Kalidou Koulibaly, the talented defender from Senegal, has made a remarkable move to the Saudi Pro League’s Al-Hilal. The 32-year-old centre-back joins the ranks of Ruben Neves, who recently switched to the Wolves midfielder’s side for a staggering £47 million.
Koulibaly’s Transfer and Chelsea’s Squad Changes
Last July, Koulibaly signed a four-year deal with Chelsea, leaving behind his former team, Napoli. With his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the defender brought along his extensive European and international experience. He played a crucial role in Napoli’s victory in the Italian Cup in 2020 and also contributed significantly to Senegal’s triumph in the Africa Cup of Nations in 2022.
Despite his accomplishments, Koulibaly’s time at Chelsea was relatively short-lived, with only 32 appearances across all competitions. During his Premier League journey, he scored two goals in 23 matches. Reflecting on his tenure, Koulibaly expressed his gratitude on Twitter, stating, “From my first game to my last, it was an honor to wear this badge. Last season wasn’t the one we wanted, but I want to thank the fans and everyone at the club for your support.”
While the financial details of Koulibaly’s move to Al-Hilal remain undisclosed, rumors suggest that the transfer fee could reach as high as £20 million. This trend of Premier League stars joining the Saudi Pro League has gained momentum, starting with Cristiano Ronaldo’s transition from Manchester United to Al-Nassr in January. Subsequently, Karim Benzema moved from Real Madrid to Al-Ittihad, and there have been significant speculations about potential transfers involving Thomas Partey from Arsenal and Bernardo Silva from Manchester City.
Saudi Pro League’s Ambition and the Role of PIF
The increasing number of high-profile signings in the Saudi Pro League reflects the league’s aspiration to become one of the top five leagues worldwide. This ambition was further highlighted when Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), the owner of Newcastle United, acquired four leading clubs in the country in June.
Although there is uncertainty regarding PIF’s stake in Chelsea’s ultimate owners, the private equity firm Clearlake Capital, club sources have refuted any direct involvement. Nevertheless, Chelsea could witness four of its players making their way to the Saudi Pro League by the end of the summer transfer window. In addition to Koulibaly, N’Golo Kante has agreed to join Saudi champions Al-Ittihad, while Edouard Mendy is nearing a move to Al-Ahli. Rumors have also linked Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech with a potential transfer.
These player departures are part of an ongoing transformation behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge, as newly appointed manager Mauricio Pochettino reshapes the squad. As part of this rebuilding process, German forward Kai Havertz is set to join Arsenal in a £65 million deal, and Manchester City’s bid of £30 million for Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic has been accepted. Furthermore, the arrival of French forward Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig has bolstered Chelsea’s attacking options, while Villarreal’s Senegal striker, Nicolas Jackson, is reportedly undergoing a medical in London with a prospective move on the horizon.
Kalidou Koulibaly’s move to Al-Hilal marks an exciting chapter in his career, and it reflects the Saudi Pro League’s ambition to attract top-tier talent from renowned football leagues worldwide. As Chelsea undergoes a transformation under Mauricio Pochettino’s guidance, the club sees multiple player departures and arrivals, shaping a new era at Stamford Bridge. The summer transfer window promises further surprises and adjustments, showcasing the ever-evolving nature of professional football.