Plenty of elite clubs are looking to sign a new centre-back this summer. There are a lot of budget options and bargains available, but the richest sides continue to be linked with Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly.
Before the coronavirus outbreak, talk of a £120m transfer refused to go away, but everything died down once clubs realised they couldn't pay that amount anymore.
90min has learned that Napoli are well aware of the current financial situation and are prepared to lower their demands to closer to £75m, which has piqued the interest of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.
90??? ?????????: Napoli are prepared to lower their asking price for Kalidou Koulibaly...— 90min (@90min_Football) June 15, 2020
On the surface, that still seems pretty expensive. After all, this is a player who is days away from turning 29 and therefore comes with little-to-no resale value. However, if you take a deeper look at it, you'll see that it's a deal worth doing.
There's no denying that, since his breakthrough year in 2015/16, Koulibaly has been an elite defender. He is an underrated passer with outstanding physicality and defensive awareness. His role in Napoli's emergence as a real superpower in Italian football cannot be understated.
However, what also can't be denied is his drop-off this year.
Koulibaly has featured in just 15 out of a possible 26 Serie A games thus far as a result of various injury struggles, and even when he has been on the pitch, he hasn't been as great as you might have expected.
Surely a team with 'one of the best defenders in the world' in the lineup can't drop as low as 11th at one point? Napoli are still 24 points off top spot - surely that's not good enough from Koulibaly?
Yeah, you're right. That's not good enough. But, instead of viewing this as an ageing player who looks to have been caught up by Father Time, it's important to consider what's been going on at Napoli this year.
Alongside Koulibaly, pretty much every player at Napoli was caught up in a real row with the club's hierarchy. President Aurelio De Laurentiis' decision to order players to attend a 'boot camp' in November left players refusing to return to training. Koulibaly was part of that, and that's when the exit rumours started.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti was eventually sacked in the wake of that and replaced by Gennaro Gattuso, so it's abundantly clear that this year is somewhat of a write-off for Napoli. Things haven't been right at the Stadio San Paolo for a while now.
It's not just Koulibaly who has underperformed. Hirving Lozano has been a huge disappointment, Dries Mertens' goal numbers are well down and Alex Meret's save percentage has dropped. The atmosphere has damaged everyone.
What that means is that Koulibaly's form shouldn't be seen as a problem. At his best, he's still an elite defender with a good few years left at the top level, and that's what makes him so appealing.
Sure, £75m would be a hefty spend, but what it would almost guarantee is success. For City, he could be the man to steer them back to the title. For United, the difference between fifth and fourth. For Chelsea, the man to turn them into a contender. For PSG, a Champions League winner.
These are teams who all need to take the next step, and when you're in that situation, you need to spend. You need results. Koulibaly guarantees results.
Koulibaly won't bring you much resale value, but he generates revenue through his performances. Clubs will make money from their success, and that means more than any resale. If you want to win, you need to sign Koulibaly.
Source : 90min