Who is Kalidou Koulibaly? The €100m Senegal star Sarri wants to sign for Chelsea

Since Neymar’s €222 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain last summer, the nine-figure barrier first broken by Gareth Bale’s move to Real Madrid in 2013 has been shattered again and again. The Brazilian’s move inflated the market so much that €100m deals seem somewhat passe these days.

One of the few milestones left to be breached is that of the €100m defender, but that could soon be a thing of the past as well if Chelsea are to get their way.

The Blues’ incoming boss Maurizio Sarri knows Kalidou Koulibaly better than most having managed him at Napoli for the past three seasons, and the Senegalese has been such a runaway success for the Partenopei that Sarri wants to make him the statement signing of his first summer in charge.

On Sunday Koulibaly will get another chance to showcase what Chelsea see in him when he lines up for Senegal against Japan in their second World Cup group H fixture in Ekaterinburg. And should he help his nation to three points they will almost certainly find themselves reaching the knockout stage of the competition in a repeat of their maiden feat in 2002.

Koulibaly may well go on to become the stand-out star of this Senegal side, even taking into consideration the quality of Liverpool’s Sadio Mane in the attacking half of the field. Such are his qualities, the 27-year-old is one of the outliers in the decades-long belief that a good attacker will always outshine a good defender.

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Standing at 6’5” tall with the build to match he has been handed the moniker ‘K2’ in reference to the mountain in the Himalayas, but his game is not simply about his physicality and ability to dominate. His qualities on the ball have become an increasingly impressive part of his armoury, with his short bursts of speed beyond pressing opponents also helping to drive Napoli into attacking phases with ease.

His anticipation of danger is impressive too, while he has also become an ever more forceful presence in the opposing box from set pieces. His five goals in Serie A last term helped to push Napoli to the verge of only a third league title in their history, with his towering late header from Jose Callejon’s corner against Juventus in Turin in April briefly giving the Campania people reason to dream of a first crown since the days of Diego Maradona.

Koulibaly was also voted into the ‘Top 11’ at the annual Oscar del Calcio gala last November, ranking him among the best team of the year in the Italian game. His excellence would also arguably deserve mention in any current world XI, and while he has yet to play under the day-to-day spotlight that life at the game’s very biggest clubs involves he has already shown enough to suggest he has what it takes to succeed at the top of the sport.

Kalidou Koulibaly Napoli

Chelsea have had a bid turned down for Koulibaly previously, with Antonio Conte having led the charge for his signature in 2016. However, Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis explained that he was not for sale: “Chelsea came in and offered €50m for Koulibaly, but he’s going away for the Africa Cup of Nations,” he told reporters following the end of the summer market that year.

And a transfer to Chelsea won’t automatically follow whatever Koulibaly’s achievements with Senegal over the next few weeks, as Napoli’s concerted challenge for the Serie A title has seen more than just the centre-back become the subject of market interest.

With Jorginho on the verge of a move to Manchester City and Lorenzo Insigne being among a host of other players catching the eye of suitors across the continent, the loss of Koulibaly might well be just too big a blow to contemplate for De Laurentiis and his new manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Add in the fact that fellow defender Raul Albiol has a release clause of just €6m which is likely to be triggered this summer and the retention of the Senegalese, who has no release clause of his own, becomes an even higher priority for the Neapolitans. “Koulibaly is unapproachable,” reiterated De Laurentiis recently, and it feels like more than just a bargaining play by the movie mogul.

Sarri De Laurentiis Napoli

If one manager can play his cards right to drag Koulibaly away from Naples, though, it may well be Sarri. The defender’s review in the autumn of his then-boss’ qualities says it all about the esteem he holds Sarri in.

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“He rediscovered me, he gave me confidence,” Koulibaly told Il Messaggero. “He really is a genius, he sees things others don’t see. He makes you understand how football is and isn’t unpredictable. He’s a scholar. Any question you ask him, he always has an answer, and it’s always right. He helps you to think as a team and not as an individual.

“When he arrived he told me: ‘Do as I say and you’ll become an important player’. I’m trying, but I know I can still improve. In short, with Sarri football is maths.”

Does a move to Chelsea add up? It certainly would for Sarri and the Blues, with €100m potentially turning into a bargain over time for a player of Koulibaly’s ever-increasing qualities. But Napoli will take quite some persuading to part with one of the game’s most sought-after talents.


Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Man City & Man Utd in for Mbappe

Man City & Man Utd in for Mbappe

Manchester United and Manchester City are considering ambitious bids for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, The Mirror says.

The Ligue 1 champions will have to start paying the gargantuan fee the agreed with Monaco to sign the 19-year-old attacker, but are being investigated by UEFA over their lavish spending.

The Manchester sides will be ready to swoop in if PSG find themselves in trouble, with United considering offering Anthony Martial and a large sum in exchange for him.

Mahrez puts Man City deal at risk

Riyad Mahrez’s move to Manchester City could fail to materialise because of his demands of a part of the transfer fee, The Sun reports.

City have long been after the Algeria star and are ready to snap him up this summer in a deal that could cost £75 million ($99m).

However, Mahrez is demanding a cut of the profit after playing a starring role for the Foxes and the hierarchy are reluctant to give in.

Kante race heats up between Barca, Real & PSG

Real Madrid are leading the race to sign Chelsea star N’Golo Kante, but Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona are still in, Le Parisien reports.

The midfielder is contracted to Chelsea until 2021, but offers are expected to swarm in, as PSG director Antero Henrique has already been in London to discuss a deal with the Blues.

However, Madrid have made him a top priority, while Barca continue to hold an interest.

Man Utd target Jose Gaya as Alex Sandro alternative

Manchester United have given up on their pursuit of Juventus star Alex Sandro and will turn to Jose Gaya instead, reports The Mirror.

The Old Trafford side had the Brazilian at the top of their list of targets this summer but will not meet Juve’s asking price.

Instead, Valencia left-back Jose Gaya, who is expected to cost around £30 million ($40m).

Barcelona to sell Yerry Mina

Yerry Mina will leave Barcelona after just half a season at the club, Sport claims.

The 23-year-old defender joined the club from Palmeiras in January and made six appearances for the first-team but is not part of Ernesto Valverde’s plans for next season.

The imminent arrival of Arthur Melo from Gremio means the Catalan side will have too many foreign players, leaving Mina out in the cold.

Juventus eye De Ligt & Godin

Juventus will turn their attention to Ajax star Matthijs de Ligt and Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin if they lose Medhi Benatia and Daniele Rugani, Gazzetta dello Sport   reports.

The Serie A side fear losing Rugani to Chelsea if the Blues make a big enough offer and see the 18-year-old Netherlands international as an ideal option.

With uncertainty surrounding Benatia, it will be Uruguay veteran Godin they look to as the experienced star to step in to the back line.

Inter hoping to snap up Carvalho

Inter will try to sign Carvalho this summer, but are hesitant because of his situation with Sporting, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

Carvalho is one of several players to have cancelled his contract with Sporting, but the Portuguese side are threatening legal action against each of them.

With the possibility of FIFA getting involved, Inter will have to consider whether it is worth the trouble before they make their move.

Everton want Loftus-Cheek and Wilshere

Everton are hoping to boost their midfield by landing Jack WIlshere and Ruben Loftus-Cheek this summer, The Mirror says.

The Toffees are confident of persuading Wilshere to head to Goodison Park in the hunt for regular football and will try to get Loftus-Cheek on loan from Chelsea after he impressed at Crystal Palace.

Abdou Diallo agrees Dortmund move

Mainz centre-back Abdou Diallo has agreed to join Borussia Dortmund, L’Equipe claims.

The 22-year-old Frenchman had attracted interest from Lyon, but has opted to stay in Germany by linking up with the Bundesliga title hopefuls.

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Liverpool make €180m Asensio bid

Liverpool have made a €180 million (£158m/$210m) bid for Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio, reports Mundo Deportivo.

The midfielder has a €700m release clause in his contract, and new manager Julen Lopetegui is keen to keep the 22-year-old.

However, they will examine Liverpool’s offer, with Jurgen Klopp looking for midfield reinforcements.


Lyon president reveals why he didn’t sell Fekir to Liverpool & how Real Madrid could now sign him

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has revealed why he did not sell Nabil Fekir to Liverpool , and has confirmed that Real Madrid could now sign the France international.

Fekir appeared all set to move to Anfield in a £60 million (€68m/$80m) deal prior to the World Cup, only for Lyon to pull the plug on the deal at the eleventh hour.

Reports emerged afterwards claiming that Liverpool were spooked by injury concerns over Fekir, which were thrown up during the 24-year-old’s medical.

Aulas, though, says he merely got tired of waiting for the transfer to be completed, and has now suggested that Real could swoop for Fekir.

“Nabil was close to Liverpool, I gave the green light on the move.

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“It didn’t happen because it was taking too much time. Nabil is an exceptional player.

“When the Liverpool move didn’t happen, lots of clubs revealed their interest in him, not only Real Madrid and their new coach.

“Everything is possible, but we want him to stay. But if he wants to leave, we will try and find the biggest club in terms of size and efficiency.”

Speaking to beIN Sports, Aulas added:  “The interest of Real Madrid? I believe it’s true. There are no discussions, but I believe that there is interest.

“I’ve not spoken any more with Liverpool.”

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Fekir enjoyed a successful 2017-18 season, scoring 23 goals and providing eight assists in 40 appearances for the French club.

The player’s agent has since revealed that, despite the breakdown in negotiations with Liverpool, a move to Anfield could still happen .

The forward is now in Russia at the World Cup with France, who are currently top of Group C, two points clear of second-placed Denmark.


Transfer news & rumours LIVE: Liverpool make €180m Asensio bid

Liverpool make €180m Asensio bid

Liverpool have made a €180 million (£158m/$210m) bid for Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio, reports Mundo Deportivo.

The midfielder has a €700m release clause in his contract, and new manager Julen Lopetegui is keen to keep the 22-year-old.

However, they will examine Liverpool’s offer, with Jurgen Klopp looking for midfield reinforcements.

Gundogan to snub Barcelona for Man City stay

Ilkay Gundogan is set to sign a new deal with Manchester City, snubbing interest from Barcelona, The Sun reports.  

The midfielder still has two years on his current deal but Pep Guardiola’s side are keen to tie him down for a longer term, with reports in Spain having suggested that Barca are ready to make a big-money bid for his services. 

Kovacic to leave Real Madrid

Mateo Kovacic has revealed that he intends to leave Real Madrid this summer.

The Croatia international has struggled for game time at Santiago Bernabeu, and is keen to find new surroundings where he will be a first-team regular.

“I want to play more and the best thing is to leave Madrid,” he told Marca.

Read the full story on Goal!

Malcom wants Inter move

Malcom wants to move to Inter Milan, per Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Bordeaux winger, who has also been linked with a move to the Premier League, has agreed a deal to move to San Siro.

However, Inter and Bordeaux have yet to agree on the method of transfer; the Italian club are keen to take him on loan, with the obligation to buy him for €40 million. The French side, however, want a permanent sale.

Why Fekir to Liverpool didn’t happen

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has revealed he didn’t sell Nabil Fekir to Liverpool because the talks between the two clubs were taking too long.

The France international’s proposed move to Anfield fell through at the final stages of negotiations, with the Lyon supremo now suggesting the 24-year-old could join Real Madrid.

Check out the full story on Goal! 

Arsenal hold Banega talks

Arsenal have held productive talks with the agent of Ever Banega, according to the Daily Star

The report claims that Unai Emery wants to manage the midfielder, who he coached in Spain, once again and that the Gunners are making progress over a deal for the Argentine. 

Man City eye Boateng reunion

Manchester City are eyeing a potential deal to bring defender Jerome Boateng back to the club this summer from Bayern Munich, BILD reports (via Manchester Evening News ). 

Bayern are reportedly willing to listen to offers this summer after the World Cup, though City could face a challenge from Paris Saint-Germain. 

Phil Foden to stay at Man City

Pep Guardiola will not be loaning Phil Foden out next season, despite receiving interest from Leeds, the Daily Star reports. 

Despite his respect for new Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa, Guardiola wants to keep his prized asset in Manchester and believes that staying will be best for his development. 

Liverpool end Alisson chase

Liverpool have called off their pursuit of Roma goalkeeper Alisson, Don Balon   claims.

Real Madrid’s interest in the Brazilian has caused Jurgen Klopp’s side to throw in the towel, though the report claims that the Reds have a backup plan in Lazio’s Thomas Strakosha.

Fulham turn down West Ham over Cairney 

Fulham have turned down West Ham’s £20 million ($27m) bid for Tom Cairney, Sky Sports   reports. 

The 27-year-old was of interest to the Hammers during the winter window but bids for his services were rejected at that point as well. 

Southampton agree Armstrong fee

Southampton have agreed a fee with Celtic for midfielder Stuart Armstrong, Sky Sports   reports. 

The 26-year-old is now in contract negotiations with the Premier League side ahead of a potential move. 

Rangers interested in Roma striker

Steven Gerrard and Rangers are interested in signing Roma striker Umar Sadiq, according to Sky Sports .  

The club are looking to bring in the 21-year-old Nigerian on a year-long loan deal. 

Galaxy chasing Swedish winger

The LA Galaxy are looking to land Swedish winger Jiloan Hamad, reports Swedish outlet  Expressen .

The Galaxy are already home to the most famous of Swedish stars in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and are once again looking to the European country to add depth to their attack, though they face competition from other MLS sides.

Sevilla to move for Newcastle midfielder

Sevilla will look to replace Ever Banega with Newcastle midfielder Mikel Merino should their current star complete his move to Arsenal, The Northern Echo   claims. 

The 22-year-old joined the Premier League side last summer from Dortmund but failed to lock down a regular starting spot. 

Barcelona make approach for Lozano

Hirving Lozano’s father has confirmed that Barcelona have made an approach for the Mexico international.

Lozano, known as ‘Chucky’, rocked world champions Germany in Mexico’s opening match at the 2018 World Cup, scoring the winning goal in his side’s stunning 1-0 victory.

The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakout season at PSV Eindhoven in 2017-18, scoring 19 goals and providing 11 assists in 34 appearances in all competitions, and his World Cup debut appears to have gained him even more admirers.

Read the full story on Goal right here!

Kluivert completes €17m Roma move

Justin Kluivert has joined Roma from Ajax in a deal worth an initial €17.25 million (£15m/$20m).

The 19-year-old’s departure from Ajax had been imminent for some time after he rejected a contract offer and criticised the club in an interview in May .

The Serie A side have now reached an agreement with Ajax and confirmed the signing of Kluivert on a five-year deal.

Read the full story on Goal right here!

Real Madrid sign Ukrainian goalkeeper Lunin

Real Madrid have confirmed the signing of 19-year-old Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Lunin.

Lunin joins from Zorya Luhansk in the Ukrainian Premier League, where he made 29 league appearances in the 2017-18 season, signing a six-year deal with the Spanish side.

The teenager is considered one of the top goalkeeping prospects in Europe, and had attracted interest from several Premier League sides, including Liverpool, while Juventus and Inter were also said to be tracking him.

Read the full story on Goal right here!

Barca-linked Lenglet yet to decide future

Clement Lenglet is yet to make a decision regarding his future despite appearing on the verge of completing a move to Barcelona, his agent has said.

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Defender Lenglet has gained many admirers since joining Sevilla from Nancy in January 2017, quickly securing a first-team role under Jorge Sampaoli and remaining a key figure last season, playing 35 times – more than any of his team-mates – in La Liga.

Reports of Barca’s interest were prominent for much of the campaign, especially in the wake of the 23-year-old’s stellar performance against Manchester United in the Champions League, and there have even been claims the Catalan club already have an agreement with the centre-back.

Read the full story on Goal right here!


Kovacic announces intention to leave Real Madrid

Mateo Kovacic has run out of patience at Real Madrid and wants to leave the club in search of regular action.

Croatia international Kovacic joined Madrid in 2015 from Inter after developing into one of Serie A’s most promising players, costing Los Blancos a reported €35 million (£30m/$40m).

But it has been a constant struggle for Kovacic to carve out a niche in the Madrid midfield, failing to oust countryman Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro in Zinedine Zidane’s favoured trio.

After Zidane made his decision to resign following a third successive Champions League success, Kovacic – still just 24 – was seen by many as one of the players most likely to benefit.

But, frustrated with starting just 37 La Liga games in three years, Kovacic is going to look for a new start unless Madrid can offer him more starts.

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Speaking to Marca, Kovacic said: “I want to play more and the best thing is to leave Madrid.

“I love football and being on the pitch. I want the opportunity to be a starter on another team. If I do not play, I’m not happy.”

Premier League side Tottenham have been linked with moves for Kovacic in the past.