Kalidou Koulibaly: One of the classiest centre-backs in Serie A


After completing his £6.5million move from Genk to Napoli in the summer of 2014, Kalidou Koulibaly has gone on to forming an incredible reputation about himself as one of the best centre-backs in Italy and Europe. And it’s only taken the Senegal defender a couple of years or so to achieve this delightful result.

The 27-year-old is now reportedly being linked with a move to a few Premier League sides in Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, with the expected price tag being a figure around £100million. However, the local and reliable reports in Naples suggest that the defender is very happy in Serie A at the moment.

Former AC Milan player and Croatia midfielder, Zvonimir Boban, was full of praises towards the rise of Koulibaly within his early years at the club. “For me, he’s among the best in the world and he can still improve,” the Sky Italia pundit had revealed. “He’s matured in everything; character, technique, he now comes out with the ball in such an impeccable way and is always physically dominant.”

Meanwhile, Italian football expert James Horncastle a few seasons ago, called him the new Lillian Thuram due to his aesthetically pleasing style of play and attitude on and off the pitch. The 1990s footballing legend, was the one and only idol and role model for Koulibaly, especially during his days as a youngster and that he has always wanted to achieve a similar career path to the French international since then.

Born in Saint-Die-des-Vosges, he started his senior footballing career off at French side Metz, where he spent two years within the Ligue 2 division before moving abroad to Belgium to play in the Belgian Pro League. At the time, he took part in playing for the U20 France national team and made 11 appearances at that level as he was educated and raised in the North East of France.

At Genk, the young defender was given the chance to prove himself at a club that are well known for their history of scouting and developing talented players before they are sold off to bigger teams. This was the unbelievable result for the previous individuals in Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and Christian Benteke, with Koulibaly going on to join this list of players after he had joined Napoli in 2014.

Koulibaly’s dreams came true during the 2014-15 campaign as he achieved just over 25 league appearances in his debut season for Napoli. However, manager Rafael Benitez experienced an unexpected outcome with his team being defensively awful despite improving on the other side of the pitch by being clinical and ruthless on the counter-attack. Due to the side’s lack of organisation and communication in defence, it took the raw centre-back quite some time for him to settle into the team.

One year on, everything was much different for Napoli, with the club making a managerial change of replacing Benitez with Maurizio Sarri, someone who made sure that Koulibaly was in the starting line-up on a weekly basis. He only missed five league games throughout that campaign as Napoli mounted a competitive challenge to Juventus. On top of that, he finished the season as one of the most improved players within the top five leagues of Europe, which allowed him to gain more awareness as a defender.

Throughout the 2016-17 season as a while, Koulibaly completed the fourth most short passes whilst compared to all defenders in Serie A despite making fewer appearances than the likes of Davide Astori, Matias Silvestre and team-mate Elseid Hysaj. Given the entertaining and fascinating style of play that Napoli used to represent under Sarri, this is surely an incredible statistic as there is no margin for error, otherwise the opposition can pounce on highline and score constantly from the counter-attack.

Now, in 2019 and playing under Carlo Ancelotti, he still remains as Napoli’s best defender as well as one of the best centre-backs within the league. Although the change of formation and the slight change of the system when the side act on and off the ball, the Senegalese international amazingly completes his day to day job whilst constantly covering the left-back area when Mario Rui or Faouzi Ghoulam are out of position.

Standing at six foot five inches tall, Koulibaly is known for his physical attribute as well as his imposing height to win aerial duels on both sides of the pitch. After the arrival of Sarri, the rise of ‘K2’ was taken to the next level as his positioning and excellent passing with both feet got better and better. Also, he now sticks very close to his opponent rather than leaving them completely free for most of the game which prevents him from being forced into making a foul and receiving a booking.

In the meantime for his country, the 27-year-old was given his debut for Senegal during his second season as a Napoli player. Making his first appearance in a 2-0 victory over Namibia in an African Cup of Nation qualifier in September 2015, he has gone on to achieving just over 30 caps for his national team. Just a few days before he made his debut, Koulibaly switched federations and decided to leave France for the Senegal national football team. At the end of 2016, he received an individual honour of making it into the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Team of the Year award.

Whether he stays at Napoli for the rest of his career is another question, however, it would not be a surprise if the Senegalese one day ends up playing for either Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid. No matter what is in store for Koulibaly from now till the end of his time as a footballer, he will definitely be seen as one of the most complete centre-backs in this era.

Which Team will win the Champions League 2018/19?

The UEFA Champions League is one of the biggest competitions in football for many teams around Europe. This league sees some of the biggest teams come up against each other in an attempt to take home the trophy.

This year’s competition kicked off back in June with the preliminary round draw and ends in June with the final. It’s still quite early on in the competition to decide a clear winner but we have put together some of the teams we think will shine as the stages continue. Keep reading if you are interested in this league or would like to place a bet and cash in on the winner.

Last Year’s Winner

Before we get started on this year’s competition, it is important to look at the team who took home the Champions League trophy last year. In the 2017/18 competition, Real Madrid C.F. were the ones who lifted the trophy in Kiev where the final took place. After a successful campaign and a win in the past two years, Real Madrid came up against English team Liverpool FC.

With three wins in the past three years, some people might consider Real Madrid the favourite and choose to place a bet on them when enjoying some sports betting on a site like Stakers who have some great odds. However, there are plenty more teams in the running which we are going to explore below.

Manchester City

One of the favourites to win the Champions League this year is Manchester City. This team have not lifted the cup before but have been strong in their recent matches proving that they are capable. Manchester City is the only English team to make it on our list and this is due to their impressive performance so far against the other teams in the competition. They topped their group which included the likes of Lyon, Hoffenheim and Shakhtar Donetsk so they are already entering the next stage with a strong record. Look out for Manchester City this year as they might just be the ones to lift the trophy.


Barcelona FC led by Ernesto Valverde have managed to top their group and beat other teams including Tottenham, Inter and PSV. This team has some pretty impressive players in their line up including Lionel Messi who is the captain this season. While Barcelona haven’t managed to win the Champions League final since 2015, they stand a chance this year with the skills that they have and their past record coming up against these teams.


Another team expected to make it all the way to the final this year is Juventus thanks to their brand new player whose name you might just recognise. During the summer, world famous player Cristiano Ronaldo joined this Italian team for €100m. This team knew what they were doing when they agreed to this deal as Ronaldo has already helped the team top their group which included the likes of Valencia, Young Boys and Manchester United. It is possible that Ronaldo could be coming up against his previous club Real Madrid when the final comes around in June so make sure to look out for this exciting match.

Real Madrid

After three successful wins in the past few years of the Champions League competition, Real Madrid could be on track to breaking the record and securing themselves a fourth win. In the group stages, this team came up against Roman, CSKA Moscow and Viktoria Plzen – managing to secure the top spot after some wins and a 3-0 loss against CSKA Moscow. It is unclear if this team can boost themselves all the way to the top again but if they manage to beat out the other teams then they will be making history.

Other Teams To Look Out For

In a competition like this, there will always be some teams that stay at the top for many years. It is important to remember, however, that other teams stand a chance and the bookies are already adding odds for other teams that might make it all the way to the top. Look out for teams like Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain who still stand a chance against some of the best teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona.

What’s Next?

The group stages of this year’s Champions League competition might be over but there is still plenty more to play for. In February, the round of 16 will start and this will be followed by the second leg of this stage in March. Then, the quarter and semi-finals will take place throughout April and May. The big event is on June 1st where two teams will come up against each other to see who can lift the trophy. The final will take place in Estadio Metropolitano in Madrid this year so if you want to place your bet on the winner now is the time to get started.

Final Verdict

It can be very hard to predict the outcome of the UEFA Champions League final when the round of 16 stages hasn’t even begun. Now that many teams have been knocked out, it is easier to see the teams which are ahead of others and a good bet would be on the teams that topped their group. Remember to think about the individual matches and how each team played within their group to make your predictions. We are unsure if Real Madrid will be able to lift the trophy for the fourth time in a row, but this would truly be extraordinary.

This team has shown their strength but with competition like Barcelona and Manchester City, they may have a struggle on their hands. It is interesting to note that last year’s finalists Liverpool didn’t make our list as they have not managed to stand out just yet this year. Make sure to tune into all of the matches in the competition that are coming up and don’t miss out on the final in June!

Serie A Fantasy Picks – Round 22

ACF Fiorentina v UC Sampdoria - Serie A

Samir Handanovic: Inter are going through a pretty rough stretch offensively, but their defence has for the most part held up and they have not conceded a single goal in their last seven home fixtures. Bologna have been poor offensively thus far, however there is an element of unknown after the coaching change.

Joao Cancelo: he is coming off a phenomenal display in Rome, where he was deployed as right winger. While that he is unlikely to happen again, he has been a weapon also in his usual position and Juventus have the sturdiest back-line in the League, so one of their defenders can still be picked even despite Parma road prowess. He will be eager to redeem himself after a rare dud.  Continue reading

Spalletti: “We have to play like Inter to progress to the next round”


Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of tonight’s Coppa Italia quarter-final match between Inter and Lazio. Here is what he said to the journalists who gathered at the Suning Training Centre yesterday evening: Continue reading

Serie A Fantasy Predictions – Round 22


Napoli-Sampdoria: the Partenopei had a disappointing two-game meeting with Milan, as they did not manage to beat them in the weekend and then got got in Coppa Italia. They are undefeated at home, where they have won four games in a row, often scoring multiple goals. The Blucerchiati are coming off a thumping against Udinese, their fourth W in the last six fixtures and they lost only to Juventus since the beginning of December. While Lorenzo Insigne is stuck in a prolonged drought, Arek Milik has done most of the damage for the Azzurri up front, with Dries Mertens chipping in from time to time and some contribution from José Callejon, Marek Hamsik and Piotr Zielinski, but not in a consistent way. Continue reading

Serie A Top Performers – Coppa Italia Quarter-Finals

Soccer: Italy's Cup; Atalanta - Juventus

Juventus this time could not overcome their own struggles in all the facets of the game and got deservedly eliminated by Atalanta in the round of eight of Coppa Italia, which they had won in the previous four editions. A very pedestrian showing that ends the often manifested target of winning the treble and represents an alarming signal for the challenges ahead.

Alex Sandro: when you give up three goals, clearly no defenders performed well. Sandro was the only who did not actively took part in one of the goals, two caused by misplaced passes by Joao Cancelo and Mattia De Sciglio, while Daniele Rugani and Wojciech Szczesny did not look great in the second one. A two-minute black-out at the end of the first half, the Bianconeri were unable to recover from. The squad had already started off poorly, but the back-line in particular was plagued by mental mistakes after Giorgio Chiellini was forced out of the game by a calf injury. The officials might have to revisit their stance about not signing a centre-back.

Sami Khedira: again the three-man midfield looked completely idea-less without Miralem Pjanic leading them and the situation did not change when he got into the game. Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi spent the night chasing after the much more energetic Atalanta players and, alongside the rest of the ball club, were very sloppy in the passing game. The German world champion did not perform much better, but he had one of the few chances with a header on a corner.

Federico Bernardeschi: he was almost the only one who tried to drag the team out of its funk, making plays in multiple positions, but without being effective. At least he put in a modicum of effort in a game where the squad just did not have it. Paulo Dybala had a slew of turnovers and was thrown around by the opponents all night long. In the last couple of games it was evident why the coach prefers Cristiano Ronaldo wide, as it become too easily to engulf him and cut off the feeds for him when he is surrounded by centre-back. Douglas Costa was affected by the general apathy and imprecision of his teammates. It is the first time this season that the front-line fails to score a goal and it is the first loss on the road in a domestic game since 2017.

Are you a Serie A expert? Can you defeat the top Serie A Fantasy Managers? If you think so, play www.fantasyseriea.com now!

Inter demand permanent Arsenal transfer for Ivan Perisic


Inter Milan have ruled out the possibility of Ivan Perisic moving on loan to Arsenal, with the Serie A side only open to a transfer according to reports in Italy.

The Italian side are believed to be open to the Croatian international moving on from Milan, however they are not willing to let him leave on loan.

That has led to a potential switch to Arsenal being blocked, with Gunners boss Unai Emery making clear earlier this month that his side would only be able to make loan deals this month, due to budget issues.

Continue reading

Rayo Vallecano looking to trade places with Leganes

Rayo Vallecano

One of the most intriguing fixtures in La Liga Game Week 22 will be between two lesser known sides from the Spanish capital – Rayo Vallecano and Leganes.

The sides from South Madrid face each other on Monday night, in what could be a decisive battle in the fight to avoid relegation.

The two sides are just 17km apart, however local rivalry will not be on the only thing on the line at the Campo de Futbol de Vallecas, with the season edging towards its final third.

Continue reading

Real Betis to swoop for Tottenham outcast Vincent Janssen

Victor Janssen Tottenham

Real Betis are set to make a late bid for Tottenham striker Vincent Janssen, as the La Liga side look to bolster their attacking options before the transfer window closes.

Janssen has not played for the Premier League side so far this season, and he could make a loan move to the Andalusian club in the next 24 hours, with a purchase option available in the summer.

The Dutch international has endured a torrid time in North London following his move from AZ Alkmaar at the start of the 2017-18 season.

Continue reading

Neymar could be back for PSG sooner than expected after injury blow


Just like this time last season Neymar PSG’s Brazilian forward has been ruled out for a chunk of the season when all of the competitions are reaching their business end and reports have suggested that the player will miss the next 10 weeks with a return date pencilled in for the beginning of April.

Neymar has injured his fifth metatarsal and received the injury in PSG’s French Cup win over Strasbourg. This latest injury just highlighted the unfair treatment that Neymar has had to put up with his supposed diving antics and fooling around. Truth is most of the time he is getting chopped down. This time it was because he was showboating, and it feels quite sad that Neymar has been cut down like this especially at a time when his club really need him.

Neymar’s injury shouldn’t affect the team in the league given that they are 13 points clear at the top and have games in hand. Ligue 1 in theory has been wrapped up since before Christmas and it seems that it is just a matter of when and not if PSG win the league title for the 2nd time in a row.

But the focus will be more on the Champions League, a trophy that PSG desperately want to win and keep failing at against the more elite and historic teams when it really matters, it was the major reason that the club brought in coach Thomas Tuchel.

But Neymar will certainly miss the teams first leg against Manchester United at Old Trafford, which is a massive bonus for the Premier League side. The second leg in Paris is on March 6th and that might be the game that PSG are secretly targeting Neymar’s return.

For example if the game is still open by then and PSG need that extra piece of magic Neymar would be key to the side’s chances of progression. However the 2nd leg date is only in five weeks time, so will it really be possible?

Players in the past have been able to recover from such injuries in 4-6 weeks at the very least if they have been able to fully rest properly. Also in Neymar’s advantage is that he hasn’t required surgery on the injury. So in theory he could be back much sooner than expected.

Of course the problem is would he be match fit? The answer is no, and Neymar returning so early could be seen as a desperate move and a last roll of the dice for Tuchel. The correct method to take would be for Neymar to return for the quarter finals in PSG were able to make it past United.

In any sense Neymar’s injury and especially the timing of it is hard luck on Tuchel who will most probably be judged more by the owners on how PSG perform in the Champions League compared to the league.