Former Napoli boss Rafael Benitez has pointed out some of the flaws Kalidou Koulibaly is “guilty” of following his Chelsea transfer.
The Blues made it a key summer transfer window mission to bolster their defence. While boss Thomas Tuchel had a wealth of options last season, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen have both departed.
The Koulibaly deal comes after Chelsea explored many other avenues. They resumed long-term interest in Sevilla’s Jules Kounde earlier this summer and he could yet move to Stamford Bridge.
However, Manchester City rejected Chelsea‘s approaches for Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte.
Tuchel’s side have subsequently gone for Koulibaly, the 31-year-old Senegal international star who has long had links with a move to the Premier League.
Speaking about the player he used to work with, ex-Napoli chief Benitez ran the rule over the centre-back.
“He must improve his concentration at times,” Benitez told The Athletic.
“He can be guilty of losing focus and can be overconfident, but he has been hugely influential at Napoli and people I know and trust have told me that he has been the best centre-back in Italy during this time.
“This season will be the Premier League for him and he could be fine for the way that Tuchel wants to play. He has similarities with Rudiger – he is very good at running with the ball, he’s good with both feet.”
Benitez added that he wonders if Koulibaly has the physical and aerial presence to succeed in the Premier League.
Benitez warns Chelsea about Koulibaly
“Is he a little bit too nice? We will see what happens at Chelsea,” the Spaniard added. “As I said, in Italy he was fine because he was so quick, but I doubt he will be so dominant over here.
“Aerial ability wasn’t his biggest strength but in Italy, that mattered a bit less and he was ok.
“It will be interesting to see how that develops in the Premier League but he was always very keen to learn.
“He spent time with me and my staff after training sessions to work on his heading and improving his technique.”
Centre-back must prove himself
Koulibaly leaves Napoli after eight years with the Serie A side where he gained a reputation as a no-nonsense centre-back.
And it is now time for him to prove himself on the big stage after so much talk about his future.
Liverpool and Manchester United are among just some of the teams to have had links with a move for Koulibaly.
Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has been a regular voice throughout many recent summer transfer windows. The club chief has talked up his star centre-back and the sometimes astronomical fees for him.
Now that he is finally in the limelight, Koulibaly will want to hit the ground running and prove his reputation.