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Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly, who has long been linked away from the club, revealed Maurizio Sarri dragged him from his wife’s bedside after the birth of his first son, only to put him on the Napoli bench.
Back in January 2016, the Senegal defender had been in a video analysis session ahead of a game with Sassuolo when his wife called him and was told his wife Charline was going into labour.
Koulibaly told the Players’ Tribune: ““Sarri looks at me and says, “No, no, no. I need you tonight, Kouli. I really need you. You can’t go.” I say, “This is the birth of my son, Mister. You can do whatever you want to me. Fine me, suspend me, I don’t care. I am going.” Sarri looks so stressed, and he is smoking his cigarette. Smoking, smoking, thinking … then finally he says, “O.K., O.K., you can go to the clinic. But you have to be back for the match tonight. I need you, Kouli!””
However, raced across Naples in time for the birth of his first son, but within a couple of hours, Koulibaly’s phone was ringing again and it was Sarri, desperate for his player to get back in time for Napoli’s pre-match build-up. Koulibaly returned to Stadio San Paolo.
“I am getting ready to play, and Sarri comes into the dressing room and puts up the team sheet. And I am looking… looking… looking,” he said. “My number is not there. I said, “Mister! Are you kidding me?” He said, “What? It is my choice. I said, “Mister! My son! My wife! I left them! You said you needed me! He said, “Yes, we need you on the bench.”
Despite going 1-0 down within three minutes of the game, Napoli eventually turned things round to win 3-1 and Koulibaly played for the final 22 minutes of the game.
“Maybe you think this is a negative story,” he added. “But for me, this story is everything that I love about Napoli. If I have to explain it, then you won’t understand. It is like trying to explain a joke. You just have to come to the city and then you will feel it. It is crazy, yes. But it is warm.”