Kalidou Koulibaly revealed a disbelieving John Terry initially hung up on him when he called the Chelsea legend for permission to inherit his old shirt number.
The No 26 has significance to £34million summer signing Koulibaly as well as Terry, with it being his old Napoli number but also the Senegal captain and his wife Charline Oudenot being born on the same day – June 20 – in the same hospital in France.
The video of a nervous Koulibaly asking Terry if he could take on the shirt that had been unoccupied since the latter’s departure in 2017 surfaced on social media this week and he said: ‘In the beginning, he didn’t believe it was me. He thought it was a joke so he put down the phone and called the team manager to ask if it was really me.
John Terry hung up on Kalidou Koulibaly (above) when he asked to wear his No 26 shirt
Koulibaly phoned club legend Terry to ask for his blessing to wear his iconic No 26 shirt
The No 26 has significance to £34m summer signing Koulibaly as well as Chelsea legend Terry
‘After I asked him respectfully that I wanted to take his number – and I know it was for him a very important number – but it is an important number for me because I took it directly when I went to Napoli and I wanted to keep it here at Chelsea. When he told me yes, I was really happy because I know what he did for the club, the supporters, and the city here.
‘It was very important for me to ask him and he gave me his answer. I was happy and I wanted to tell everybody that I asked him before because I don’t want to be disrespectful to a legend of the club.’
Had things developed differently, Koulibaly, 31, and Terry could have been Chelsea team-mates before the latter left.
‘I spoke with [former Chelsea manager Antonio] Conte in Roma – he wanted me after my first good year in Napoli,’ Koulibaly explained.
The Senegalese defender wore the number at Napoli and wished to continue in it at Chelsea
It is also signficant because the Senegal captain and his wife Charline Oudenot were born on the same day – June 20 – in the same hospital in France
‘I had three or four years left on my contract with Napoli and I don’t like to fight with my owner, with my supporters to leave.
‘I asked respectfully to the owner that I wanted to leave for Chelsea but he told me that it wouldn’t be possible.
‘So I waited a bit and continued my conversation with them but they really didn’t want me to leave the club so I decided to renew my contract to stay in Napoli.’
Such are the links between Koulibaly and Chelsea it is fitting that he has finally ended up at Stamford Bridge.
Koulibaly revealed he spoke with Antonio Conte about joining Chelsea when he was at Napoli
His brother Koulibaly Abdoulaye is a boyhood Blue who made him watch Chelsea games growing up, with the Didier Drogba era and his 2012 Champions League-winning penalty among the moments etched in his mind.
He shares a mutual friend back in Italy with Blues legend Gianfranco Zola who helped connect him with Terry and also answered all the inquisitive Koulibaly’s questions as he gave him a history lesson on Chelsea.
Koulibaly considers Chelsea goalkeeper and Senegal team-mate Edouard Mendy ‘a brother’ and with Jorginho, who he played with at Napoli, now at Chelsea ‘I had double pressure on me. But it was not bad, it was friendly.’
He has had to be patient but now after years of links, also with the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City, Koulibaly has finally got his wish of a move to England.
Koulibaly, who revealed he received text messages congratulating him on his choice from ‘legends’ Drogba, Zola, Terry and countryman and ex-Chelsea striker Demba Ba, said: ‘I am really happy and thankful to them and want to show them that I will give everything for this club and maybe one day be part of them.
Koulibaly considers Chelsea goalkeeper and Senegal team-mate Edouard Mendy ‘a brother’
‘It was a bit hard to say no to the Premier League [previously when Chelsea asked] because it was my dream to play in the Premier League since I was a child. But I knew that one day it would happen and I’m happy that it had.
‘I never stopped believing. This is most important. Some dreams happen. My dream with my national team was to win the first AFCON and we did it. So, for me, you never have to stop believing.
‘If you believe so strong afterwards it can happen. I knew everybody was thinking I would never come to Premier League, never play for nobody else than Napoli but I make my choice with my family and friends and the people that love me and I decide and thought this is the good time to come to Premier League.
‘I have the experience, I learn a lot in Italy and now I have to learn again in Premier League. I am very excited.
‘I am happy to sign for Chelsea today and to continue to play with [the colour] blue. I am happy and the decoration for my house is better!’
Koulibaly revealed he received a text message from Didier Drogba congratulating him on move