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Kalidou Koulibaly

Kalidou Koulibaly (born 20 June 1991) is a professional footballer who plays as centre back for Serie A club Napoli and the Senegal national team.

Kalidou Koulibaly
Koulibaly-azione-napoli-novembre-2015-ifa (cropped).jpg
Koulibaly playing for Napoli in 2015
Personal information
Full name Kalidou Koulibaly[1]
Date of birth (1991-06-20) 20 June 1991 (age 28)[2]
Place of birth Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)[3][4]
Playing position Centre back
Club information
Current team
Napoli
Number 26
Youth career
1999–2003 Saint-Dié
2003–2006 Metz
2006–2009 Saint-Dié
2009–2010 Metz
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2009–2011 Metz II 31 (2)
2010–2012 Metz 41 (1)
2012–2014 Genk 64 (3)
2014– Napoli 168 (10)
National team
2011–2012 France U20 11 (0)
2015– Senegal 38 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 9 November 2019 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 12:10, 27 July 2019 (UTC)

Koulibaly began his professional club career with French team Metz in 2010, before moving to Belgian club Genk in 2012, winning the Belgian Cup in his first season. He joined Italian team Napoli in 2014, where he immediately won the Supercoppa Italiana title.

As Koulibaly was born in France to Senegalese parents, he was eligible to represent both nations at international level, and initially played for the France national under-20 football team. He later made his senior debut with Senegal in 2015 and was a member of the Senegal squad that took part at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations. He was named to the side that represented Senegal at the 2018 FIFA World Cup the following year, and subsequently helped his team to the final of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

Early life

Koulibaly was born on 20 June 1991, to Senegalese parents in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France.[5] His father worked in a textile mill in Senegal for seven days a week and never took weekends off for five years before he save enough money to bring his mother to France.[5] He grew up in Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, France, revealing that: "When you grow up in this environment, you see everyone as your brother. We are black, white, Arab, African, Muslim, Christian, yes — but we are all French. We are all hungry, so let’s go have a Turkish meal together. Or tonight, let’s all go to my house and eat Senegalese food. Yes, we have differences, but we are all equal."[5] Koulibaly says his upbringing was "heavily influenced by the multi-cultural nature" growing up.[6]

Koulibaly revealed that he first started playing football, saying: "All the kids were running around playing football with no shoes, and I was really upset by this, I guess. My mom says that I was begging her to go to the store and buy shoes for everybody, so I could play football with them. But my mother said, “Kalidou, just take your shoes off. Go play like they do.” In the end, I threw off my shoes and went to play barefoot with my cousins — and this is where my football story begins. When we got back to France, I was playing every day in the little park by our house."[5] His footballing career began with local club SR Saint-Dié.[7] He then joined FC Metz in his first spell but when was released at fifteen, which according to the club’s Academy Manager, Denis Schaeffer, Koulibaly was let go "because he was too introverted, and his level was a little below our expectations."[8]

Club career

Early career

Koulibaly began his career playing for his hometown club SR Saint-Dié's youth team; he spent two seasons playing for the club's senior team in the Championnat de France Amateur 2, before joining the youth academy of professional club Metz on 1 July 2009.[9] While at Metz, Koulibaly helped the club's under-19 team win the 2009–10 Coupe Gambardella after the team defeated Sochaux 5–4 on penalties in the final.[10] He also played for the club's amateur team in the Championnat de France Amateur appearing in 15 matches as Metz were crowned champions of the league finishing with 107 points.[11]

Metz

Prior to the start of the 2010–11 season, Koulibaly signed his first professional contract agreeing to a one-year deal. He was, subsequently, promoted to the senior team by new manager Dominique Bijotat. Koulibaly made his professional debut on 20 August 2010 in a league match against Vannes. He appeared as a substitute in a 1–0 victory.[12] Following this, Kouliably became a first team regular for the side after dispatching the place from Nuno Frechaut.[13] On 15 April 2011, he scored his first goal for FC Metz, as they drew 3–3 against Clermont.[14] Three days later, Koulibaly signed a three–year contract extension with the club, keeping him until 2014.[7] At the end of the 2010–11 season, he went on to make nineteen appearances and scoring once in all competitions. Reflecting on his first season at FC Metz, Manager Bijotat said of him, quoting: "Kalidou Koulibaly is perhaps the one who surprised the most people, while being the one who surprised me the least personally. I knew that it would come to him because it was already showing a good maturity. He's always in the right mood and does not catch fire, it's important to the job he's doing. He also knows how to analyze his own matches, which brings him to a certain regularity in his performances. Conversely, we thought Yeni Ngbakoto was the closest to the group, but it took longer to come. He had a difficult start, between suspension and injury. It took him longer to settle on the team. His game was not settled, in this area he has progressed in recent weeks and must still win in consistency."[15]

However, at the start of the 2011–12 season, Koulibaly missed the first five league matches of the season, due to international commitment.[16] His first appearance of the 2011–12 season came on 9 September 2011, coming as a substitute in the 60th minutes, in a 2–2 draw against Stade Lavallois.[17] However, he served a two match suspension after being sent–off for a unprofessional conduct on Guillaume Moullec, as FC Metz lost 1–0 on 30 September 2011.[18] Despite this, Koulibaly returned to the first team and then captained the side for the first time on 2 December 2011, in a 2–0 win over AS Monaco.[19] He continued to regain his first team place until suspension and injury, which eventually kept him out for the rest of the 2011–12 season.[20] At the end of the 2011–12 season, Koulibaly went on to make twenty–three appearances in all competitions.

Genk

 
Koulibaly playing for Genk in 2014.

Koulibaly joined Belgian club Genk on 29 June 2012 after agreeing a four-year contract.[21] Among interested was Anderlecht but Genk won the race to sign him.[22]

On 23 August 2012, Koulibaly made his Genk debut in a UEFA Europa League play-off qualifying round, in which they were defeated by Swiss team Luzern 2–1 in the first leg of two.[23][24] Since joining the club, he became a first team regular for the side, playing mostly in the centre–back position.[25] In a match against OH Leuven on 25 November 2012, Koulibaly made a foul in the penalty box at the last minute of the game, which was successfully converted by Ibou, as Genk drew 1–1.[26] On 23 December 2012, Koulibaly scored his first Racing Genk goal in a 4–2 home defeat to Anderlecht,[23] in which he scored a free header from a corner, to make amends for his mistake.[27] He later helped Genk win the 2012–13 Belgian Cup after starting the whole game to beat Cercle Brugge.[28] At the end of the 2012–13 season, Koulibaly went on to make forty–six appearances and scoring once in all competitions.

The 2013–14 season saw Koulibaly began playing in the centre–back position, where he continued to form a partnership with Kara Mbodji.[29] He then scored two goals in two matches between 6 October 2013 and 19 October 2013.[30] Koulibaly started in every matches since the start of the season until he suffered a knee injury during a 2–0 loss against Lokeren on 8 December 2013.[31] A month later on 19 January 2014, Koulibaly returned to the starting lineup from injury, starting the whole game, in a 1–0 loss against Zulte Waregem.[32] Koulibaly continued to regain his place in the first team for the rest of the season.[33] However, he missed the remaining three league matches of the season, due to his imminent transfer move to Napoli.[34] Despite this, Koulibaly went on to make forty–six appearances and scoring two times in all competitions.

Napoli

 
Koulibaly playing for Napoli in 2015.

Koulibaly joined Serie A club S.S.C. Napoli on 2 July 2014 on a five-year contract, for a fee around the margin of £6.5 million.[35]

He made his debut on 19 August 2014 in a UEFA Champions League play-off round qualifier, in which Napoli drew 1–1 with Athletic Bilbao.[23][36] Napoli went on to lose the second leg 3–1, therefore sending them out of the competition.[23][37] Koulibaly made his Serie A debut in the opening game of the season against Genoa, starting the whole game, in a 2–1 win.[38] He scored his first goal for the Italian team on 24 September in a 3–3 draw with Palermo.[23][39] Koulibaly played in every matches since the start of the season until his sending off for second bookable offence, in a 1–1 draw against Sampdoria on 1 December 2014.[40] In the 2014 Supercoppa Italiana against Juventus in Doha, Qatar, on 22 December, Koulibaly scored the winning penalty shootout to secure Napoli victory.[41] Towards the end of the 2014–15 season, Koulibaly found himself placed in and out of the starting eleven for the side, as Manager Rafael Benítez preferred Raúl Albiol and Miguel Britos as his preferred choice in the central defence position.[42] In his first season at Napoli, Koulibaly went on to make thirty–nine appearances and scoring once in all competitions.

 
Koulibaly playing during the friendly match between Napoli and Barcelona in the summer of 2014.

Ahead of the 2015–16 season, Koulibaly was linked with a move to Premier League side Southampton, but he eventually stayed at the club.[43] Despite this, Koulibaly became a regular starter for Napoli under coach Maurizio Sarri and saw him improved his performance for the side in the number of matches.[44] During a 2–0 win over Lazio on 3 February 2016, Koulibaly was subjected a racist abuse from Lazio supporters, prompting referee Massimiliano Irrati to suspend the match temporally; which he later reflect this as "the first time that he really experienced any racism in football".[5][45] After the match, Lazio would go on to be sanctioned by the league for these racist chants (50,000 euros (£38,250)), and was ordered to play two home matches behind closed doors.[46] In a follow up match against Capri, Napoli supporters wore masks of Koulibaly in support of him and played a role during the game when he set up a goal for Gonzalo Higuaín to score the only goal in the game with a win.[47] The match against Lazio and Carpi saw the side kept two consecutive clean sheets; having previously kept two consecutive clean sheets against them earlier in the season between 20 September 2015 and 23September 2015.[48] At the end of the 2015–16 season, he went on to make forty–two appearances in all competitions.

 
Koulibaly about to mark Red Bull Salzberg's Takumi Minamino in the UEFA Champions League match on 23 October 2019.

In the 2016–17 season, Koulibaly continued to be a regular starter for Napoli under coach Maurizio Sarri and helped the side started the season well, earning four wins out of the first six league matches of the season.[49] On 19 September 2016, he signed a five–year contract with the club, keeping him until 2021.[50] It wasn’t until on 15 October 2016 when Koulibaly scored his first goal of the season, in a 3–1 loss against A.S. Roma.[51] Koulibaly continued to start every matches since the start of the season until he injured his knee during a 5–0 win over Cagliari on 11 December 2016, resulting him sidelined for a month.[52] After spending two months away from Napoli’s first team, due to injury and international commitment, Koulibaly made his return to the starting lineup, playing the whole game, in a 2–0 win over Genoa on 10 February 2017.[53] Koulibaly regained his first team place for the side towards the end of the 2016–17 season.[54] He later scored his second goal of the season, in a 4–1 win over Fiorentina on 20 May 2017.[55] At the end of the 2016–17 season, Koulibaly went on to make thirty–eight appearances and scoring two times in all competitions.

In the 2017–18 season, Koulibaly helped the side started the season well, winning the first league eight matches of the season.[56] During the streak, he scored two goals for the side, scoring against Lazio and Cagliari on 20 September 2017 and 1 October 2017 respectively.[57] Koulibaly then helped the side go on ten match winning streak in the league between 16 December 2017 and 26 February 2018.[58] During the streak, he scored two goals for the side, scoring against Torino and Hellas Verona on 16 December 2017 and 6 January 2018 respectively.[59] He was an integral part of the side that closely challenged for the 2017–18 Serie A title. On 22 April 2018, Koulibaly scored a 90th minute header against league leaders Juventus at the Allianz Stadium to seal a 1–0 win for the visitors and move Napoli within one point of Juventus with four games remaining.[60] However, in their next match against Fiorentina, Koulibaly was sent off within 10 minutes for a rash foul as Napoli lost 3–0.[61] Napoli would go on to achieve a club record 91 points, but finished the season 4 points behind league winners Juventus. At the end of the 2017–18 season, Koulibaly went on to make forty–five appearances and scoring five times in all competitions.

At the start of the 2018–19 season, Koulibaly signed a contract extension with Napoli, keeping him until 2023.[62] He continued to be a regular starter for Napoli under coach Carlo Ancelotti and spoke his positively about playing under him.[63] Koulibaly helped the side win thirteen matches in the league to stay at the higher position to challenge for the league title once again.[64] He then captained Napoli for the first time in his career, helping the side beat Cagliari 1–0 on 16 December 2018.[65] However, on 26 December 2018, Koulibaly received two yellow cards in quick succession for a foul and for sarcastically applauding the referee and was sent off, as Napoli lost 1–0 to Inter Milan at the San Siro. According to Napoli coach Ancelotti, Koulibaly was the target of racist chants from the Inter fans and his team asked for the match to be suspended three times. Posting on social media after the match, Koulibaly wrote, "I'm sorry about the defeat and especially to have let my brothers down. But I'm proud of the colour of my skin. To be French, Senegalese, Neapolitan, and a man."[66] Inter would go on to be sanctioned by the league for these racist chants, and was ordered to play two home matches behind closed doors.[67] After serving a two match suspension, Koulibaly returned to the starting lineup, starting the whole game and keeping a clean sheet, in a 2–0 win over Sassuolo Calcio in the round of 16 of Coppa Italia.[68] Since returning to the first team from suspension, he helped the side keep five consecutive clean sheets in the league between 26 January 2019 and 24 February 2019, including against A.C. Milan, Sampdoria and Parma.[69][70] On 12 April 2019, Koulibaly was involved in another racial incident, after reportedly suffering racist abuse from an Arsenal fan during a Europa League match between the two teams.[71] Two days later on 14 April 2019, he scored twice for the side, in a 3–1 win over Chievo.[72] Koulibaly spearheaded the Napoli defence in the 2018–19 Serie A season as they once again finished runners-up to Juventus, with Koulibaly earning the inaugural Serie A Best Defender award for the season.[73] At the end of the 2018–19 season, he went on to make forty–eight appearances and scoring two times in all competitions.

International career

Koulibaly was born and raised in France by Senegalese parents, and was therefore eligible for both nations. He played for the French under-20 team starting in 2011 and played six times during the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Colombia.[74]

However, in early September 2015, Koulibaly changed federations and joined the Senegal national football team, despite the interest to call him for Les Bleus from Didier Deschamps.[75][76] He later explained his decision, saying: "I don't have any regrets because I want to write the story of the future of Senegal football and I hope I'll be able to do that."[6] Koulibaly made his debut on 5 September 2015 in an AFCON qualifier against Namibia in a 2–0 victory.[77] He was a member of the Senegal squad that took part at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations.[78]

In May 2018, he was named in Senegal's 23-man squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.[79] Koulibaly played all three matches, as Senegal were knocked out in the group stage of the tournament after becoming the first team in FIFA World Cup history to be eliminated due to fair play tiebreaker rules.[80]

Style of play

A large, aggressive, quick, and physically strong yet elegant player, Koulibaly is recognised for his aerial prowess, anticipation, positioning, tackling, character, technique, and passing ability as a defender. He has also been praised by pundits for his overall solidity as a player, and his ability to make interceptions; however, he has also drawn criticism for giving away too many fouls. Due to his versatility, he can play both in his usual role as a central defender, or as a full back on either the right or left flank, in both a three or four-man defence; he has even been deployed as a defensive midfielder. During his time at Napoli, his ability to play the ball out from the back saw him function as a ball-playing centre-back in manager Maurizio Sarri's attacking, possession based-system.[81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88][89] Currently considered to be one of the best and most complete defenders in world football in the media,[85][87][90][91] his ability, playing style, tall stature, and imposing physique have earned him the nicknames K2[83][85][75] and The Wall from his fans.[92]

Personal life

In May 2019, it was announced that Koulibaly was named as an honorary citizen of Naples.[93] In April 2015, he was previously named as an honorary citizen of Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.[94] He was also popular in Naples that an entrepreneur created a pizza after him and Koulibaly, himself, spoke his fondness of the city.[95][6]

Koulibaly and his wife, Charline Oudenot, have a son together named Seni on 16 January 2016.[96] He became a second time father when his daughter Nessa was born on 28 August 2019.[97]

He is a Muslim and states that his name derived from the Quran.[5] In addition to speaking French, Koulibaly also speaks English and Italian.[5][98]

Throughout his time at Napoli, Koulibaly spoke out about racism in Italian football.[5] In October 2019, Koulibaly called on the Italian football authorities to tackle racism by giving them a lifetime ban from entering the stadium.[99] He previously the Italian football authorities for their lack of effort to tackle racism in January 2019.[100][101]

Career statistics

Club

As of match played 9 November 2019
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup[a] League Cup Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Metz II 2009–10[102] CFA 2 16 0 16 0
2010–11[102] CFA 15 2 15 2
Total 31 2 31 2
Metz 2010–11[102] Ligue 2 19 1 2 0 0 0 21 1
2011–12[102] Ligue 2 22 0 3 0 0 0 25 0
Total 41 1 5 0 0 0 46 1
Genk 2012–13[23] Belgian Pro League 31 1 6 0 9[b] 0 46 1
2013–14[23] Belgian Pro League 33 2 3 0 9[b] 0 1[c] 0 46 2
Total 64 3 9 0 18 0 1 0 92 3
Napoli 2014–15[23] Serie A 27 1 2 0 9[d] 0 1[e] 0 39 1
2015–16[23] Serie A 33 0 2 0 7[b] 0 42 0
2016–17[23] Serie A 28 2 2 0 8[f] 0 38 2
2017–18[23] Serie A 35 5 2 0 8[g] 0 45 5
2018–19[23] Serie A 35 2 2 0 11[h] 0 48 2
2019–20[23] Serie A 10 0 0 0 4[f] 0 14 0
Total 168 10 10 0 47 0 1 0 226 10
Career total 304 16 24 0 0 0 65 0 2 0 383 16
  1. ^ Includes Coupe de France, Belgian Cup, Coppa Italia
  2. ^ a b c Appearances in UEFA Europa League
  3. ^ Appearance in Belgian Super Cup
  4. ^ Two appearances in UEFA Champions League, seven in UEFA Europa League
  5. ^ Appearance in Supercoppa Italiana
  6. ^ a b Appearances in UEFA Champions League
  7. ^ Seven appearances in UEFA Champions League, one in UEFA Europa League
  8. ^ Six appearances in UEFA Champions League, five in UEFA Europa League

International

As of match played 27 July 2019[103]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Senegal 2015 5 0
2016 7 0
2017 9 0
2018 9 0
2019 8 0
Total 38 0

Honours

Club

Genk

Napoli

Individual

References

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External links