Koulibaly slams De Laurentiis over AFCON stance

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De Laurentiis proposed the controversial policy on Wednesday (AEST), saying that any African player who joined the Serie A club should make a commitment to skip the tournament.

It remains to be seen whether he goes through with the plan, or whether it is enforceable. The next AFCON is due to be played in the Cote d'Ivoire in January 2024.

Last season, Napoli was without Cameroon international Andre-Franck Zambo Anguissa and Senegal defender Koulibaly as they represented their nations in the tournament that took place in January and February, while Nigeria striker Victor Osimhen missed out because of an injury.

Koulibaly, who has since moved on to Chelsea, felt De Laurentiis was out of line with his remarks, and claimed the views would not be endorsed by many others at the club.

"It's up to him if he wanted to tell this, but for me the most important [thing] is to respect everybody," Koulibaly said.

"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."

While Napoli may have struggled for numbers without its African players, their results were strong nonetheless, with Luciano Spalletti's team taking 13 points from a possible 15 from their first five league games of the year. The only real disappointment was a Coppa Italia exit at the hands of Fiorentina in mid-January.

Koulibaly said: "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."


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