It was always in Lazio’s interests to sign a striker by the end of the summer transfer window, with notable Alberto Gilardinho, Fabio Quagriella & Burak Yilmaz names thrown into the fold.
And with the departure of the then Europa League's top marksman Libor Kozak to Villa, it was very much expected of them to do so.
Struggling to come to terms with Lazio’s zero activity, fans were soon reassured by Lazio president Claudio Lotito’s right hand man Igli Tare that the team could rely on youth, “You’ll see. Our young players will do great things” claimed Tare.
One youth player in particular was catching the attention of everybody at the club: Spanish born Keita Balde, and after astonishingly turning down a new contract from Barca, Lazio soon swooped ahead of Real Madrid, Juventus and Manchester United in the pursuit of his signature. Complying with FIFA’s rules Lazio were forced to pay a compensation fee of around €300 to Barca and Cornella for their training of Keita, and that was it complete.
For Lazio the deal was considered a coup and Lazio had acquired one of the biggest talents in Europe. This all became clear when Keita played a key role in Lazio winning the Primavera title for the first time in 12 years, as well as on the way putting end to a decade-long wait for success in the Derby della Capitale against Roma.
Vladimir Petkovic gave Keita his first team debut in the late stages of a 3-0 win over Chievo in September, and then went on the start in a Europa League clash a few days later against Leiga at the Stadio Olimpico where he managed to set up Hernanes to score the winning goal. Two weeks later and Lazio currently 3-1 down to a threatening Trabzonspor side, Keita was again called up on by Petkovic, his cross found its way to the towering Sergio Floccari who'd then go on to make it 3-2 and then 3-3 with just 10 minutes remaining.
Keita’s first goal for Lazio came in the most recent 1-1 draw away to Parma at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, making him the fourth youngest goalscorer ever for Lazio and currently in this seasons campaign. The goal was well deserved and in fact Keita could have scored more.
“He just needs to keep his feet on the ground, but the future is in his hands,” said Petkovic “a talent out of the ordinary”. Should Keita do this then the future looks bright for both him and Lazio.
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