Barcelona made an audacious attempt to hijack Chelsea's move for Kalidou Koulibaly, but failed because they had "no money" due to their continuing financial problems.
Koulibaly has been a target of Chelsea's for some time, having established himself as one of the world's best centre-backs while at Napoli. The Blues have been desperate for defensive reinforcements this summer following the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.
Following his starring performances in Serie A, Koulibaly quickly rose to the top of their shopping list. But Barca are also keen to boost the quality of their squad, particularly in defence.
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And that led to the La Liga giants launching their own attempt to sign the Senegal captain. But according to Napoli club president Aurelio de Laurentiis, their plan to sign Koulibaly had one major flaw – a lack of money.
“Barcelona had come in, but they didn’t have the money because they are in debt. Koulibaly wanted to leave, I told him: 'I can't sell you to Barcelona as they had no money'. Then Chelsea came forward and we couldn’t say no,” De Laurentiis told Radio Kiss Kiss.
“I let Koulibaly go because he asked me to. I tried in every possible way to keep him, offering €6million (£5.1m) per season net. But if a player wants a new experience at a prestigious club, in the biggest league in the world, you have to recognise what he’s given you and not put up walls.”
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With Barcelona failing to stump up the cash required, Chelsea signed Koulibaly for £33million last week. He has gone straight into their starting line-up, though they suffered a humiliating defeat to Arsenal on Saturday night.
Chelsea owner Todd Boehly, who is currently serving as interim sporting director, was delighted to be able to beat Barca to Koulibaly. The American hailed his latest signing as an "elite" player, who can seriously improve Tuchel's squad.
"Kalidou Koulibaly is one of the world’s elite defenders and we are delighted to be welcoming him to Chelsea. A great leader and an exemplary team player, Kalidou brings a wealth of experience and attributes that will benefit our squad and the club as a whole," he said.
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