The thrill of the Premier League is back with the English top flight now set to complete the 2019-20 season. When the season closes attention will naturally turn to the 2020-21 season and the transfer window, where one of the most sought after players will be Napoli’s Senegalese international defender Kalidou Koulibaly.
The 28-year-old centre-back is regarded as one of the very best in his position, and his performances for the Neapolitans in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League in recent years have been the stuff of legends.
Little wonder then, that Premier League clubs are keen on bringing the Teranga Lions player to England. Koulibaly has long been linked with a move to Chelsea, though the Blues now appear to be at the back of a long queue of clubs chasing his signature.
The frontrunners are Manchester United and Liverpool both of whom are looking to bring Koulibaly on board to play alongside an already established leader of their respective defences: Harry Maguire in United’s case, and Virgil van Dijk for the Reds.
Newcastle United, who are to be taken over by a Saudi Arabian-led consortium and therefore become a financial powerhouse, have also emerged as surprise candidates to capture Koulibaly, while Jose Mourinho a man who knows a good defender when he sees one – is hoping that Tottenham Hotspur can offer the Senegalese an interesting alternative.
Aston Villa goalkeeper Pepe Reina, who played alongside Koulibaly at Napoli, believes the defender is one of the best he has had the privilege of playing alongside in his career: “In recent years, the Koulibaly – Raul Albiol combination was phenomenal if it was in place,” said the Spaniard.
Meanwhile Andre Dossena, who spent time on Merseyside and in Naples during his playing career, believes Koulibaly should be sought by the Premier League leaders.
“Napoli will hardly qualify for the next Champions League, so the Neapolitan club will be forced to give up some important players the most eligible are Fabian [Ruiz] and Koulibaly,” he explained.
“[Liverpool manager Jurgen] Klopp is missing just one piece to complete a stratospheric squad and the Koulibaly-Van Dijk pairing could become a big barrier. Also, Liverpool have no economic problems and therefore the deal would be within the reach of the English club.”
Former Liverpool midfielder Don Hutchison adds that a potential pairing of Koulibaly and van Dijk would be the best in the world: “I think if Koulibaly comes through the door at Liverpool and he plays alongside Virgil van Dijk, I think you wrap the title up right there,” he stated.
“I don’t think there’s anyone better, there won’t be another partnership like it. I think at 28 he’s a great age, he’s got good pace, he’s strong, he’s a leader. I think he walks straight into Liverpool’s line up and he makes them harder to beat, he makes them a physical presence.
“You wouldn’t want to play against Van Dijk or Koulibaly how on earth as a striker do you even think about getting any joy out of those two?”
Yet another pundit, Craig Burley, argues that the presence of van Dijk and his numerous potential partners means Liverpool should spend their money elsewhere, potentially opening up the door for Man United to swoop in.
“Look, is Koulibaly a great get for most clubs? Absolutely, fantastic centre-half,” Burley said. “But you’ve got to weigh up the pros and the cons. He’s going to be 29 this summer, in a month or so, there’s the financial situation in terms of getting the player in and their wages, and Man United’s need is more.
“They’ve got a good centre-half in Maguire and then they’ve got a couple of other centre-halves that I’m sure they would like to get rid of, and if they could bring a player in they would.
“Liverpool have Matip, they have Lovren and they have Joe Gomez, who is an excellent young player. None of them to the standard of Koulibaly but they’ve already got arguably the world’s greatest defender in Virgil van Dijk. So their need for another centre-half is not desperation.
“So they’ve got other places in the team they would need to look. I would be surprised if Liverpool went out and shelled big money on another centre-half when they can spend big money on other places in the team, for the reason that I explained.”
Whichever Premier League club ends up signing Koulibaly, his addition to the English top flight will add further quality and interest from an African perspective, while the player will have the opportunity to test himself in another of the greatest leagues in the world.
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