Thursday, December 1, 2022

Liverpool Identify Serie A Defender As Target After Making ‘First Contact’: Good Option For Klopp?

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Abhinab Ghosh
A 26-year-old sports writer and an aspiring football coach who has road-tripped across the Scottish Highlands, but has never been to Wales. Sucker for cliff-hangers and catchy riffs. Known to be a grunger and not to be a stranger.

According to a recent report by TuttoMercatoWeb, Liverpool are hoping to sign a new centre-back partner for Virgil Van Dijk and have identified Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly as a target for the summer transfer window. The same source has also claimed that the Reds have already reached out to the Naples-based club over the possibility of signing the Senegalese international when the transfer window reopens later this year.

It is believed that Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis has decided to cash in on Koulibaly in this off-season with the Merseyside club interested in pairing him up with Van Dijk which could also lead to Joel Matip’s departure from Anfield (via TuttoMercatoWeb).

Koulibaly’s Incredible Form At Naples Despite Recent Injury Struggles

Koulibaly has enjoyed another dominant season at the San Paolo Stadium despite his side’s struggles in the Serie A so far. Even though frequent injuries have derailed his progress under the stewardship of Gennaro Gattuso, yet he has garnered a lot of praise for putting in a run of commanding displays at the heart of the Napoli backline. The 28-year-old has been involved in 21 matches for the Italian giants this term, playing a total of 1757 minutes across all competitions

To his credit, the Senegalese powerhouse has been a consistent performer in Italy after averaging 2.5 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 3.5 clearances in every 90 minutes of football in the Serie A and the Champions League this season (stats via whoscored). His numbers showcase just how dominant he has been for the Naples outfit even when things have not fallen in place for him during this season.

The former FC Metz defender is the current captain of the Senegalese national team, having secured 33 international caps for his country while registering one goal in the process. The France-born defender led his international teammates to an impressive second-place finish in the last edition of the African Cup of Nations. Thus we can expect him to assume a similar role when the prestigious competition gets underway once again next year.

Napoli’s French defender Kalidou Koulibaly celebrate at the end of the Italian Serie A football match between SSC Napoli and Parma Calcio 1913 on September 26, 2018, at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples. (CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

What Will The Senegalese Defender Bring To Merseyside?

Koulibaly can put his remarkable upper-body strength to good use when defending crosses and can dominate his own penalty area with authority and conviction by overpowering the opposition, which makes him such an invaluable member of Gattuso’s squad. The Senegalese international is also quite strong in the air and can be a potent goal-threat from dead-ball situations in the opposition half. However, there is no doubt that his recent injury record will be a significant cause for concern for any of his potential suitors, including Liverpool.

Even if that’s the case, the pros outweigh the cons of signing him, and so Jurgen Klopp would be wise to plan a move to lure him to the north-west of England this summer. Koulibaly has built a reputation for making a few well-timed tackles which enable him to win the ball back for his team. He also has the speed and the power to make recovering runs inside his own half and deal with any danger that he might stumble upon at the back. The experienced defender is also not afraid to put his body on the line when trying to block a goal-bound shot from the opposition.

Will Koulibaly Be A Good Option For The UEFA Super Cup Winners?

The possibility of Koulibaly forming one of the best defensive partnerships in Europe with Virgil Van Dijk will be a mouth-watering prospect for anyone associated with the Merseyside giants. He will serve as an upgrade over Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and even, Joe Gomez which makes him an excellent option for the Reds to pursue ahead of the new season.

Koulibaly is quite proficient at reading the danger quickly, which goes a long way in explaining why he has averaged over three clearances per game in domestic and European football this season. He will not only add some physicality and pace to the Liverpool defence but also significantly increase the overall quality of Klopp’s starting XI. Plus, the Senegalese defensive ace will fit into Klopp’s brand of football seamlessly as he is an accurate ball-distributor who has completed 89.3% of his attempted passes in the Italian top-flight this term (stats via whoscored).

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