John Terry suspected that Kalidou Koulibaly was a prank call and hung up on the new Chelsea defender when the Senegalese ace asked to write down his old shirt number.
Koulibaly had the number 26 shirt at Napoli and was keen to keep it at Chelsea, but decided he should check that Terry was all right.
No Chelsea first-team player has worn 26 since Terry left at the end of the 2016-17 season, so it was a courtesy call that Koulibaly deemed important.
Terry eventually gave his blessing and asked the new recruit to bring more trophies, but Koulibaly revealed that initially the former Blues and England captain thought he had a rogue caller on the line.
The 31-year-old said: “I was a little nervous because I was waiting to sign my contract at Chelsea. It happened the day before. I was happy, and the second thing is I wanted to know which number was free.
“Talking to the team manager, he told me some numbers and didn’t tell me the 26. I said that John left in 2017 and nobody took it from that time. So I was wondering if it was retired or maybe nobody wanted to take it.”
Koulibaly turned to a former Napoli and Chelsea hero to get Terry.
“I asked Gianfranco Zola, who I know very well, about the club, the structure and the fans, and I asked for John’s number because I wanted to order the shirt,” Koulibaly said.
“I called him and at first he didn’t believe it was me, he thought it was a joke. He hung up the phone and called the team manager to ask if it was really me.
“I know it’s a very important number for him and it’s very important for me because I took him to Napoli and I wanted to keep him here at Chelsea.
“When he said ‘yes’ to me, I was very happy because I know what he has done for the club, the fans and the city here, and I knew it was important to ask him. He gave me his answer and I was happy.
“I wanted to tell people I’d asked him before because I didn’t want to be disrespectful to a club legend.”
Chelsea kick off their season on Saturday at Everton, which is manned by another great Stamford Bridge player, Frank Lampard, at the start of the Premier League.
Koulibaly, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, said former Blues manager Antonio Conte had tried to sign him to Chelsea in 2015, but this time “the stars were in a good line”.
“This team is a fantastic team of winners, of great things. I want to give them everything on the pitch,” said Koulibaly. “I am 31 years old with a good club in a good city. I hope to stay here for a long time.”
He said it was important not to expect him to face Antonio Rudiger, who moved to Real Madrid at the end of last season.
Comparisons should be made as he will take Rudiger’s place in central defence, but Koulibaly said: “I’m Koulibaly. I’m not Rudiger. I don’t have the same skills, I don’t play like him. I have another style.
“I will try to do my best and try to give the team solidity. I know it will be difficult because I come from Italy and Premier League football is difficult. But I am very motivated and I want to show everyone that Chelsea made a good choice with me.”