Back in 2014, the 6ft 5′ defender was playing for Genk in the Belgian league, all until Benitez (then at Napoli) made a move to bring him to the Serie A giants – something he clearly failed to believe at first!
Rafa got his man, signing him for £6.5m that summer. Less than four years on and the Senegalese star is being linked with a £50m move to the Premier League.
Here’s his brilliant take on Benitez’s call all those years ago, admitting that he hung up on the NUFC boss several times until he realised it wasn’t actually a prank:
“I hung up on Benitez two or three times, as I thought it was a friend of mine pulling a prank.”
“I didn’t believe he would call me, but it was true. I was so embarrassed and kept apologizing.”
“That transfer was exactly what I needed. For a defender, there is no better place than Italy to develop tactically.”
“I have made enormous progress in that area.”
A brilliant story, and further proof that players really are in awe of the world class manager that is Rafa Benitez – someone we really are lucky to have in our current predicament.
Not only does this show the power of Benitez, this highlights his ability to sign a diamond in the rough. Koulibaly will have been known by so few during his time at Genk, but four years and just £6.5m later and he is considered as one of the top defenders in Europe.
Let’s hope Rafa can unearth more gems like this over the summer.
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