Odilon Kossounou To Leverkusen: $33 Million Investment Underlines Hot Market For Defenders
At first glance, it appears to be a small transfer in the context of the business that is being conducted in this summer’s market. But at a second glance, Bayer Leverkusen paying a Belgian record $33 million to sign defender Odilon Kossounou deserves significant attention. According to Transfermarkt, the 20-year-old defender ranks seventh among the most valuable center-backs aged 20 or younger in the world.
“Odilon Kossounou has made a rapid development as a really young player in the past two years in Belgium,” said sporting director Simon Rolfes in a club statement. “He still hasn’t exhausted his full potential. Odilon has everything to be able to play an important role in our team in the future.”
The club’s investment underlines Leverkusen’s belief in Kossounou’s potential. Belgian outlet Het Laatste Nieuwshas reported that Bayer Leverkusen has paid $33 million. Het Nieuwsblad has confirmed that fee, the newspaper also suggested a fee in the region of around $33 million, including $5.5 million in bonuses. Either way, Kossounou will become the most expensive player to leave Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League, breaking the transfer record set by Canadian striker Jonathan David last season.
“I’m happy the transfer to Bayer 04 has gone through,” Kossounou said in a Bayer Leverkusen club statement. “The two years at Brugge were great above all, of course, because of the two league titles we won. “But the Bundesliga is something completely different. I want to show at Leverkusen that I am a top player at this level and that I can help the team.”
Kossounou is a key signing ahead of the 2021/22 season. In Edmond Tapsoba, Leverkusen already has one of the most talented defenders in the world. The 22-year-old was subject to various bids by top clubs, including Chelsea. Tapsoba suffered a syndesmotic ligament tear ahead of the season and will be out for some time. Jonathan Tah, in the meantime, carries a suspension from last season into the new season, and with the Bender-twins retired and Tin Jedvaj’s status at the club under question, Leverkusen had to add another player.
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For some time, it appeared that that defender could have been Norwegian center-back Kristoffer Ajer. Ajer, however, signed for Brentford instead. But Leverkusen’s primary target was always Kossounou. The 191 cm tall has been described as extremely quick, mobile, very strong in the tackle, and technically good by sporting director Rolfes.
Expectation will be that Kossounou will challenge Tah for the right center-back role at Leverkusen. Based on Wyscout numbers over the last calendar year, Kossounou already trumps Tah in successful defensive actions (10.07 vs 9.69), defensive duels per 90 minutes (6.79 vs 6.56), and defensive duels won (68.81% vs 60.34%). A clean player, Kossonou (0.97) ranks top when it comes to fouls per 90 minutes when compared with both Tapsoba (1.37) and Tah (1.36).
Own downside is Kossounou’s buildup play. The 20-year-old has completed just 50.47% of his long passes over the last calendar year and ranks behind Tapsoba (63.98%) and Tah (55.56%). The same is true for his overall passing accuracy. Koussounou completed 87.63% of his passes, less than Tapsoba (91.99%) and Tah (92.05%).
Those will be key areas to work on for new Bayer Leverkusen head coach Gerardo Seoane. The transition from the Jupiler Pro League to the Bundesliga, in general, will be significant for the Ivorian national team player. But make no mistake, defenders are in high demand in the market this summer. In Kosssounou, Leverkusen has signed a player who will only increase his value in the coming seasons despite the high transfer fee.