Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Real Madrid Trailing Liverpool In The Chase For Serie A Defender: Should Zidane Step Up His Pursuit?

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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 Gazzetta dello Sport (subscription required), Real Madrid are trailing Liverpool in the race to land Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly during the summer transfer window (translated by The Daily Mail). The same source has also stated that the Reds are willing to offer Dejan Lovren as part of their offer which has put them ahead of Los Blancos in pursuit of the Serie A defender in this off-season.

Along with the Merseyside outfit, it is understood that the Spanish giants will face competition from Manchester United in the chase to sign Koulibaly with Napoli unwilling to lower their £89m asking price for the player (via Gazzetta dello Sport).

Koulibaly’s Solid Form In Italy Despite Recent Injury Concerns

The Senegalese international has enjoyed another outstanding campaign at Naples despite his team’s recent shortcomings in the Serie A. Even though regular injuries have derailed his progress at the San Paolo Stadium, yet he has been a subject of a lot of plaudits for finding a run of consistency at the heart of Gennaro Gattuso’s defence. Koulibaly has taken part in 21 matches for the Naples giants this term, securing a total of 1757 minutes of game time in multiple competitions.

To his credit, the 28-year-old has produced several dominant displays at the centre of the Napoli backline after averaging 2.5 tackles, 1.2 interceptions and 3.5 clearances per game in the Italian first division and the UEFA Champions League this season (stats via whoscored) which showcases his incredible impact on the defensive end of the field. His brilliant contributions have not gone unnoticed and have made him a favourite among the Napoli supporters.

The France-born talent is the current skipper of the Senegalese national team, earning 33 senior caps for his country while netting one goal for them thus far. He led his international colleagues to a well-deserved second-place finish in the 2019 African Cup of Nations. He will be expected to play another vital role for Senegal when the prestigious competition takes place 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 Are The Senegalese International’s Best Attributes?

Koulibaly can put his strong frame to good use when defending crosses inside his own penalty area. He tends to be a commanding presence at the back and can often outmuscle the opposition to win some crucial aerial duels for his side. The Senegalese centre-back’s incredible strength makes him a potent goal-threat from set-pieces in the attacking third of the field. However, there are some concerns over his long-term health following an injury-plagued season in Naples so far.

Even with all the risks involved, there is no denying that he ticks all the right boxes in terms of what Zinedine Zidane expects from his defenders. Koulibaly could potentially form one of the most dominant defensive partnerships in Europe football with Raphael Varane if Madrid can find a way to land him this summer.

He is a brilliant centre-back who wins his fair share of tackles and can also use his pace and power to make a few important last-gasp clearances for his side. Plus, the experienced campaigner is also not shy of putting his body on the line when attempting to stop a goal-bound strike from the opposition.

Should Los Blancos Step Up Their Efforts To Sign Koulibaly This Summer?

Zidane would be wise to step up his efforts to secure the signature of Koulibaly when the transfer window reopens later this year. A defender of his calibre could make Los Blancos reach the pinnacle of European football once again, which makes him worth pursuing this summer. Even if Zidane has to orchestrate a big-money move, he should consider doing as it is not every day that a player of Koulibaly’s experience and defensive prowess becomes available in the transfer market.

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