Kalidou Koulibaly hailed new Chelsea boss Graham Potter in spite of his surprise benching v RB Salzburg, and detailed how long his adaptation period to the Premier League will take.
Koulibaly was part of a widescale revamp of Chelsea’s backline this summer. Marcos Alonso, Emerson Palmieri, Levi Colwill, Ethan Ampadu, Malang Sarr, Matt Miazga, Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger all departed either on loan or permanently.
Replacing them were Marc Cucurella, Wesley Fofana and Koulibaly.
Chelsea’s rearguard is still brimming with top level talent despite the exodus. Aged 31 and costing £33m, Koulibaly was expected to make an instant impact from the get go.
The Senegal international has shown glimpses of what made him such a colossus at Napoli.
However, there has been the odd nervy moment, specifically against Leeds and Southampton. He was needlessly red-carded for two bookable offences in the 3-0 thumping against the Whites.
Now, speaking to Senegalese outlet Le Quotidien, Koulibaly claimed taking time to adapt to a new league is an inevitability of football.
Furthermore, he claimed he’s been told it could take six months before Chelsea see his best, though he’s targeting a much quicker turnaround.
“I have to learn everything very quickly” – Koulibaly
“That’s football, that’s part of it,” said Koulibaly. “Nothing is a given.
“I challenged myself. I could have stayed in Naples, been quiet there, but I wanted a new challenge and I’m happy with that.
“Now, I don’t think there are many players who come to a club and [are] immediately decisive. I think it’s normal that there is an adaptation period.
“I have been in Italy for eight years. I’m arriving in England, where I have to learn everything very quickly.
“Some even told me that this adjustment period could last six months, but I think it will take less time.
“I’m really motivated, I want to show everyone that I’m a good defender, and that’s on the field.
“I think it will go well and that the adaptation will happen very quickly, I don’t worry about that. I know I’ll be ready when called upon.”
Koulibaly’s first impression of Potter
Adding to Koulibaly’s challenge is the fact he has a new manager leading the team less than two months into his stint at Stamford Bridge.
Graham Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel two weeks ago and for his first match in charge against RB Salzburg, dropped Koulibaly to the bench.
Potter selected a backline containing those already well entrenched at the club, such as Reece James, Cesar Azpilicueta and Thiago Silva, or those he knows from Brighton, such as Marc Cucurella.
That meant Koulibaly joined £70m signing Wesley Fofana on the bench. Regardless, Koulibaly is impressed with what he’s seen from Potter so far, labelling him a “real coach”.
“The new manager came with some good ideas,” added Koulibaly. “He’s a real coach.
“He did some good things with Brighton. Now, he’s Chelsea manager. He has guidelines, expectations.
“It’s up to me to be patient. It’s up to me to show that I deserve to play, to show in training that the manager can trust me.
“There will be no problem. We are also in the first week. It’s normal for the manager to rely on players who are used to Chelsea and who have been there for a long time.
“When I will be 100 percent, there will be no problem. I will play again Inshallah.”