LONDON: Kalidou Koulibaly is Chelsea’s new Toni Rudiger. The Blues have succeeded where every other top Premier League club has failed and bought the Senegal centre defender from Napoli for £33m.
His four-year contract is worth £160,000-per-week and he haas already flown out to Las Vegas to join his new team-mates on their pre-season tour of the United States.
Koulibaly, who was also a summer target for Juventus, had one year left on his Napoli contract, and his signing is the second major acquisition by the new ownership regime of American sports entrepreneur Todd Boehly and his consortium. England striker Raheem Sterling was the first, from Manchester City for £47.5m.
Chelsea lost not only Rudiger to Real Madrid but Andreas Christensen to Barcelona. That left them with only Brazilian veteran Thiago Silva and comparatively inexperienced Trevoh Chalobah and Malang Sarr.
Manager Thomas Tuchel had hoped to partner Koulibaly with Nathan Ake but the Dutch defender has decided to stay with Manchester City.
Koulibaly said: “I’m very happy to be here. Chelsea are a big team in the world and my dream was always to play in the Premier League. They came for me first back in 2016 but we didn’t make it work. So I know they really wanted me to come to the Premier League to play for them.”
The 31-year-old made more than 300 appearances for Napoli after joining Belgian club Genk eight years ago. He was named four times in the Serie A team of the year and was hailed as the best defender in Italy in 2019.
Chelsea are still interested in Sevilla’s Jules Kounde, RB Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol and Paris Saint-Germain’s Presnel Kimpembe. Their vaccination status is one important element for Chelsea’s consideration.
N’Golo Kante and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have both missed the US tour because they lack the necessary vaccinations and are working at the Cobham training centre south of London with the youth teams.
Tuchel said: “We don’t like the situation. Both players took their decisions. They know about the consequences. This is an issue in terms of transfers. It is a part of daily life at the moment.”
Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp said last year that he would not be interested in a player who had refused vaccinations because they could pose a health risk to team-mates and staff.