Kalidou Koulibaly was set to become the captain of Napoli, but several developments have pushed him towards the imminent departure for Chelsea.
The Senegal international just turned 31 last month and is in the final year of his contract at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, having joined from KRC Genk in 2014.
With hometown boy Lorenzo Insigne leaving this summer, it was all set for Koulibaly to become the new captain of Napoli, a role the fans already saw him filling perfectly.
He had expressed his love for the club and its fans, his desire to end his career in Naples.
However, there have been some shifts in recent months at Napoli that prompted him to reconsider his future when Chelsea came calling.
President Aurelio De Laurentiis has for the best part of the last year pushed a cost-cutting exercise slashing the wages and refusing to spend big transfer fees.
This has seen Insigne and Dries Mertens let their contracts expire after being offered only the opportunity to extend with their wages halved.
Koulibaly’s contract is due to run out in June 2023 and he was initially proposed a similar deal, but following uproar from fans and media, Napoli boosted the bid to €6m per season including bonuses and the promise of a role behind the scenes when he retires.
This general approach has seen the Partenopei – as confirmed effectively by coach Luciano Spalletti – lower their ambitions after sliding out of the Scudetto race to finish third.
At the same time, Koulibaly won the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal and realised his opportunities to win silverware in his career were getting slimmer all the time.
The general feeling in Naples is that with Mertens, Insigne and Koulibaly, the club did very little to keep them and was quietly pleased to see them walk away, because it allows for the revamp of a less ambitious squad with much lower costs and the introduction of a salary cap at €3.5m per season.
Because of that attitude, players like Mertens, Insigne and Koulibaly who are so passionate about Naples felt practically encouraged to leave, so it was no longer considered a betrayal.