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Kalidou Koulibaly: What does the future hold?

1:44 PM GMT 23/07/2018
Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli
Yet again, a transfer window rolls around with the Senegal international linked with Europe’s major clubs

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Another transfer window, and another plethora of transfer rumours linking  Kalidou Koulibaly  with a move away from Napoli.

All-round central defensive prospects who have proved themselves in one of Europe’s major leagues — and with his best years ahead of him — are hard to find, but still the world’s elite clubs are resisting the allure of the Senegal international.

With Maurizio Sarri having departed Napoli, could the 27-year-old be set to follow him out of the door before the transfer window slams shut?


The story of last season


Napoli  were Serie A’s great entertainers in the 2016-17 season, scoring 94 league goals—17 more than champions Juventus—and while that tally decreased last term, they were markedly improved defensively.

They only conceded 29 goals last term—down from 39 the year before—as their defence began to emulate Juve’s own watertight backline.

This was surely key to their sustained title challenge, with only a late stumble denying them the chance to take the championship race down to the wire.

Koulibaly made seven more appearances last term—featuring in 35 of Napoli’s games—and weighed in with five goals, although his defensive contributions were somewhat down (perhaps understandably) on the previous campaign.

Koulibaly stats | 2017-18 season

Perhaps most eye catching was his passing contribution, as Koulibaly took a much greater role in Napoli’s more methodical build-up play and took more initiative as they played out from the back.

His pass-success rate of 91.2 percent places him joint sixth in the division, while only Jorginho averaged more than his 85.2 passes per match.

It’s unsurprisingly that Sarri’s reportedly keen to reunite the duo at Stamford Bridge!


What could happen this window?


Koulibaly had been linked with Chelsea before Sarri’s arrival at Stamford Bridge as Antonio Conte’s replacement, and on paper, the stars appear to be aligning for him to join the Blues.

Centre-back is also an area where the incoming manager might be keen to strengthen, with David Luiz’s future uncertain and Gary Cahill’s form dipping over the last 18 months.

Koulibaly, a player Sarri has worked with in depth and knows intimately, would be an ideal addition, and reunion with his mentor would surely appeal to the west African as well.

However, the declining relationship between Napoli and Chelsea in light of the Sarri move may put paid to any hopes of a switch, particularly with the Partenopei slapping an eye-watering £80 million price tag on the defender’s head.

Jorginho has already been nabbed by the Pensioners this summer, but Napoli aren’t keen to lose either Koulibaly or teammates Jose Callejon and Elseid Hysaj.

Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool have all also been linked to the defender’s signature.


What to expect next season


Koulibaly’s future appears to be up in the air, as even if any concrete bid from Chelsea wouldn’t be welcomed by Napoli, he has other suitors who could yet make a late move for his services.

It’s not impossible that the Senegal international becomes world football’s first €100m defender, but time is running out for any would-by buyers, and considering Napoli’s resolve, the sensible money is on him staying put.

If Koulibaly doesn’t move, he will be one of the world’s best players not featuring for one of the game’s very biggest clubs, and the concern will be that this may be as good as it gets for the stopper…as talented as he is.

Certainly, he’s thrived within the very idiosyncratic context of Sarri’s Napoli, and with the coach and Jorginho departing, it remains to be seen whether the Partenopei can maintain their recent progress.