Premier League • England

Chelsea summer signing ‘has no personality’, claims respected manager who expected much more from early struggler

Marc Cucurella and Kalidou Koulibaly sandwiching Dejan Kulusevski

Kalidou Koulibaly is “surprising” former England manager Fabio Capello by showing “no personality” in the early months of his Chelsea career.

Chelsea signed Koulibaly from Napoli in Capello’s native Italy during the summer transfer window. He arrived as part of a changing of their defensive guard. After Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen left, the Blues brought in the Senegal international, as well as Wesley Fofana and Marc Cucurella.

During his time with Napoli, Koulibaly established himself as one of the best defenders in the world. Across his eight years with the Serie A side, he was regularly linked with a transfer to the Premier League.

After it finally happened in the summer, what has followed so far has been slightly underwhelming. The 31-year-old is now in a battle to win the trust of recently appointed head coach, Graham Potter.

Potter gave Koulibaly a start in Chelsea’s 3-0 Champions League win over AC Milan on Wednesday night. In a more promising sign, he helped them keep a clean sheet.

However, the former Metz man still has his work cut out for him to force his way into Potter’s plans on a regular basis.

It seems surprising given the calibre of player he is. But he will have to earn his place in the Chelsea lineup and show the kind of authority that he used to in Naples.

Indeed, according to Capello, Koulibaly has not been showing the same kind of personality since his transfer to Chelsea. Specifically, he needs to regain his confidence on the ball.

Capello told Sky Sport Italia: “At Chelsea he has no personality.

“When he has the ball at his feet he hesitates. He is not playing quickly. He does not do what he did at Napoli.

“At Napoli he commanded, he came forward, he made long passes. Now he has the ball between his feet, he does not know who to pass it to and he always plays passes to someone only a few metres away.

“Actually, he is surprising me. I thought he had a great personality, and for Chelsea he would be really important and explode straight away. And yet, at this moment, this is not him.”

Koulibaly can prove himself at Chelsea

Koulibaly won a place in the Serie A Team of the Year for four consecutive seasons with Napoli, between 2015-16 and 2018-19. In the latter campaign of that run, he was named the league’s Best Defender.

After winning the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal earlier this year, Koulibaly has not been fading. However, there might be some concerns arising from his formative days with Chelsea.

His contract with the Premier League club is due to last until 2026. Hence, he has plenty of time to turn things around and show why he arrived with such a good reputation.

For now, he has to focus on the short-term goals of improving his form. But there is no reason why he should not be able to establish himself as a key player for Potter.

That said, even for a player of his pedigree, it can take time to adapt to a new environment. Koulibaly will have been settled at Napoli, where he enjoyed his prime years, and has left them as a different player to the one he joined them as.

Hence, the transition between clubs is something he will have to approach with a new mindset now. In time, though, he should be a beneficial player for Chelsea.

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