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Beginnings in the Premier League , World Cup with Senegal : Koulibaly Tells It All

Far from disturbing him, Kalidou Koulibaly remains cool, calm and collected despite a difficult start with Chelsea. While acknowledging adaptation problems in the Premier League, the Lions captain promises to bounce back quickly. On the World Cup, « KK » wants, to make history with the Lions by getting Senegal from the semi-finals.

How are the preparations for the two friendlies, against Bolivia this Saturday, and Iran, next Tuesday?

The preparations are going very well. We arrived here on Monday with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of motivation. It is known that some players lack playing time in their clubs. That’s why it was important for them to come to the selection to get playing time, to enable them regain a few positive things and then return to the club with a little more confidence. We are all ready to play the matches against Bolivia and Iran to be able to build confidence before the start of the World Cup.

The postponement by Caf of the two days of the qualifiers for the AFCON2024 of this month was finally a good idea, especially for the teams going to the World Cup…

Indeed, it is important because, as you know, playing styles are diverse in the world. Playing against a South American, Asian or European team is different. So, it is important to have these two friendly matches to prepare well for our World Cup matches. To play against a South American team is to play against a very aggressive team. For sure it will change us. We are not too used to playing against an Asian team, but we have the chance to play Iran. This will give us an idea for Qatar. What are you looking for in this kind of match?
We are looking to get ideas about the teams we will meet in the future. We try to gain confidence before the World Cup, by getting positive results. Because victories call victories. If we can win these games, it would be very positive before the World Cup, Inchallah.

We note the arrival of new players in the team. How, as captain, do you manage these new arrivals internally so that the state of mind remains the same?

There is a backbone that has been there for a very long time. It’s very important to have players who are used to playing together. It brings serenity, solidity, confidence. Now, after that, we try to integrate the young players who arrive. That is to say, to give them the state of mind, of what is expected of them, of what Senegal represents for all of us, the objectives that we have set ourselves. The most important thing is that they know that they have the trust of all Senegalese. We have only one nation in our career. So, when we have the chance to defend our country’s colours, we must do it correctly. But above all, to know the ambition we have, the motivations of this team, why this team managed to win this African Cup. That is to say, an irreproachable state of mind. Players who arrive must have this state of mind. We saw that there is a lot of joie de vivre, but also a lot of seriousness in training. They listen and are attentive, and it’s really positive. In Senegal, there is a lot of talent, and we need these talents to be able to achieve our goals. And it’s good that everyone is getting their hands dirty to get there.

Let’s talk about your new club, Chelsea. After years in Naples, you finally decided to leave. How is your beginning in this new environment?

It’s going very well. You know, it was a lifestyle choice. I wanted to change clubs. I think I gave everything to Napoli. It got to a point when I wanted to change my life, question myself and embark on a new challenge. Chelsea arrived and it didn’t take me long to make my choice. It is a team that is one of the five best clubs in the world, with a great track record, a team that is used to winning. When they called me, I directly gave a positive answer because it is also admirable to play in the Premier League. I played in France, Belgium, then I arrived in Italy, so I will never stop thanking them for everything they have given me. Now I think it was time to find out something else.Committing to Chelsea was a good thing for me. Today, I’m very happy to be there. It was a bit difficult at first, because I had to move 8 years of my life to London. It is something difficult. Had to find a school for my children, get into London life. I arrived in London where I found my home, the children’s schools, I took a got hold of my bearings. So I’m very happy.

And as if by chance, you found Edouard Mendy…

Oh, yes! Edouard also helped me a lot. He was one of those who guided my choices. He is someone who stayed on the phone a lot with me. And when he knew that we had the opportunity to play together, both in the national team and in the club, it was a very strong choice for me. I really thank him because from day one he made me feel comfortable at Chelsea. He introduced me to everyone. Here, I have already integrated the Chelsea group. And that’s also largely thanks to him. There is also Jorginho whom I knew from Naples.That’s it, but I’m really very happy with my choice. It was a difficult choice to make to leave Italy, but it was really a choice that had to be made. Today, I am very happy and I hope that it will go well in the future.

We noted difficulties at the beginning of the season in the Premier League. Are they due to an adaptation problem?

I do not know if everyone links these difficulties to a problem of adaptation. But it’s football, it’s part of it. Nothing is taken for granted. I questioned myself. I could have calmly stayed in Naples. I wanted a new challenge and I’m happy with that. Now, I don’t think there are many players who come to a club and are directly decisive. I think it’s normal that there is a good adaptation. I’ve been in Italy for eight years, I’ve arrived in England, where I have to learn everything very quickly. It is normal that there is a time for adaptation. There are even some who told me that this adaptation time could last six months. But for me I think it’s going to be shorter. I’m really motivated, I want to show everyone that I’m a good defender.And that’s on the turf. I think it’s going to be fine. And that the adaptation will happen very quickly. I’m not worried about that. I know I will be ready when I am called upon.

Is the change of coach likely to prolong this period of non-adaptation?

The new coach came with good ideas. He’s a real coach. He did good things with Brighton. Now he is Chelsea’s coach. He has instructions, expectations. It’s up to me to be patient, it’s up to me to show that I deserve to play, to show in training that the coach can have confidence in me. For this, there will be no problem. We are also in the first weeks, it is normal that the coach relies on players who are used to the emblem of Chelsea and who have been there for a very long time. When I am 100%, there will be no problem, I will play Inchallah again.

What are your ambitions for this season?

It’s to play as much time as possible in a club, try to win a trophy. As for the national team, I hope we will go as far as possible in this World Cup. Already, at first, pass the group stage, because it is something very important because in 2018 in Russia, we still have not forgotten this elimination in the first round. We learned from our past mistakes. Today, the first objective will be to pass the first round. We want to be part of the protagonists of this World Cup. So, we will try to do everything to pass the first round. Then we will see the knockout matches. I think Senegal can beat anyone in a match. So, we will go humbly, respect everyone, try to be respected too. I hope it will be the right year to see an African Nation in the Final four. And I hope it will be Senegal.


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