Kalidou Koulibaly has confessed that 2022 felt like the right time to finally make his long-awaited move to Chelsea.
The Senegal centre-back had been linked to the Blues for around six years before finally completing a switch from Napoli to Stamford Bridge this summer, helping to fill the void left behind by Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
“It’s true that it is a long time that the Premier League wanted me to come,” Koulibaly told his introductory press conference. “I believe in God and these things so the moment was now. Maybe before nobody was ready and Napoli didn’t want me to come.
“I am not a player that likes to go fighting with my club to leave. I have a lot of respect for the owner and supporters but I think that this time was the good time to leave Napoli. I made eight years over there, had a lot of good moments with the supporters, my teammates, the club.
“I learned a lot about football so I decided with my friends and family to come with Chelsea. They are the only club that wanted really that I come. We had the first link in 2016 when [Antonio] Conte came here and wanted me to come.
“It didn’t happen but I was always linked to Chelsea and this time the stars were in a good line so I came here and I’m really happy to join Chelsea and the Premier League.”
He added: “My brother is a big fan of the Blues. He obligated me to watch Chelsea games. When I signed here, he was happy. This helped me a lot. It made my choice easier and secure for me. I want to have love with me.”
Koulibaly also discussed his phone call with Chelsea legend John Terry over his taking of the famous number 26 shirt.
“I was nervous a bit as I was waiting to sign my contract with Chelsea,” he began. “I wanted to know which number was free. The manager didn’t tell me about 26. Nobody took it since 2017.
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“So I asked Gianfranco Zola, who told me the story of Chelsea, the number for John to ask him for the jersey. He gave me the number and I called him. At the beginning he didn’t believe that it was me, he thought it was a joke. He called the team manager to ask if it was me.
“I know it’s an important number. When he told me yes, I was very happy. I know what he did for the club, city and supporters.”
Finally, Koulibaly stressed that he does not want to be seen a replacement for Rudiger, but simply just a new signing in a new era.
“He’s a really good player, I know what he did for Chelsea,” the defender said. “I’m happy for him to join Real Madrid. But for me, it’s not a pressure. I’m happy to be here.
“I don’t want to be a guy who replaces Rudiger, I’m Koulibaly.”