Saturday 25 February 2017

Napoli president claims Antonio Conte's Chelsea lodged £50m bid for Kalidou Koulibaly this summer

Samuel Stevens

Kalidou Koulibaly
Kalidou Koulibaly

Napoli president Aurelio de Laurentiis has claimed Chelsea were prepared to pay as much as £50m to sign defender Kalidou Koulibaly in the final days of the transfer window.

The Blues eventually settled for the slightly cheaper, but no less inflated, David Luiz for £30m from Paris Saint-Germain. Their back-line, however, has continued to struggled with both Luiz and Gary Cahill coming in for criticism since the start of the campaign.

Conte made reference to his pursuit of Koulibaly - claiming “it's very difficult to buy because if you ask a player of the medium level, they might ask for £55m” – and it would seem De Laurentiis stubbornness paid off with Chelsea looking elsewhere.

Speaking at the Leaders in Sport Business conference at Stamford Bridge, De Laurentiis said: “My friend Conte will say it is not true but Chelsea offered me, in the last few days of the window, €58m [£50m] for Koulibaly. I explained to them that this year I could not sell him, but we will see next year.”

Koulibaly agreed a new contract with the Serie A club this summer and it would seem Chelsea have now turned their attention elsewhere with reports suggesting a move for Juventus centre-back Leonardo Bonucci could come to fruition in January.

Conte is reported to have lunched with the Russian billionaire last week where future transfer strategy was discussed and Chelsea are set to offer more than the £50m it took to take Luiz away from Stamford Bridge in 2014.

Signing Bonucci, widely considered the best defender in the world, would be a coup if the five-time champions of England were able to secure the 29-year-old’s signature although Juventus are likely to put up a fight after losing Paul Pogba to Manchester United.

Conte worked with the Italian centre-back for three years in Turin. Earlier this year Bonucci said: “Conte will be a big success in England, Chelsea are already a very good team and he will have them challenging both in England and in Europe.”

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