EXCLUSIVE: Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly says January signings Mykhailo Mudryk & Joao Felix are 'magic'
Kalidou Koulibaly believes two new signings in particular can give Chelsea the edge in the second half of the season after their lavish January spending.
Of their eight new arrivals, half were forward players, in the form of Joao Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, Noni Madueke and David Datro Fofana – but Koulibaly says defending against two of them has been particularly challenging in training.
“They are all good," Koulibaly tells GOAL. "But Mykhailo [Mudryk] – I was following Mykhailo for a long time because we were in contact on Instagram so I know him a little bit.
“He’s really, really good in training – really fast, good with the ball – and Joao Felix also, everybody knows [about] him so, when they have the ball in their feet there is like some magic also, it’s good for us.”
Felix's picked up where he left off following a three-game suspension for a debut red card, scoring a fine goal against West Ham before posing a constant threat against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.
While he has demonstrated his significant potential in flashes, Mudryk's start to life at Chelsea has been more reserved, although that is perhaps understandable given his lack of match action before arriving at Stamford Bridge.
Head coach Graham Potter already had Raheem Sterling, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Kai Havertz, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang AND Armando Broja in his attacking ranks before the raft of new arrivals, but Koulibaly believes the heightened competition for places will benefit an underperforming Chelsea side.
“We have a lot of quality,” he says. “We see Joao Felix is here, we see Mudryk is here, and we also signed Noni [Madueke], so we know that they can help us with all the talent we have already with Sterling, Pulisic.
“Now it will be hard for everybody and when it’s hard it’s good, because everybody can give his best to play and after we’ll see the best Chelsea on the pitch, so I think it’s a benefit for Chelsea to have a lot of good players like this.”
Amid the hoard of attacking signings at Stamford Bridge, the Blues also made what is proving to be a shrewd defensive signing with the addition of Benoit Badiashile in a £34 million ($41m) transfer from Monaco.
The Frenchman has made a fine start to life in England, playing a role in three clean sheets in four Premier League appearances thus far. Koulibaly hopes to help him grow as a player, alongside fellow veteran centre-back Thiago Silva.
“Benoit is a good player,” he says. “He plays for the French national team and when he signed for Chelsea we knew that it was important for us.
“He can learn with Thiago, with all the experience we have, so for him I think it’s a benefit to come to Chelsea because he can play and learn from a lot of good players.”
Indeed, Badiashile’s start has been so assured that he has ousted Koulibaly from Potter’s starting line-up in the Premier League for the time being.
The Senegal captain will be hoping to reclaim his place and help Chelsea as they push for a serious improvement in the second half of the season, keeping their slim Champions League hopes alive.
Koulibaly was speaking to GOAL at a PUMA event.