Kalidou Koulibaly has explained that the possibility of working under Thomas Tuchel was a key factor in him signing for Chelsea – a move that could have happened six years ago.
The Senegalese international completed his switch to Chelsea from Napoli earlier this week, penning a four-year deal to become our second summer signing behind Raheem Sterling.
We caught up with the defender at our base in Las Vegas recently to discuss his signing, with Koulibably explaining how there was the prospect of him signing for us in 2016, why he can’t wait to test himself in the Premier League and why Jorginho and Edouard Mendy were encouraging him to make the switch to west London!
Here is everything the new Blue had to say…
Kalidou, welcome to America and welcome to Chelsea! How does it feel to get the deal done and join the Blues?
Thank you very much! I’m very happy and excited to be here and to join up with the team in America. I was in London a few days ago to sort everything out and now I’m here, I’m so excited to play for this club. Now I’m a Chelsea player, I just want to thank everyone for making this happen. The staff, the coach for wanting me and all the boys for making me feel so welcome. Already, I feel at home.
How have the past few days been like for you, they must have been quite hectic?
They have, yes. I wanted to pass my medical and get out to the pre-season tour in America as soon as possible but these things take a little bit of time. There was a lot of paperwork and documents to sort out first, so I did a lot of walking around the hotel on my own to kill time while I waited for the news to come in that it was done! I spoke a lot with the manager and with my family and I’m just really happy, because I made a big decision to come to Chelsea. I wanted to test myself in the greatest league in the world and I want to thank everyone for giving me this chance.
You mentioned your family, it’s a big move for you but also for them too…
Yes, of course. I spent eight years in Napoli, everyone knew me there and we were happy living in Naples. After eight years, I felt it was time for a new challenge and as soon as Chelsea called, I didn’t hesitate. It almost happened before in 2016 but now, in 2022, I’m delighted to be here.
There are a couple of familiar faces already here in Jorginho and Edou Mendy, did you speak much to them before signing?
I speak a lot with them both. Jorgi actually texted me and asked if I wanted to come to Chelsea! At the time, I wasn’t sure if they wanted me but of course, I said I would come with pleasure. It was the same with Edou, he asked me the question and I told him it was already done and I would see him soon! Now I’m here, I’m really happy to start this exciting journey. The squad looks great with a good mix of younger players and those with more experience.
What’s your message to the supporters, upon signing?
I want to give emotion to the squad and help the team every time I play for this club. I can’t wait to come to Stamford Bridge and to show everybody how much it means for me to be here. I want to help the squad and together, we want to try and win trophies.
You’re an experienced player, how important will your leadership skills be on this young group?
Well I hope to give my experience to all the guys to help them, especially the younger players. I played for eight seasons in Napoli, I’ve played in the Champions League and in some important games and now I want to learn about the Premier League and give my best. I know that the Premier League is very fast and physical but it is also tactical, so it’s something I will have to adapt to quickly and to improve myself to be the player the coach wants. I will give him and the team everything he wants from me.
How excited are you to work with Thomas Tuchel?
Really excited. It’s important to me that he called me, he told me what he wants from me and everything he told me was perfect for me to come to Chelsea. I’m really happy to work under him. I knew him from his days in Paris as PSG and he called me direct to ask if I wanted to come to Chelsea, and of course the answer was yes. I’m really happy to work with him and to work with his staff. He’s a good man, a very good trainer and I’m looking forward to working with him.
What are the big challenges facing you by making this move?
Everything is a personal challenge in life. Moving to London, and the Premier League, from Serie A is a big step but it’s one I wanted to do and to make everyone see that I am the player that they think. I think this is the right moment to come and I’m so happy to be at this big club.