Why Kalidou Koulibaly must be a contender for 2018 African POTY

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2017 might have belonged to Mohamed Salah, but could the Senegal defender eclipse him this year?


Mohamed Salah was the name that rang out all over Africa in 2017, as he was crowned BBC and CAF's Africa Player of the Year after dazzling for AS Roma before hitting the heights with Liverpool.

While 2017 belonged to Salah, could 2018 belong to Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly?

The Senegal international had a stellar year with Napoli, where his solid displays at centre-back helped the Partenopei finish third during the 2016/2017 Serie A season.

He's also been magnificent during their current campaign, as the Italian heavyweights lead the standings after 24 matches.

Koulibaly Napoli Verona Serie A

As well as his consistency, Koulibaly has been a commanding presence, and demonstrated his ample discipline. He's rarely booked, his tackling has improved immensely and he's also becoming a more valuable asset to Napoli when in possession.

The former Genk man made 28 top-flight apperances last season all of which were starts, having an 89% tackle success and making 114 clearances. 

His passing prowess was demonstrated by an outstanding 89% passing accuracy and a total of 1,949 passes. He only got booked six times without seeing red and all this got him rewarded with a pick in the 2016/2017 Serie A Team of the Year along side Leonardo Bonucci, Alex Sandro and Dani Alves.

This term, his form has improved.

Koulibaly Torino Napoli Serie A

He has a pass accuracy rate of 91.3% and wins, on average, 1.3 aerial duels per match.

It is no wonder that Chelsea, Barcelona and other European heavyweights have been chasing the towering centre-back for his signature, although unlike some of Africa's other big-name stars, he hasn't been distracted by the transfer rumours.

Despite his strong showings last term, Koulibaly was overlooked for CAF's Fan Favourite XI, with Ali Maaloul, Eric Bailly and Ahmed Fathy making the back three in the continent's dream team.

The reality is that defenders are hardly recognised too favourably against their more offensive teammates when it comes to end-of-year awards.

No defender has ever won the CAF African POTY, although the likes of Taribo West and Sammy Kuffour have made the podium. Could success with Napoli and Senegal this year help Koulibaly buck the trend?Kalidou Koulibaly of Senegal & Robert Ndip Tambe of Cameroon

The former Genk player was part of the Teranga Lions team that made it to the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations quarter finals in Gabon, and also played all but one of the Group D 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers as the West African nation clinched their place in Russia ahead of Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa.

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It's not beyond Senegal to emulate the class of 2002 and make a big impact at the global showpiece, particularly considering their generous first-round draw.

The Europa League is another avenue to potential success for the centre-back, with Napoli's Round of 32 clash against RasenBallsport Leipzig on Thursday their first step in a competition that could well lead to a final appearance in Lyon in mid-May.

For country and for club, domestically, continentally and internationally, Koulibaly has a massive few months ahead of him. Expect the centre-back to prove that he's Africa's best in his position today, while success with either Napoli or Senegal ought to see him honoured in the Caf awards at the year's end.