Napoli manager Luciano Spalletti has stressed the importance of keeping defender Kalidou Koulibaly and why he would chain himself to the gates if he was to be sold ahead of the new Serie A season.
The 30-year-old Senegalese centre back, who has been among the key players for the Partenopei in the current campaign, is set to run down his contract with the Serie A giants at the end of the season.
Koulibaly has already attracted a host of clubs who are baying for his services and after their final game of the season against Spezia which they won 3-0; Spalletti was asked about the future of the player at the club.
“Koulibaly in my view is not for sale, just like last season when I threatened to chain myself to the gates if he was sold. I’m doing it again!” the 63-year-old Italian coach said in a press conference as quoted by Football Italia.
“This is a player always open to giving a helping hand, knows where to intervene and how to raise the level, he does what is needed. We want to have another important season, so he cannot be sold.
“People say you can get a younger player, but you can’t buy a leader, who developed here over so many years, who lives and breathes the city and gives that passion back on the pitch.
“Kalidou is not the same as the others for many reasons, so he needs particular focus. These are all things we’ll discuss over the next few days.”
Napoli, who finished the season third with 79 points from 38 matches, are also in danger of losing Nigeria forward Victor Osimhen, Dries Mertens, Piotr Zielinski, and Fabian Ruiz.
Asked about the future of the aforementioned players, Spalletti said: “Several leaders are reaching the end of their contracts and we knew this was the end of an era for some, but I don’t think we’re losing all of them.
“I repeat, you can buy a player, but it takes years to create someone who is a leader within the locker room. The club will make its evaluations.
“We need the capacity to renovate the squad at the end of an era, remaining competitive and realising that new players need time to adapt. There will be eight teams fighting for the Champions League places next season.”
In a recent interview, Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis revealed the desire of the club to keep Koulibaly beyond his contract but stressed that “we will not force people to stay.”
Koulibaly played in a strong number of Napoli’s Serie A matches this season, making 27 appearances overall and accumulating 2,406 minutes of playing time. He started in all 27 of these appearances across their 38 fixtures.
The defender scored three Serie A goals in this campaign. He last scored in the league in the 6-1 win against Sassuolo on April 30, netting in the seventh minute. He opened his account for the campaign against Juventus on September 11, scoring during a 2-1 victory.
Last season for Napoli, Koulibaly made 26 Serie A appearances.