Kalidou Koulibaly has given Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne an insight into life in the Saudi League.

De Bruyne’s advisers were in Saudi a few weeks ago ­chatting to clubs about their roster of big-name players, and Belgian midfield ­magician KDB has said he has an “open mind” on his next move.

If he needed any encouragement over making a Saudi switch in the ­future, Koulibaly is his man. The 32-year-old France star has no regrets about swapping Chelsea and ­west London for the Middle East, though he admitted it was a “difficult choice” at the time.

Koulibaly has now just won the Saudi Pro League title with Al-Hilal, and the Senegal centre-back says his initial doubts were eased by knowing that stars such as ­ Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and N’Golo Kante had made the move.

Koulibaly said: “At the start, nobody really knew much about this league. It was a big decision for me. But when I saw players like Ronaldo, Benzema, Kante – who I was playing with at Chelsea then – make those moves, I also made my choice.

“I had a difficult year at Chelsea, and I wanted to see something else. When they called me, I studied up about the club, and I’m ­really happy to be here today.” Al-Hilal finished 14 points ahead of their nearest rivals – Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr – for a record-extending 19th domestic crown.

But Koulibaly, who had eight years at Napoli ­before a single season at Chelsea, insists Al-Hilal’s dominance is no negative reflection on the ­quality of the league. He recalled: “When I came, I was thinking this league would be easier than others, but I was surprised about the standard of my team-mates, and surprised at the level of the league.

“Even clubs that don’t have big, big-name players are very good – it’s difficult to play against them all. The level is not quite the same as Europe, but over time it will get there because the players will want to come and improve the league.”

Al-Hilal were powered to the title by a host of new signings alongside Koulibaly, including Aleksandar Mitrovic from Fulham, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic from Lazio and Wolves’ Ruben Neves.

Former Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly has been "surprised" by the quality of the Saudi Pro League (
Image:
AFP via Getty Images)

The most high-profile arrival was Neymar, though he played only a handful of games before an ACL injury ended his season. Mitrovic successfully plugged the gap with 40 goals in 43 games all told, but Koulibaly can’t wait for the Brazilian ­superstar to return.

“Neymar is a really important player for us,” Koulibaly said. “I call him the ‘Magia’ – magician – because he has so much magic in his feet. When he touches the ball, he is incredible.” With former Sevilla keeper Bono behind him, Koulibaly and Al-Hilal were rock-solid at the back, and the club won a world-record 34 successive matches between September and April.

“When we had won 12, we were thinking about that record,” Koulibaly added. “We wanted to make a world story. I came here to win trophies and make ­history, and we made it.”