Manchester United and Manchester City fans will wake up with an extra spring in their step this morning. Both teams have been given boosts in their pursuits of the man voted best defender in Serie A during the 2018/19 season.
Reports from SI Now suggest that Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is set to snub French champions Paris Saint Germain this summer.
Even a lucrative offer wouldn’t be able to tempt him to France. Preferring a move to England, it’s even said that Koulibaly would prefer to stay in Italy to moving to France.
The 28-year-old has developed into one of Napoli’s most important players since signing from Genk. The Senegalese is a towering and powerful defender, who has averaged more tackles than fouls conceded per game this season.
The 6ft-4in defender is surprisingly comfortable in possession, where others of his stature rely heavily on their physical advantages. He has proven to be a very eccentric player for Napoli, with his style making him like a more assured version of Crystal Palace’s Mamadou Sakho.
The defender also represented his country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, playing all three of Senegal’s matches. The West African nation felt the sympathy of many when they were knocked out on the number of yellow cards they received. They became the first country to fall victim to the fair play tiebreaker rules.
Koulibaly is said to be unconvinced by PSG, with the standard of football in France being the concern. Whereas he sees a move to the Premier League as a step up.
Both Manchester clubs are now considered front runners in the race for him, who has an €80 million price tag.
PSG won’t necessarily be weaker failing to sign Koulibaly, with Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe both being reliable central defenders in the Parisien’s ranks. The same cannot be said for the two Manchester clubs…
For Manchester United, he would serve as a quality partner to Harry Maguire and an improvement on current starter Victor Lindelof. The club captain signed last summer for a world record £78.3 million.
United have tried and failed to replace one of the Premier League’s best ever centre back pairing. Since Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic left in 2014, United have fielded many centre back pairings. Among them, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were both tipped for success by Sir Alex Ferguson.
It didn’t really work out for either at Old Trafford, with Smalling resurrecting his career in Italy with Roma.
Since 2014, United have spent a whopping £177.75 million on centre backs, with Maguire being the only real success. Koulibaly could be the experience that helps cover the naiveties that come with having young fullbacks in Aaron Wan Bissaka and Brandon Williams.
Manchester City have also struggled since they let club legend Vincent Kompany leave in the summer. An injury to Aymeric Laporte has left Pep Guardiola with no choice but to operate with midfielder Fernandinho at the heart of his defence.
This is largely due to the frailties of both Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones. Both defenders have received criticism for their decision making. Experienced Argentine Otamendi displays the patience and naivety of a young child at times.
While, at 25, Stones seemingly slips closer towards being someone who didn’t reach his potential year on year with his lack of conviction.
City may have to break the bank to lure Koulibaly to the Etihad. The two-year ban from European football could be a potential source of reservation towards the blue half of Manchester.
The ban itself could be something that prevents City from buying the defender. City could lose up to £70 million in 2020 alone, which is close to the fee needed to buy Koulibaly.