Kalidou Koulibaly recalled how his old Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri nearly forced him to miss the birth of his first son for a spot on the bench.
In January 2016, Koulibaly was listening tentatively to Sarri’s video analysis for Napoli’s upcoming opponents Sassuolo when his wife, Charline, called to announce she was going into labour.
Afraid of Sarri’s backlash, the Senegalese defender opted against answering the calls before eventually being left with no choice.
“She called me five or six times. Our manager at the time was Maurizio Sarri. He’s a very intense guy. So I didn’t want to answer,” Koulibaly told The Players Tribune.
“Finally, I ran outside and picked up the phone and my wife said, ‘You have to come now. Our son is coming.
“I go to Sarri and I say, ‘Mister, I’m sorry but I have to go now! My son is coming!’
“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, ‘OK, OK, you can go to the clinic. But you have to be back for the match tonight. I need you, Kouli!'”
Fortunately, Koulibaly arrived in time at the hospital to witness the birth of his son, Seni. But Sarri quickly called back him from the special moment for Napoli’s match only to bench him after all that.
Although the 28-year-old eventually did make a 22-minute cameo to help Napoli defeat Sassuolo 3-1.
“At 4 pm, I got a call from Mr Sarri. This guy… you just have to understand… he’s crazy. I say this in a good way, but he is crazy!
“He says, ‘Kouli?! Are you coming back?! I need you! I really need you! Please!”
“So then 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…
“My number is not there. I said, ‘Mister! Are you kidding me?’
“He said, ‘What? It is my choice.’ He put me on the bench! He didn’t even start me!”
Koulibaly made 125 appearances in all competitions under Sarri before he left for Chelsea last summer.
The Senegal international will go up against his old Napoli boss for the first time next season following Sarri’s arrival at Juventus.