Thursday January 18 2018
Koulibaly: ‘I’d stay at Napoli forever’

Kalidou Koulibaly “would have no problem” staying at Napoli forever, and praises Coach Maurizio Sarri.

The centre-back gave an interview to this morning’s issue of Gazzetta dello Sport, and he was asked what he’d do if President Aurelio De Laurentiis presented him with a contract for life.

“For my family and the fans, and if the contract was good, I’d have no problem signing, staying forever,” Koulibaly told the newspaper.

“I’m really happy here, the city and the team have given me everything. I want to give back to the Neapolitans, I want to give them the Scudetto.

“So far I’ve grown a lot. When I first came to Italy I needed a year to adapt, which wasn’t easy. Then I told myself I deserved this great team, and I started to work hard.

“Now I’m capitalising on my effort and sacrifices, but of course I won’t stop here.

“The new Lilian Thuram? I’m very pleased with this comparison, he was a true great and did really well in Italy not everyone can have his career.

“I had some problems, with [Rafa] Benitez I ended up on the bench and that was a very important period because I worked on myself a lot and saw things from the outside, also on a tactical level.

“I forced myself to prove they weren’t wrong to sign me, that I could become one of the best defenders in the Italian league.

“As soon as Sarri arrived he told me: ‘listen to me and you’ll become a champion’.

“That was important because it gave me confidence in a period where things weren’t going well. There was a Europa League match against Club Brugge which represented a turning point for me and the team.

“I’d say that was the key moment of my career.”

The Partenopei are in the Europa League again this season, but could it be a distraction in the Scudetto race?

“No, I want to win the Europa League. We’ll compete with other great teams, it would be a very important trophy for Napoli.

“We have a great desire to win, and two objectives to achieve. We have to do it, for the city and four ourselves.”

The defender constantly references Naples during the interview, and he was asked to elaborate on his relationship with the city.

“My wife and son are happy and I’m with them,” Koulibaly replied.

“I’m often with [Faouzi] Ghoulam, Jorginho and [Dries] Mertens. I usually have a look around, in the past few days I’ve visited the Quartieri Spagnoli and the Sanità, two particular areas of Naples.

“The affection of the people is incredible and I’m always ready to reciprocate it.

“Italy has had this racist image since I was little, but progress has been made. There are still stupid people who think football and the country in general are like that.

“In reality though I don’t feel any of that in Naples. Around Italy I’ve heard the usual discriminatory chants, but it’s always a fringe of idiots who should be ignored.

“Personally, I was only targeted by a few Lazio fans in Lazio-Napoli a couple of years ago. After the anger of those moments I was reassured, I didn’t hear them anymore.

“Italy is a beautiful country and I’m happy here. I sent my son to Italian school because he needs to know Italian culture. The union of cultures can be the solution.”

Naples is also known for its high crime rate though, particularly among the young…

“I’ve been in Naples for three-and-a-half years so I don’t know the city well. Maybe economic issues or the prospect of not having a future can push the weakest to let go.

“That’s my theory because, I repeat, I don’t really know the social sphere. I hope they repent.

“I grew up in a difficult neighbourhood and you had to suffer for things. I thank my father for what he did for me, I found the solutions to my problems in studying.

“If I hadn’t been a footballer I’d have been an insurer.”

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