Napoli’s Europa League exit following Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Arsenal brought renewed questions over the future of star centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, but the player refused to discuss a potential summer move in the aftermath of the game.
Arsenal’s poor away from was another reason for the hosts to fancy their chances of overturning the deficit and qualifying for the semi-finals, but instead they fell to a stunning Alexandre Lacazette free-kick and some wasteful play from their own attack to suffer European disappointment yet again.
This was the eighth straight season Napoli had been in European football, a run that began with them making their first-ever Champions League appearance in 2011, yet in that eight-season spell this was only the second time they had even reached the quarter-finals of either of Europe’s competitions, having made the Europa League semi-finals in 2015.
The Partenopei’s inability to get over the hump either in Europe or domestically, where they are set to finish second behind Juventus for a third consecutive season and for the fourth time in five years, has led to predictions that they could lose some of their star players.
In the aftermath of the loss, however, Koulibaly rejected suggestions that he could be done with Napoli or the Serie A, having moved to Italy in 2014 to join the Naples club from Belgian side Genk.
“Why? I grew up in this league. It’s the league that made me the player I am today,” Koulibaly said to reporters after the game.
The 27-year-old has been linked with a move to Manchester United, among others, and Napoli manager Carlo Ancelotti was forced to declare the defender “non-transferable” in the build-up to Thursday’s game – though he also seemingly named a price for United and other suitors to meet, adding that Koulibaly was worth €150million.
For his part, however, the Senegal international brushed aside any questions over his future.
“To me what matters most is to finish the season well, then we’ll see,” Koulibaly insisted.
“I am sorry because we wanted to go through.”
Real Madrid expect to make their €100 million move for Chelsea winger Eden Hazard official in the coming days, according to reports.
Hazard, 28, has declined to renew a contract that expires next summer and made clear his desire to swap Santiago Bernabeu for Stamford Bridge after seven years in the Premier League. Rehired boss Zinedine Zidane is a firm admirer of the Belgium international’s talent, with president Florentino Perez also happy to fund a move.
Marca have declared that an announcement should soon be made to make him the club’s third summer signing, along with Porto centre-back Eder Militao and Santos prospect Rodrygo. Not even Chelsea’s transfer ban, which they’ve appealed, has stopped the switch, plus they’ve already landed replacement Christian Pulisic from Borussia Dortmund.
Zidane remains a firm fan of Paul Pogba, but Manchester United’s reluctance to do business for anything less than €150m is proving a major obstacle despite the France midfielder’s wishes.
Interest remains in Tottenham Hotspur’s Christian Eriksen, while Ajax’s Donny van de Been is an emerging target.
Former Manchester United defender Paul Parker says the club’s star midfielder Paul Pogba has issues with attitude and consistency that wouldn’t be accepted at Real Madrid or Barcelona – two clubs that have been linked with a move for the Frenchman.
The 26-year-old struggled to influence proceedings as United crashed out of the Champions League quarter-final this week after a 3-0 loss in the second leg against Barcelona.
Pogba was far from the only player who struggled but his performance brought renewed criticism of his ability to turn up for the big games – less than a year after starring in France’s World Cup triumph, where he scored in the final.
The performances he produced last summer in Russia haven’t come as often at United, even after a change in manager as Jose Mourinho’s departure and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s subsequent arrival brought an upturn in form.
Pogba is enjoying the most productive season of his career, with 16 goals and 10 assists. But in 12 games against the rest of the Premier League’s top six across all competitions and Champions League encounters against Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, and Barcelona, he’s managed just one goal and two assists, a lack of performance that Parker, who won two league titles in five seasons with United, highlighted as a cause for concern,
“There’s definitely ability with Pogba but if you want to be seen as the best you have to show consistency,” Parker told Eurosport.
“You can’t pick and choose when you want to play games of football because somewhere along the line it’ll come back and bite you.
“Now he didn’t perform under Jose Mourinho and everyone saw the problems with the former United boss as a person and as a man manager.
“When you’ve got someone who comes in and puts their arm around you and puts to bed the situation before, you can’t be letting them down and, more importantly, you can’t be letting your team-mates down.
“If you want to be seen or talked about or someone who’s maybe going to play for Real Madrid, they are not going to accept performances like that against Barcelona – and an attitude like that.”