Barcelona could not compete financially with Chelsea for the signing of centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis.
Chelsea confirmed the signing of Koulibaly last weekend in a deal worth a reported £33.8million (€40m), bringing an end to the defender’s eight-year stay in Naples.
LaLiga heavyweights Barca, whose financial problems have been well documented over the past year, also had an interest in the Senegal international.
However, De Laurentiis claims the Catalan club could not meet Napoli’s valuation for Koulibaly, who was into the final year of his contract at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
“Barcelona had come in, but they didn’t have the money because they are in debt,” he told Radio Kiss Kiss. “Then Chelsea came forward and we couldn’t say no.”
Happy #KK #BluesInTheUSA #Chelsea #CFC pic.twitter.com/uYhDBbZxrG
— Koulibaly Kalidou (@kkoulibaly26) July 18, 2022
Koulibaly helped Napoli to three second-place finishes in Serie A and to Coppa Italia glory in 2020, as well as winning the Supercoppa Italiana shortly after he arrived in Italy.
Since joining the club in 2014, no defender in the Italian top flight has won more tackles than Koulibaly (344), or made more successful passes (14,528).
De Laurentiis revealed Napoli offered the 31-year-old an improved contract in an attempt to fend off Chelsea.
“I let Koulibaly go because he asked me to. I tried in every possible way to keep him, offering €6million per season net,” De Laurentiis said.
“But if a player wants a new experience at a prestigious club, in the biggest league in the world, you have to recognise what he’s given you and not put up walls.”
Koulibaly made 236 Serie A appearances for Napoli, including 27 as the Partenopei finished third last season.