Kalidou Koulibaly is ready and waiting to thrive in the Premier League.
The defender is set to make his Chelsea debut at Goodison Park on Saturday, and three days out from the game he spoke to the UK media for the first time in a press conference at Cobham.
Koulibaly fielded questions on a range of subjects and here we focus on what he said about matters on the pitch, starting with why he does not want to be seen as a direct replacement for Toni Rudiger.
‘Antonio is a really good player,’ said Koulibaly.
‘I know what he did for Chelsea. I used to play against him when he was at Roma. He did a lot at Chelsea and I’m happy for him when he joined Real Madrid, but for me it’s not pressure.
‘I don’t want to be the guy who is replacing Rudiger. I am Koulibaly, another player, not the same player, I don’t play like him. I have different skills, another style, another idea of football, so I will try to do my best to give solidity to the team.’
Solidity was a word Koulibaly brought up often. For all his ballplaying ability, it clearly defines his motivations as a defender, as he explained in greater detail when he considered the challenges that await him in England.
‘I like duels, I like one against ones, to give solidity, to defend, so it’s the right place for me. There are a lot of good attackers in the Premier League, some of the best in the world, so it will be difficult, but I’m easy and I want to show I can be the defender everybody thinks.
‘My first idea is to not let a goal in,’ he added.
‘If we do that, we have a lot of talent, a lot of big players who can score every time, everywhere. If we give this solidity to the back, in front they will have no worries and they will score a lot.
‘I come from Italy, it will be difficult, but I’m ready because I’m really motivated. I want to show everybody I’m ready to play in the Premier League.’
And what challenges, Koulibaly was asked, will English football pose him?
‘Everything is faster. I have to think faster, my head has to go faster, my eyes have to go faster. This is the most difficult thing for a player coming to the Premier League. In Serie A everything is more with the brain, more calm. That’s the first thing I have to change.
‘It’s a new system for me, 3-5-2, so I have to adapt. I’m thankful to the staff because they have helped me understand everything and talked a lot with me, and the other players like Thiago Silva and Azpi.
Time to adapt
‘The most important thing is to have good behaviour to understand everything fast,’ continued Kalidou.
‘I need time, for sure. I cannot be the player everybody is waiting for in the first game, but I will take my time, give everything I can, and I know in two or three months I will be the player everybody is waiting for.
‘For the moment I’m really calm, I am thinking game after game, and preparing to help the team on Saturday if the coach gives me the opportunity to start.
‘I want to give everything for the club. They have a lot of confidence in me, so I want to show them on the pitch they made a good choice with me.’