We’ve reached that time of year again, when the transfer rumour mill starts to go into overdrive as clubs prepare for the new season by strengthening their playing squads.
And because we’re closing in on that time, the rumours of a certain Senegalese defender leaving Napoli are surfacing for what seems like the 10th straight transfer window.
It’s the new Wesley Sneijder to Man United.
That’s right, Kalidou Koulibaly is seemingly on the move. Napoli have done well to keep hold of the 29-year-old centre back for the last six years, but with Manchester City seemingly taking a serious interest in him, can they hold onto him for much longer?
Since joining Gli Azzurri from KRC Genk for just £6.5m, Koulibaly has taken to Italian football perfectly, with his presence at the back seeing Napoli challenge for Serie A titles (albeit unsuccessfully) and win the Coppa Italia this season.
With City certainly looking at centre-backs this summer, Koulibaly would be the perfect defender for Pep Guardiola’s squad, and someone that could finally fill the considerable hole left by Vincent Kompany last season.
There are two main factors which count against Koulibaly moving to City though; his age, and his price tag.
Ever since Europe’s biggest clubs started to sniff around the defender, Napoli’s extroverted owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has made sure everyone knows they’ll have to pay a premium for his services. A fee of north of £80m would be required to get him, and at the age of 29, that is putting off many of his suitors.
But, here’s the thing – that shouldn’t be an issue for Manchester City. In fact, it could well be the perfect combination for the now former Premier League champions.
With Liverpool set to win the league by more than 20 points, there’s clearly a massive gap to bridge. That gap has formed after City lost their most influential member of the squad (Kompany), and they’re set to lose another this summer in David Silva.
They need ready made replacements to come into the squad, especially in a key position like centre back. Aymeric Laporte is City’s number one in that position, but needs a regular partner alongside him. John Stones has suffered a crisis of confidence, while Nicolas Otamendi is too aggressive and unreliable.
Koulibaly brings that ready-made character to the side. At 29, people might say his best years are behind him, but with defenders regularly playing at their peak until their early 30’s, you could easily get four years of service out of him.
During that four years, Eric Garcia could and should develop into the player City believe he will become, having already showed promising signs when given the chance over the last 18 months.
City shouldn’t bring in another centre-back younger than 25, as that will freeze out Garcia for a longer term, providing Laporte keeps his fitness. Koulibaly could play alongside Laporte and give City a solid base on which to build another title challenge. He’ll also bring some much needed physicality to the City side, another area Kompany excelled in.
Looking through City’s regular starters, there’s only Rodri and Laporte that come in over 6’0″, and with both hardly known for their physical prowess, it leaves City looking somewhat lightweight at times.
As for the fee; is £80m really that much when you consider how much losing Vincent Kompany has cost you? If losing the Belgian makes your side go from the first to ever reach 100 points in the league to finishing 20+ points off the pace, you really should be prepared to spend big to bridge the gap.
And, with Leroy Sane set to leave for around £30m (providing Bayern low-ball City over the fee), and Joao Cancelo potentially leaving, the fee could quite feasibly be offset more.
Now is the time for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City 2.0. The legends of the club are reaching the end of their productive years and leaving for pastures new, and it’s going to cost to replace them. Starting with Koulibaly, the Citizens should be much closer to runaway winners Liverpool next season.