Why losing Keita means more than it seems for Serie A


As I indicated in my previous post, Lazio sold Keita Balde to Monaco for €30m.

The Biancocelesti had no choice. They were in a similar situation to Arsenal with Sanchez: sell the player now, or risk losing him on a Bosman in 2018.

All in all, netting 30 mil for a player entering the last year of his contract is nothing to sneeze at. However, for whoever loves the game, it is a disastrous sale, another demonstration that for all its wealthy Chinese owners and CL-final competitors, Serie A is unable to hang on to its talent.

How strange it was to read all the rumours regarding the lad this summer: he seemed to want to join Juventus, but only Inter, Napoli and, more timidly, Milan, made enquiries. Napoli had even agreed to pay up the €30m Lazio president Lotito demanded but Keita wanted to move up, not south ;-).

So the blame lies with Juventus who, evidently, had no room for Keita in an already congested attacking compartment with new signings Douglas Costa, Bernardeschi and the remaining Dybala, Higuaín, Mandzukic, Cuadrado and young Moises Kean.

Shame because with Keita, they could have prepared for the inevitable decline of El Pipita and given themselves that “little extra something” they didn’t seem to have in Cardiff last June.

But the real price is paid by the layman fan: there goes another star away from Italy, like, before him, Pogba, Vidal or Cavani, and, in 2018, Dybala.

At the end of the day, perhaps the only surprise is the destination: Monaco is known for its hunger for young starlets and Keita matches the job profile 110%. The rich English clubs may have given him a pass because of his lack of discipline, probably the only weakness of a superb, supremely gifted forward. This may come back to haunt them when Keita is worth €100m in 12 months’ time.

Lazio will have a hard time replacing Keita

Sure, they still have a European-level quality side, but in Keita they had an element of unpredictability, a player who could come off the bench, and “break the game in two”, as they say in Italy.

It is even slightly disturbing to think that, for all of his appetite and skill, Keita was often used as some kind of super-sub.

Now Lazio will use the money to recruit a defender, Paletta but, frankly, they won’t replace Keita that easily: from what could be seen so far, Felipe Caicedo, an ex Man City player signed from Espanyol for a meek €2.5m, is no Keita.

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Tips for the Serie A’s top teams as transfer window is about to close

Juve

Call it the Bonucci factor: there’s a strong suspicion that the failure to replace former fans favourite Leo will prove costly at one point of the season. Worse, even, that this could cost them the CL – or the title!  The Bianconeri would be wise to add to the central defence, and rush the arrival of Lazio’s Stefan De Vrij – rumoured to sign next year on a Bosman. Give Lotito €20m and get the man now.

Milan

The newly-assembled Milan is said to be worthy of a scudetto challenge. However I feel it’s too early in the season to say whether that is truly the case. Sure, the names of Bonucci, Kessie, Conte, Rodriguez, Musacchio, Kalinic are nice to read esp after last season, but are we talking about the same stuff as Juve? Mmmh. One tip: more than buying another player, cling on to free-scoring young gun Patrick Cutrone. He could come handy if neither Kalinic nor Andre Silva manage to consistently find the net.

Inter

The Nerazzurri look rejuvenated under Luciano Spalletti and very shrewd indeed. They survived Roma’s heaving bombardment to nick the game 1-3 at the Olimpico on Saturday. Chinese owners Suning embargoed any further signing, which is a shame, all the more so looking at their neighbour’s lavish spending. A marquee signing could have bolstered Inter’s ambitions. Now the advice is: don’t lose Perisic.

Napoli

Just before I was about to write those lines, I was commenting with another Calcio expert how Lazio’s Keita Balde could tip the balance in favour of whoever signed the mercurial Senegalese. And then came the Monaco news… Too bad for Napoli: he would have added such firepower to an already impressive attack. It’s more between the sticks that a reinforcement is needed: a new goalie to replace Reina would have been welcome but maybe not Sociedad’s Rulli.

Roma

The arrival of Patrick Schick is pure Monchi stuff but will it appease a demanding fanbase mourning the retirement of Francesco Totti? The summer’s lacklustre signings mark a step back for the US-based owners. Hadn’t he extended his contract, Sassuolo’s Berardi was the perfect fit. Even better, getting Torino’s Andrea Bellotti could have sprung passion again amongst Roma tifosi – but the Italy striker is probably too similar with Edin Dzeko.