Saturday September 12 2020
Losing Koulibaly would take Napoli backwards

Selling Kalidou Koulibaly would be a smart move financially for Napoli, but a devastating and unforced error on the sporting plane, argues Lee Bushe.

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis spoke of his willingness to sell Kalidou Koulibaly this transfer window, stating that for the right price, another club was free to take him. That price is reported to be in the region of €75m, with Manchester City the forerunners for quite some time now.

From an economic standpoint, the deal makes total sense. Napoli’s asking price is well-justified for a player of his quality and, taking into account that he turns 30 next year, the most they’ll probably ever get for him. Not to mention that the club would be making an enormous profit on a player they paid just €7m for back in 2014.

From a sporting standpoint, however, the deal doesn’t make as much sense. Koulibaly is considered to be one of the best centre-backs in the world and is completely irreplaceable in terms of what he brings to the team. At 29, he is at his peak, but could probably perform at that level for another three or four years, which would make him an indispensable player for another few seasons at least.

It’s not like Koulibaly’s head has been turned either. He loves the club and the city of Naples itself, identifying as Neapolitan in addition to French and Senegalese, and has spoken before of the strong warmth that he feels from the people within the city. Naples, in return for his contributions on the pitch and his affection for the city, have granted him honorary citizenship and there’s even a pizza named after him, a high honour in a city that is the birthplace of Italy’s most famous dish.

It’s perhaps for these reasons - even with the constant transfer speculation surrounding him over the last few years - that he wants to stay at Napoli. Back in July, he stated he was settled in Naples and hinted that he wanted to see out his playing days at the Stadio San Paolo. Nevertheless, he seems likely to leave and not necessarily of his own volition.

If Koulibaly is sold, it wouldn’t be the first time Napoli have cashed-in on their most crucial player. Jorginho - the midfielder instrumental to the Partenopei’s title challenge in 2017-18 - was sold to Chelsea for €60m just after that season. Two years before that, Gonzalo Higuain was sold to Juventus on the back of a record-breaking campaign in which he scored 36 goals in 35 games.

Cashing in on your most important players isn’t exactly a recipe for success, even if De Laurentiis does spend the money received for them. Napoli have just splashed out €70m for Victor Osimhen, an enormous amount for a 21-year-old unpolished striker, while they spent a total of €140m last summer.

Regardless, a club who really should have Scudetto intentions must try to keep hold of their better players, especially in the circumstances of last season, which was their worst for over a decade. Koulibaly was far from being the problem with that Napoli squad, and he should be part of the team that attempts to reclaim their place among Italy’s elite, not sold on.

De Laurentiis cannot be described as an unambitious man, but he must be able to recognise that Koulibaly brings something to Napoli that money can’t buy. Yes, you can buy world-class talent such as him, but he also possesses a fierce loyalty to Napoli, a deep understanding of the club and its supporters, and will never, ever, not give his all in the colours of the Azzurri.  

Have your say...
Napoli had the chance to pu immobile instead played poker to get icardi and lost both. ADL contracts very litigious filled with clauses for player to turnover $$. This is limiting napoli for new players to come and join team. They should pu up some young home grown players from Seria B.
on the 17th September, 2020 at 9:15pm
Sell KK, they should pu Desciglio from Juve an underutilized defender. Politano will be a better replacment for callejon much faster, better ball handling and great shooter. Petagna should be used in lieu of Oshimen. This was a terrible buy and will be rendered useless against italian defense. Napoli need one more midfielder to replace Allan which was mistake to sell but fell out with club. ADL needs to stay of of player neg and make it easier for player to come to napoli.
on the 17th September, 2020 at 9:12pm
best option is sell the world class CB: Kalidou Koulibaly.

Get Sokratis is okay for replacement because it's nice to see double Greek wall in Napoli (Sokratis-Manolas)
on the 13th September, 2020 at 6:34am
I am a born Neapolitan and simply believe that whenever possible, a player's loyalty to the Partenopei shirt and the City of Naples should be rewarded. Cold-hearted business calculations should be left to clubs like Juventus and the two Milans, but is not for my Napoli.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 9:39pm
KK is a terrific back but injuries have taken their toll and he does not provide the leadership that the team needs badly. Napoli managed to play without him and succeed for the ladder part of the year prior to his return. He needs to play on a club where his skills will add to an already successful team(Man City).
Yes he is beloved and loves Naples but this team needs a leader who is tough and gritty with the desire to win at all costs. Who is that man for Gattuso? He needs to find that leader.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 7:06pm
Jorginho wanted to leave and iwas not as fundamental to Ancelotti as he was for Sarri.
Higuain wanted to leave and Juventus triggered his buy-out clause.
Napoli have turned down many offers for K2 and will only sell for a very high amount.
Politano and Lozano are Callejon replacement.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 3:49pm
Beautiful text! All the major points included! Hopefully, Koulibaly will remain at Napoli and will see them proving to everyone that they weren't just a "miracle" of 2 years, as many Rubentinos want to describe them, especially when they're doing comparisons with LaDea, calling them "Just another Napoli", who played great football for 2 or 3 seasons, and then got back to their old mediocrity!
I really wanna see Napoli challenging for the title this year & (at least) epeat what Inter did in EL!
on the 12th September, 2020 at 11:22am
Their transfer strategy has been atrocious. Paying 70m for a striker who scored a measly 11 goals in Ligue 1, not getting any replacement for Callejon, trying to sell Koulibaly while already missing out on Gabriel. It's baffling really.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 10:15am
This is a difficult situation.On one hand KK is undoubtedly one of the best cbs in the world and at 29 you'd like to think has at least 3 years left in him at the very top so keeping him would be great for Napoli. On the other hand he didn't have the best of seasons last year so is this the start of a his decline? In which case now is the last time to cash in for big money. Napoli need to make this decision fast to give themselves time to find an adequate replacement should they decide to sell
on the 12th September, 2020 at 10:05am
He's been a fine defender for them, but they'd be crazy not to sell him for 70m+ at his age.

The problem isn't selling him, the problem is replacing him.

They dallied (as they always do) over Gabriel, and now he's no longer an option.

If Sokratis is the best they can do, they may as well quit playing altogether.

Milenkovic would be an option, or Demiral. But Fiorentina/Juve may not want to sell.
on the 12th September, 2020 at 10:04am

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