Chelsea’s dying need for a central defender is no secret.
With currently 4 in the squad, that number is set to decrease even further. Chelsea have had many offers and a loan move is imminent for American Matt Miazga.
That leaves the Blues with John Terry, Gary Cahill and Kurt Zouma. Terry is on his last legs, Cahill’s ability has come under the firing line and Zouma is just returning from a knee injury that forced him out of the second half of last season and the European Championships. Therefore, a host of centre backs have been linked to making the switch to West London.
One name that has failed to go away, is Kalidou Koulibaly. It has been reported that Chelsea is the 25 year-olds preferred destination, however Napoli are proving tricky customers to deal with. In no desperate need for money thanks to the Higuain to Juventus deal, they are holding out for the full asking price of €50 million.
Things have taken a positive turn in recent days, though. Napoli’s rumoured No.1 replacement for Koulibaly, Nikola Maksimovic, has refused to turn up to Torino training in order to force through his move to the Naples side, suggesting an exit for the Senegalese international is near.
Koulibaly would add a much needed depth to the Chelsea defence. Conte has made it clear that club-captain John Terry is not physically capable to play every game this season. Gary Cahill, Chelsea’s other first choice defender, is now 30 years-old and isn’t getting any younger. Whereas, Koulibaly is still only 25, which means a long-standing partnership between himself and Zouma could form.
He was also extremely impressive for Napoli last season, forming a rock-solid partnership with Raul Albiol. This form saw him included in the Serie A Team of the Year. The 25 year-old stands at a hefty 6ft 5inches tall, which makes him a dominant presence in the box. He is also energetic, a trait Antonio Conte looks for in all of his players. His clever reading of play, alongside his pace, allows him to often spot opposition attacks mounting and snuff out the danger.
However, due to the fact Kouliably represents Senegal, every other year he will depart the squad to visit the Africa Cup of Nations. The fixtures are also often during the Christmas period, one of the busiest times in the Premier League calendar. That means an important part of the defence would be missing for a good couple of weeks and Chelsea are back to square one, with only Terry, Cahill and Zouma in the squad.
The 25 year-old has also arguably only had one standout season at the top level. After joining Napoli in 2014, his first season was undermining to say the least. Often warming the bench and looking out of his depth when he did play, there were calls from many Napoli fans to sell the Senegalese international.
Napoli are also playing hardball. Desperate to keep hold of Koulibaly, various Chelsea bids have been rejected already. The end of the transfer window is looming and now is the time for the Blues to step up their pursuit. Otherwise this could be an exact replica of the John Stones saga and the West London side could end up looking rather red-faced at the end of it all.
A decision on whether Koulibaly is joining Chelsea must be made within the next few days. That still leaves the Blues with enough time to sign another centre back and not end the transfer window with the same back line as the previous season. Other alternatives Chelsea have been linked with are Lazio’s Stefan de Vrij, Benfica’s Victor Lindelof and Napoli target, Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic.
Koulibaly still must be the No.1 choice, the defender is a player that would add much needed depth and quality to the defence. The deal is now up to whether the board are willing to pay his full asking price and get the deal done.