Napoli's first signing of the summer mercato isn't one that grabbed a ton of headlines or inspired the passions of many Napoli fans. No, instead Kalidou Koulibaly quietly arrived at Dimaro without a lot of fanfare, ready to meet his new teammates and coaches, and get to work.
Just because he's not as heralded as someone like Michu doesn't mean you shouldn't be excited about Koulibaly, however. The young French central defender is a decent player now, but he's also loaded with the potential to be something much more than he is now. He also, by the sound of things, really wants to be at Napoli working with Rafa Benitez, which is something all Napoli fans should be happy about.
"I received many offers from other clubs, but when Benitez called I simply couldn’t say no. Serie A is much more difficult than Ligue 1, but I am at the Coach’s disposal to learn more. I am in his hands."
-Translated quote source: Football Italia
That's exactly the kind of attitude you want a new signing to take. If a talented player "can't say no" to working with your manager, not only do you have the right manager in place, but you're looking for the right players to work under him. Koulibaly's frame of mind that he not only sees but eagerly anticipates the challenge of playing in a harder league is also oh so very good to see, because you know a guy like that is going to work his ass off to get better and meet (or beat!) that challenge.
And on that note, it sounds like he's already working on what he needs to do to get better:
"In Italy there are many smart and strong strikers, but I do not intend on changing my approach. I’ll try to use my height to the advantage of the team. Italy is famous for very tactically-astute defenders. My decision to come to Napoli was also down to this aspect."
So he wants to live up to the Italian reputation of tactically astute players, while also using his impressive physicality to his advantage. That sounds an awful lot like a pretty complete defender if he can pull that off. Strangely enough, I'm OK with that idea.
"I’ll also be playing alongside Gonzalo Higuain, the most dangerous striker in Serie A, so I hope to learn as much as possible from him too! I am getting on very well with everyone in the squad, especially Jorginho, as he’s my roommate."
"I don’t understand how some players could reject Napoli. I didn't doubt my move, not even for a second."
Oh, and he loves Jorginho, can't wait to work with Higuain and the rest of the squad, and is already defending Napoli and the city? If I wasn't sold on the kid already, that would have done it.
Seriously folks, I know there's been a lot of skepticism over this deal, but Napoli have gotten themselves a good one. We probably won't see a ton of Koulibaly this season (barring injuries of course, fingers crossed), but this was always more of a buy for the future. He's physical, he's athletic, he wants to learn, and he wants to play for the Napoli crest. What more can you ask for?