Premier League • England

Expected Man Utd transfer tees up escape route for most rapidly declining Chelsea flop

Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly sandwiching Dejan Kulusevski

Kalidou Koulibaly could make a surprise return to Napoli from Chelsea if he gets his way in the event of Kim Min-jae joining Man Utd, a report has claimed.

Napoli sold Koulibaly to Chelsea last summer after several years of resisting interest in him. His eventual move to the Premier League has been a major disappointment, though. Compared to how good he was before in Serie A, Koulibaly has suffered a serious downturn in fortunes at Stamford Bridge.

In contrast, the man who replaced him in Naples – Kim Min-jae – has established himself as one of the world’s most desirable defenders. Despite reports of a threat from Newcastle, there is an increasing expectation that Kim will end up at Man Utd.

His suitors will be able to take him away from Napoli by activating a release clause in his contract. In turn, the Serie A champions will be desperate to find a replacement they can rely on.

And according to Il Mattino, Koulibaly would gladly perform a U-turn by going back to Napoli and taking over from his own successor.

The problem is that the deal would have to be a loan, whereby Chelsea would still have to cover a significant portion of the centre-back’s wages.

Regardless, Mauricio Pochettino looks likely to put Koulibaly on his list of expendable players when he begins his new job as the Chelsea head coach. One of his main tasks this summer will be to reduce their bloated squad size.

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Koulibaly keen to complete Napoli return

Despite Koulibaly only spending one season at Chelsea so far, he could be one of those to make way after failing to live up to expectations. And for his part, he is eager to tell Napoli that he wants to return.

Whether the interest in a reunion becomes reciprocated is up for question as things stand. Therefore, Chelsea might have to listen out for any other offers for Koulibaly as well.

When he was at Napoli before, Koulibaly made more than 300 appearances, earning widespread admiration. There is a cruel irony that the club have won the league title in their first season without him.

But if their union with Kim is to be short-lived, as is now expected, then perhaps there could be a route back to Italy for the Senegal international.

Whereas Koulibaly could be up for sale, another Chelsea flop might receive a lifeline from Pochettino.

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