Koulibaly Hits Back At Napoli Owner De Laurentiis Over AFCON Players Ban

Kalidou Koulibaly has hit back at Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis for his claims that the club will not sign any African players who decide to participate in the Africa Cup of Nations.

Koulibaly was one of two players Napoli lost for the 2022 edition of Africa's flagship tournament, alongside Frank Zambo-Anguissa of Cameroon in January, with Nigeria's Victor Osimhen only missing out through injury.

Koulibaly captained Senegal to win the tournament for the first time but has since left Napoli for Chelsea.

The AFCON tournament usually takes place in January and February, in the middle of the European club season and players are confronted with a club versus country dilemma as they usually have to choose between staying with their clubs or flying down to represent their countries.

CAF have made attempts to play the tournament in the summer when the European season is over as it happened in the 2019 edition but meteorological concerns have seen the dates reverted to the start of the year.

De Laurentiis recently claimed sensationally that Napoli will not sign any African players unless they agreed to miss the AFCON tournament but Koulibaly has criticised him for that.

"It's up to him if he wanted to tell this, but for me the most important [thing] is to respect everybody," Koulibaly told a news conference in London.

"When I played there, I was playing also for Senegal, and I won the AFCON with Senegal when I was playing with Napoli.

"It's true that it was a difficult moment for them when we went to AFCON, but we won it and I'm really happy today."

"You cannot speak for African national teams like this, I think. You have to have respect, like you have for other national teams.

"As captain of Senegal, I think that this is not a good way to speak about African national teams.

"But I respect what he thinks. If he thinks the team can play without African players, it's up to him. But I think not everybody has the same idea as him at the club.

"I know that some people who are part of this society and team do not have the same idea as him. It's not the idea of the society or the city, because the city is very respectful."

The next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations will be played in January/February 2024 in the Ivory Coast.

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