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The next man out of Naples?

Kalidou Koulibaly

An exodus in Naples appears likely after a disappointing start to the season for Napoli, which has already seen Carlo Ancelotti replaced by Gennaro Gattuso. The Partenopei currently sit in 8th position in Serie A with just 21 points from 16 games; 18 points behind both Inter Milan and Juventus.

The enigmatic Aurelio De Laurentiis has reportedly frozen the salary payment in October and wants to fine the players’ 25% of their wages in the aftermath of the squad’s refusal to attend a training retreat. Another consequence of the Neopolitan’s poor start to the season and revolt against the ownership is that De Laurentiis is rumoured to be ready to let many of the team’s star players leave the Club. One such player is centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly. Previously one of the most sought after defenders in European football, the Senegalese captain now appears free to move in the upcoming January transfer window.

One Club that has repeatedly registered its interest in signing Koulibaly is Manchester United. Back in the Summer, the Red Devils apparently submitted an offer of £91 million which was rejected by the Italian side. This lead to United instead turning to Leicester City’s Harry Maguire, who ended up making the move to Manchester after a world-record £80 million fee was agreed. Therefore, another centre-back arriving for a large sum of money just six months after the arrival of Maguire seems unlikely, with current rumours suggesting that the Club will instead look to add attacking depth to the squad.

Real Madrid are also rumoured to be interested in the Senegalese defender, with the Spanish giants to offer Luka Modric plus cash to secure a deal. Despite spending more than any other Club in the Summer transfer window, many of Real Madrid’s latest signings have failed to convince. Eden Hazard and Ferland Mendy have failed to impress whilst Luka Jovic is already rumoured to be up for sale after scoring just once since arriving for £54 million. After such a huge financial outlay, it seems unlikely that Florentino Perez will allow significant investment again in January after Zidane’s signings have disappointed so far.

North London could also be a potential destination for Koulibaly, with Arsenal and Tottenham both linked with the player. Arsenal’s problems in defence have been well documented in recent years, with Mustafi, Sokratis and David Luiz the most recent players to come into the Club to sure up their back line. Despite spending heavily to bring these players to the Emirates, Arsenal continue to be defensively fragile and so it would be no surprise if the Club made another big money move in an attempt to bring one of Europe’s most sought after defenders to the Gunners. Meanwhile, Tottenham’s defence appears in need of rejuvenation, with only Newcastle having a worse defence in the top 10 despite previously being regarded as one of the best back-lines in the Premier League. Whilst Alderweireld has recently signed a new contract keeping him at the Club for the foreseeable future, Vertonghen looks like he may depart in the Summer after spending seven seasons in North London. As another tall, ball-playing centre-back, Koulibaly would surely prove capable of filling the void left by the Belgian if he were to depart from the Lilywhites.

Based on current speculation, a move to the Premier League appears most likely. Our calculations value Koulibaly at £23.40 million due to the player’s lack of experience at the highest level of international football. If rumours are to be believed, a transfer fee of between £55 and £90 million is expected to be offered in order to lure the player from Naples. This would contribute an overspend of £30-£65 million for the purchasing Club if a transfer is to materialise. At 28 years old, Koulibaly is expected to be at his peak already and so his value is unlikely to increase further. Therefore, a transfer for the player would not be recommended although if he could prove to be the difference in securing European football for a Club or missing out, the Senegalese defender could be a shrewd acquisition.

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