MAMADOU COULIBALY is ready to complete an incredible journey from child refugee to playing for one of football’s most prestigious clubs.
The 18-year-old revealed how he “risked everything” when he left Senegal with just a backpack and undertook a treacherous journey to Europe.
And now he’s on the verge of signing for Champions League finalists, Juventus, according to Football Italia.
Keep up to date with ALL the Juventus news, gossip and transfers on our club page
Coulibaly’s fairy-tale story is one of courage and the innate desire to never give up — no matter what stands in the way.
He arrived in Europe in 2015 after an arduous journey from Senegal and through Morocco before arriving on the continent and being spotted by Italian side, Pescara.
He explained to Gazzetta della Sport how his incredible self-belief helped him through moments of overwhelming doubt: “I left with a backpack.
“I only told Mamadou, my best friend, my parents thought I was at school.
“I turned off my phone and didn’t call for three or four months, they thought I was dead.
“I had enough to eat at home, there’s me and my two sisters. My dad didn’t want me to play though.
“For him studying was important, we’re a family of teachers.
“He’s a PE teacher and my aunts are professors in other subjects.
“He told me he’d take me to some European teams, but it was just to keep me quiet.
“I risked my life for football, but I did it for them. Soon I’ll be able to help them.”
Amazingly, that was the easy part for Coulibaly — things were to get even tougher.
The midfielder slept told how he slept on the street and would have certainly died had his boat capsized, given he couldn’t swim.
He added: “I paid for a ticket for the bus from Dakar to Morocco, and that wasn’t dangerous. It got worse later.
“In Morocco I was sleeping in the port, I didn’t have money for the boat.
“A man saw me there for a few days and asked me what I was doing sleeping on the street. I told him I wanted to go Europe.
“After a few days he came back, he was working on a ship which was going to France and he told me I could go.
“It wasn’t a boat like the ones you see on TV, it was bigger and it was transporting food.
“There were 20 other boys with me.
“I was there for football, I don’t know about them, I didn’t know their dreams.
“That’s how I got here, and I’m no better than all the others who arrived in Italy by boat.
“It wasn’t dangerous, but then I can’t swim. If the boat had sunk I’d be dead.”
Coulibaly arrived in northern Italy, but life didn’t get easier.
He was the victim of racist insults and would be lucky to just get food in his belly.
He said: “Sometimes in Italy they called me a ‘boat person’ to insult me and I didn’t react.
“The most difficult moment was at the beginning, in Livorno.
“A man had brought me there to introduce me to some teams, then one morning I woke up in a hotel and he was just gone.
“I didn’t have any money, I didn’t know anyone and I couldn’t speak Italian.
“He saw me play on a beach and took me to Livorno for a trial, which I wanted, but I didn’t have the right documents.
“I was sleeping on the street and if I was lucky I’d get a sandwich.”
Coulibaly went south towards the Italian capital and his story took on even more twists.
He carried on taking further risks in pursuit of his dreams.
He went on: “I was in Rome, then they told me there were a lot of Senegalese in Pescara so I took a train without buying a ticket.
“I got off at Roseto — the wrong stop — and I slept on a pitch.
“The police found me and took me to a foster home in Montepagano.
“I had trials with Cesena, Sassuolo, Roma and Ascoli but no-one took me.
“I played a bit of school football as a child in Senegal, and I learned playing on the street.”
Coulibaly has not seen his family since leaving Senegal, and reveals they didn’t even know he was still alive.
He explained: “My dad is strict, two years ago I couldn’t tell him I was in France, he’d have made me come back.
“Now we talk every day, he says he’s happy and I’ve apologised.
“I haven’t seen him or my mum for two years and I miss my mum.
“When I left she cried, she didn’t think I was still alive. “No I feel very lucky.”
Perhaps, Coulibaly could even come to the Premier League in the future given his unwavering determination to reach his goals.
He revealed: “Milan are one of the teams I support, it’s Milan, France and Manchester United.”