According to the Mirror, Chelsea have won the race for Kalidou Koulibaly for a fee believed to be in the region of £30m. If this is true, it is another example of a centre-back costing a lot of money, after Eliaquim Mangala, Nicolas Otamendi and Eric Bailly all arrived in England for big fees. The Napoli centre-back has developed a lot over the last 12 months and many believe he could become one of the best in Europe. If he joins and works with Antonio Conte, that will only be beneficial to his game. Along with Kurt Zouma, he could be the long term future of both the Chelsea and France defence.
He has been a consistent part of the Napoli defence since joining from Genk in 2014 and at the age of 25, has yet to reach his peak. After joining from the Belgian club, he failed to convince many that he had the quality to play for Napoli. He was often caught out of position and appeared to lack the tactical discipline to succeed in Serie A. However, the arrival of Maurizio Sarri has helped Koulibaly hugely and last season he was a major part of Napoli’s success.
Koulibaly is the complete centre half, as he is built like a mountain, standing at 6’5″ and is unsurprisingly effective in the air. He was one of the league leaders with 2.5 tackles and 2.5 interceptions per match, showing his impressive defensive ability. His positioning allows him to achieve these impressive numbers, and that has been where he has benefited most from Sarri. As defenders need to be these days, the Frenchman is very good on the ball, as displayed by his 85.9% pass accuracy. Chelsea would be getting a well rounded centre-back, capable of making an immediate impact. Unlike Otamendi and Mangala, he is physically able enough to deal with the Premier League straight away.
After picking up 11 yellow cards in the league last season, it is clear that the Napoli defender needs to work on his discipline if he moves to Stamford Bridge. Conte will likely build a combative side, and he will need players that can keep their head on the pitch and time challenges well. Koulibaly remains a player that often mistimes challenges, and that needs to be eradicated. He is also prone to making the occasional error, although this area of his game improved massively under Sarri.
Napoli don’t want to lose their central defender, as they know if he continues progressing at his current rate, he will be one of the best in Europe within two years. They have been trying to agree a contract extension, but Koulibaly and his camp have been reluctant to commit to the club for a long time. They see his future at a club that is challenging for honours, and Napoli don’t look like they will be able to challenge Juventus year-after-year. Chelsea would be an interesting proposition for him, as Antonio Conte could be the perfect coach to take him onto the next level. He would have to deal without Champions League football for at least a season, but Chelsea need a new centre half and he would be confident of breaking into their first team.
This is an interesting link, and there appears to be substance in it. The transfer fee is quite high for a player with only one season under his belt playing at the required standard. However, fans need to begin disregarding transfer fees, as several factors are at play and no single deal is the same. Koulibaly would improve Chelsea’s side and under Conte could develop into a £50m+ player. He is still relatively young for a centre-back, and has all the physical and technical assets needed to be a world class centre half. He isn’t the finished product, but he is on track.