Chelsea’s Koulibaly on making his Premier League dream come true

Chelsea’s Koulibaly on making his Premier League dream come true

Throughout his career, Kalidou Koulibaly has had to learn to be patient. Raised in north-eastern France to Senegalese parents, the defender, who was turned down by Metz at 15 for being “too introverted”, spent two years as an amateur footballer at Saint-Dié before finally being invited back to Metz.

More than a decade later and having joined Chelsea for £33.8million last month after eight years at Napoli, where he established himself as one of the best defenders in the world, Koulibaly certainly can’t be accused of being an introvert these days be.

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The 31-year-old is fluent in four languages, having learned English during his time at Genk in Belgium. The 31-year-old insists he “never stopped believing” he could fulfill his childhood dream of playing in the Premier League and makes no secret his move to Stamford Bridge has taken several years after Antonio Conte Tried to sign him for the first time in 2015.

“I spoke to Conte in Rome – he wanted me after my first good year in Napoli,” recalls Koulibaly. “I respectfully asked the owner if I wanted to go to Chelsea but he told me that wasn’t possible. So I waited a bit and continued my conversation with them, but they really didn’t want me to leave the club, so I decided to extend my contract to stay at Napoli. It was a bit hard for me to say no because playing in the Premier League has been my dream since I was a child. But I knew it would happen one day and I’m glad it is. I had to wait and had a lot of patience.”

Chelsea new signing Kalidou Koulibaly has vowed he will not let anyone stop him from representing Senegal.

The Senegalese captain called for more respect for African nations after the president of his former club Napoli threatened to only sign African players willing to give up international ambitions.

Aurelio De Laurentiis promised Napoli will only sign African players if they are willing to miss the Africa Cup of Nations as the tournament clashes with competition in the European league.

“We’re the idiots who pay salaries just to send them around the world to play for others,” De Laurentiis said.

Koulibaly has joined Chelsea in a £34m deal from Napoli and will become part of new owner Todd Boehly’s new Stamford Bridge era. The 31-year-old insisted he would respect de Laurentiis’ promise on African players but urged European sides to do the same at the Africa Cup of Nations.

“It’s up to him if he wants to say that,” replied Koulibaly, who led Senegal to Afcon glory at the 2022 tournament. “But for me the most important thing is to respect everyone.

“When I played there, I also played for Senegal. I won Afcon when I played for Senegal for Napoli. It’s true, it’s difficult for them, but I think you also have to respect the national team. You have to have respect like you.” have from European national teams.

“As the captain of Senegal, it’s not a good way to talk about African nationality, but I respect what he thinks. If he thinks that, it’s up to him, but I think not everyone at the club has the same idea as him . The fans.” don’t think so. It’s up to him, it’s not an idea of ​​society or the city, the city respects everything. This world, it’s what he thinks, not what the team thinks or what the city thinks.” PA Media and Reuters

Liverpool and Manchester City were among the other clubs linked with the man who guided Senegal to their maiden Africa Cup of Nations triumph that year, which has become a staple on the transfer carousel. But a four-year deal at Chelsea and the opportunity to play a leading role in Todd Boehly’s new era convinced him it was now or never.

“It’s true I was close and it could have happened sooner but I’m happy to sign for Chelsea and continue to play with Blue. I am happy and my house decoration is better. To me [the four‑year contract] is proof that they have faith in me. You know I’m a professional player, I like to take care of my body, everything. I thank God I didn’t have a lot of big injuries so they have faith in me and I know I can give them a couple of years. Four years or even longer, but that depends on you. I will give them these four years with a lot of energy.”

Whether Chelsea can challenge for the title after a spring and summer of upheaval remains to be seen, although Koulibaly – who won a single Coppa Italia in Naples in 2020 despite regularly battling for the Serie A title – has his sights set on trophies.

“Because of my personal experience I know that you don’t have to set any limits to your dream and my dream is to win everything with Chelsea,” he says. “I know it will be difficult. I don’t come with arrogant behavior. I come with respect, a lot of respect for everyone, but I know Chelsea are a big team and a team that needs to win, that are used to winning. I see that the gym has all the trophies they win on the wall and I want to be a part of those trophies. I haven’t won much in my career and that’s why I come here to win some trophies and some titles and I hope it starts this year.”

Koulibaly is expected to become the fourth Senegalese international to play for Chelsea and was congratulated on his signing by the first – Demba Ba. He was also contacted by Didier Drogba and, to the delight of his brother Abdoulaye, a lifelong Chelsea fan, by Gianfranco Zola. It was thanks to the diminutive Italian, who was voted Chelsea’s greatest player in 2003, that Koulibaly got in touch with John Terry to see if he could take the number 26 shirt – his number at Napoli – that has not been used since the former England captain left in 2017.

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“I asked him for John’s number because I wanted to ask him about the jersey,” he says. “He gave me the number straight away and I called him. At first he didn’t think it was me. He thought it was a joke, so he hung up the phone and called the team manager to see if it was really me.”

Terry was eventually convinced he was speaking to Chelsea’s signing and footage of Koulibaly speaking to him on the phone went viral when posted to Twitter this week.

“It was very important for me to ask him and he gave me his answer. I was happy and wanted to tell everyone that I asked him before because I don’t want to be disrespectful to a legend at the club.”

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