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Koulibaly hits out at De Laurentiis

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Kalidou Koulibaly has condemned plans by Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis to tell new signings they must agree not to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.

De Laurentiis proposed the controversial policy on Tuesday, saying that any African player who joined the Serie A club should commit to skipping the tournament.

It remains to be seen whether he goes through with the plan or whether it is enforceable. The next AFCON will be played in the Ivory Coast in January 2024.

Last season, Napoli was without Cameroon international Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Senegal defender Koulibaly as they represented their nations in the tournament in January and February, while Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen missed out because of an injury.

Koulibaly, who has since moved on to Chelsea, felt De Laurentiis was out of line with his remarks and claimed many others would not endorse the views at the club.

Koulibaly told a news conference in London:

“It’s up to him if he wants to tell this, but for me, the most important [thing] is to respect everybody.

“When I played there, I was also playing for Senegal.

“And I won the AFCON with Senegal while playing Napoli.

“It was difficult for them when we went to AFCON, but we won it, and I’m happy today.”

While Napoli may have struggled for numbers without their African players, their results were strong nonetheless, with Luciano Spalletti’s team taking 13 points from a possible 15 from their first five league games. The only real disappointment was a Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Fiorentina in mid-January.

Koulibaly added: “You cannot speak for African national teams like this, I think. You have to have respect as you have for other national teams.

“As captain of Senegal, I think this is not an excellent way to speak about African national teams.

“But I respect what he thinks. If he thinks the team can play without African players. But I guess not everybody has the same idea as him at the club.

“I know that some people who are part of this society and team do not have the same idea as him. It’s not the idea of the society or the city because the city is very respectful.”

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