Two-goal Chelsea flop seals £20m Saudi transfer; Pochettino already has his replacement in mind

Harry Watkinson

Chelsea have officially announced the departure of centre-back Kalidou Kouliably, who will join Saudi club Al-Hilal after just one year at Stamford Bridge.

The 32-year-old was brought in as a replacement for Antonio Rudiger. However, it’s fair to say he didn’t live up to expectations.

Overall, he made 32 appearances for Chelsea in a very disappointing season. Indeed, the London club finished in 12th place in the Premier League table – their worst campaign since 1994.

As a result, Mauricio Pochettino is expected to offload several players as he looks to rebuild his squad.

Now, Koulibaly is the latest player to head to Al Hilal, after Ruben Neves joined them on Saturday.

Of course, N’Golo Kante also confirmed his switch to Saudi on Tuesday. So, the division is going to have some big-names playing in it next season.

In an official statement regarding Koulibaly’s departure, Chelsea said: “Kalidou Koulibaly has left Chelsea after completing a permanent transfer to Saudi Professional League side Al-Hilal.

“The centre-back arrived from Napoli last summer and made 32 appearances for the Blues during his sole campaign at Stamford Bridge.

“The 32-year-old made his debut away at Everton and marked his first home game with a fantastic volley against Tottenham Hotspur. His other Chelsea goal also came in a London derby, away to Fulham.

“Midway through the campaign, Koulibaly captained Senegal to the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar; the defender scored a crucial winning goal to help his country overcome Ecuador and reach the knockout stage.

“We would like to thank Kalidou for his contributions on and off the pitch during his time at Stamford Bridge and wish him well for the next stage of his career.”

The statement doesn’t mention a fee. But, it’s widely reported that he has signed for Al Hilal for a fee of £20m

Interestingly, Koulibaly could be followed to Al Hilal by another Premier League player in the very near future.

Indeed, the club’s delegation is set to negotiate with Everton ‘next week’ over the potential signing of Demarai Gray. 

Now, the attention will turn to Pochettino, as he looks to bring in a replacement for Koulibaly.

Chelsea have been linked with several centre-backs recently. But, they may have an adequate solution already within their ranks.

That is Levi Colwill, who enjoyed a successful loan spell at Brighton last season.

He only made 17 Premier League appearances for the Seagulls. However, the fact that Roberto de Zerbi wants to sign him permanently for £30m speaks volumes.

So, it will be interesting to see if Pochettino brings in another defender, or backs Colwill to play a big role for Chelsea next season.

READ MORE: Chelsea formulate cheeky plan to replace outgoing player with £75m Man Utd target this summer