But Serie A club have placed a £53m price on Senegalese’s signature, which could deter Premier League club
Transfer talk: Post-Arsene Wenger Arsenal interested in signing Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly
Arsenal are interested in signing the Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly as they look to rebuild their defence after the end of Arsene Wenger’s reign.
But the Serie A club have placed a £53 million (Dh263.5m) price on the Senegalese’s signature, which could deter the Gunners.
Arsenal have identified Koulibaly after a season where their need for defensive improvement and reinforcements has become more apparent. They have conceded 51 league goals, the most of any season in Wenger’s 22-year tenure and only three fewer than relegated West Bromwich Albion.
Their defensive record has been a particular issue in major matches, with Arsenal conceding seven goals in two meetings with Liverpool and nine in three with Manchester City.
They are likely to conduct a major defensive overhaul over the next 15 months with defender Nacho Monreal, and goalkeepers Petr Cech and David Ospina all out of contract in 2019. Both the Spaniard and the Czech are in the autumn of their careers.
In addition, one central defender – Gabriel – left last summer and another, captain Per Mertesacker, is retiring now, while the stand-in captain Laurent Koscielny turns 33 in September and is set to miss the early months of next season with an Achilles injury.
While Arsenal have the versatile Monreal and the youngsters Calum Chambers, Rob Holding and Konstantinos Mavropanos, it means the only fit senior specialist centre-back is Shkodran Mustafi, who has been inconsistent this season and who they considered allowing to leave last summer.
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Senegal international Koulibaly has also been linked with Juventus after helping Napoli challenge the Turin club for the Scudetto. He was wanted by Antonio Conte at Chelsea two years ago, when Napoli raised their price and the London club ended up signing David Luiz.
And Arsenal’s funds could be limited after they failed to qualify for the Uefa Champions League for the second successive season.
It could reportedly leave a £45m hole in their finances while Napoli’s asking price for Koulibaly would be a dramatic raise on the most Arsenal have ever paid for a defender, Mustafi’s £35m fee.
The London club have broken their transfer record twice in the last year, with striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang costing £56m in January.
The Gabonese forward came from Borussia Dortmund, as had their new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, who will be heavily involved in future arrivals.
Koulibaly has the sixth highest pass completion rate in Serie A and, apart from the retiring Mertesacker, is taller than any of Arsenal’s current defenders.
Wenger had identified West Brom’s Jonny Evans as a possible defensive addition in the last two transfer windows but said in February that they could not afford the Northern Ireland international.
But Evans, who also attracted interest from Manchester City last summer, has a £3m release clause that can be activated after Albion went down to the Championship.
Juventus defender Daniele Rugani’s agent claimed Arsenal showed interest in his client in January, while Arsenal have also been linked with Roma’s Champions League semi-finalist Kostas Manolas.
Stefan de Vrij was another who was apparently on their radar, but Lazio’s Dutch defender will reportedly move to Inter Milan.
Arsenal have also scouted the Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella, an Italy Under 21 international who has been linked with Liverpool in recent months.
However, a midfielder is less likely to be a priority with Wenger expressing confidence that Jack Wilshere, whose current deal expires in the summer, will commit to a new deal.
After Mesut Ozil signed a new contract in February and Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan joined in January, Arsenal’s recruitment is not expected to be concentrated on the attacking parts of the pitch.