Rafa Benitez recommends Kalidou Koulibaly as Everton transfer target

Tom Gott
Kalidou Koulibaly is wanted by Everton
Kalidou Koulibaly is wanted by Everton / Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Exclusive - Everton manager Rafa Benitez has asked the club's hierarchy to reunite him with Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly this summer.

It was Benitez who signed Koulibaly for Napoli in 2014 and the pair worked together for one season before the boss headed for Real Madrid, after which Koulibaly established himself as one of the best centre-backs in the game.

Now with Everton, Benitez is working closely with director of football Marcel Brands to draw up a list of transfer targets, and sources have confirmed to 90min that the Spaniard has asked for Koulibaly to be bumped up to the top of the shopping list.

Benitez is understood to have some concerns about Everton's current crop of centre-backs. Colombian Yerry Mina has been linked with an exit this summer and Benitez wants to ensure he is replaced, and Koulibaly is his preferred option.

Now 30, Koulibaly is no longer seen as untouchable at Napoli, who were prepared to demand close to £100m to sell him just a few years ago. Now, the Italian side are open to selling and are expected to listen to offers of around £35m.

Rafael Benitez
Benitez wants Koulibaly at Everton / Alex Broadway/Getty Images

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis is a notoriously tough negotiator and is not likely to drop from that price tag, particularly given manager Luciano Spalletti is open to keeping the centre-back around.

One concern for Everton is that Koulibaly will demand a sizeable wage from his next side, but the Toffees have already freed up some space in their salary budget by allowing Joshua King, Theo Walcott, Yannick Bolasie and Muhamed Besic to leave on free transfers this summer.

With a deal for Koulibaly likely to be complicated, Brands and Benitez have discussed a handful of different options.

Kalidou Koulibaly
Napoli are open to selling Koulibaly / Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Chelsea's Kurt Zouma, who impressed on loan at Goodison Park in 2018/19, is also under consideration, while reports have also suggested Barcelona's Clement Lenglet, Brighton's Ben White and Bologna's Takehiro Tomiyasu are being tracked as well.

Talks are also underway with Sporting CP over a move for midfielder Matheus Nunes, although Benitez's arrival has cast some doubt over the deal.

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