his senior career playing at centre-back, with 25 of his 28 appearances this season coming at the heart of the back four.
While there isn’t much available data from his time at Hammarby, most sources suggest he was primarily a defender there too, with occasional forays out to right-back.
As defenders go, he is good on the ball, so it isn’t a huge stretch to imagine him developing into a number six with the right coaching. But there are claims here that he is being lined up as a replacement for Dani Ceballos or Martin Odegaard at Arsenal, which is pretty hard to imagine.
It is claimed he is on their radar, and was considered in January, but the Reds instead decided on Schalke’s Ozan Kabak and Preston’s Ben Davies – both of whom were much cheaper in the short-term.
Some reports suggest Kossounou would cost around £8.5m, but guess what?
OK, so it’s possible The Mirror know a lot more than is public record on this one, but they have doubled down on their eyebrow-raising claims by suggesting he will available for such a low price.
Brugge signed Kossounou for £3.5m in 2019, and he has since become a crucial part of the team, signing a contract extension until 2024 just last year.
It’s just hard to see why they would let him go for as little as £8.5m, especially considering they have sold Wesley (£22m), Arnaut Danjuma (£14m) and Krepin Diatta (£14m) for substantially higher fees over the past couple of years.
They may not be Ajax or Benfica when it comes to driving a hard bargain, but they are historically no pushovers, and find themselves in a strong position, with a second league title in as many years about to arrive at their front door.
Try something in the £15-20m region and you might be getting warmer.
Arsenal’s interest is said to have been reinforced by glowing references from Gervinho and Emmanuel Eboue, each of whom have paid close attention to the 20-year-old – who looks set to star for their native Ivory Coast in the years ahead.
He earned his first four senior international caps in 2020, most recently starting a draw with Madagascar, and looks set for a recall by Patrice Beaumelle when his team resume their AFCON qualifying campaign against Niger and Ethiopia in March.
It’s a question we’ve all been guilty of pondering at one point or another when our team is linked with a new signing – ‘how good are they on FIFA?’
In Kossounou’s case, the answer is yeah, pretty bloody good.
While his career rating and potential (70 > 81) don’t exactly scream world class just yet, his stats pretty fairly reflect his real life attributes – 81 for strength, 76 for sprint speed, and a respectable 67 for ball control and dribbling.
The game does slightly overestimate his height (it says he is 6’3 when in reality he is a little under 6’2) but that just makes him even better to play as if you’re in need of a dominant centre-back.
Off the ball, though, he tends to be conservative in his positioning and decision-making.
He has averaged 1.8 tackles per 90 this season, which doesn’t even break the top 30 for defenders in the Juliper Pro League, so he’s not the sort of all-action defender that fans have come to love. But he’s certainly effective – Brugge have conceded just 14 goals in his 21 league appearances this season.
While he is young enough to be moulded into a front-foot defender if need be, his cautious nature may be best suited to a team who stand off and absorb pressure. That could be where the Serie A interest is coming from, and also explains why Nuno Espirito Santo appears to be rubbing his hands together in anticipation.