Recent reports have claimed a deal between Lazio and Tottenham for Spanish-born Senegalese left-winger Keita Baldé Diao has been reached, with personal terms now having to be negotiated.
A product of Barcelona’s famed youth academy, he was sent out on loan at the age of 15 as punishment for putting an ice cube into the bed of a teammate. After a highly successful spell for the club, he rejected a return to Barcelona, instead signing for Lazio in 2011 for a meagre €300,000.
Fast forward to today, and Keita is considered one of the hottest prospects in the Serie A. He raised his game to new heights last season and has attracted interest from a number of top sides, with his move away seemingly imminent.
Keita was left out of the Lazio squad for the Italian Super Cup in what is quickly turning into a very sour relationship between club and player. Roberto Callenda, Keita’s agent, has recently come out and said that the club have broken many promises to the player, including promising to offer a “top player” contract as well as a guaranteed starting spot.
With the interest surrounding him and the rocky relationship with the club, it seems certain the 22-year-old will leave. So why should Spurs make him a priority target this summer?
The type of player Spurs don’t have
It is very difficult to find weaknesses in Tottenham’s starting eleven, which is certainly one of the best in the league. However, one criticism levelled at the Spurs lineup is a lack of pace, particularly in the forward positions.
The likes of Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-min are all highly gifted technical players, and finding players with better vision and ball control is not an easy task. However, they are not the type of player to take on opposition defenders, or to outpace and run directly at an opponent’s back line.
In fact, this has already held them back early this season. Against Newcastle, Spurs were slow and laboured in the first half, giving The Toons plenty of time to regain their defensive shape. It took a red card to open the game up, but Spurs were too easy to defend against.
Keita offers something different. He is extremely quick and has also displayed fantastic dribbling ability throughout his career. He is a nightmare to defend against in one-on-one situations and thrives on isolating defenders before they can slot back into a defensive shape.
Even if Keita doesn’t slot straight into the first team at Spurs, he will offer a game-changing option off the bench, the role that Moussa Sissoko currently occupies. The difference is that Keita actually has the ability to change a game, and certainly will.
One aspect of Keita’s game that has improved massively in the last season has been his end product, something which he severely lacked in prior seasons. Under Simone Inzaghi’s tutelage, he scored an impressive 16 goals in the Serie A over the last season, as well as chipping in with five assists.
This would be a huge bonus for Pochettino’s side. Firstly, it will add another goal-scorer to the team. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, is that Keita has played as a striker for Lazio.
Considering that Vincent Janssen has failed to impress and Spurs fans panic somewhat when Kane misses a portion of the season to injury, Keita is a perfect signing. When Kane is fit, he can play in his natural left-wing position and not sit on the bench as Janssen does. When Kane is injured or simply needs a rest, fans can breathe easier knowing they have a capable replacement in Keita Baldé Diao.
Won’t be (too) expensive
Many people might be wondering, if Keita is such a talented player, why are Lazio letting him go for a relatively low price of the reported £27 million?
Lazio’s hand has been somewhat forced. As mentioned earlier, the hostile relationship quickly forming between club and player means that Keita seems to no longer wish to play for the Biancocelesti. Most importantly, however, is that Keita’s contract runs out at the end of this season.
Lazio have to cut their losses and sell for less than they would if he was tied down to a longer deal.
One would only have to look at the transfer saga developing with Riyad Mahrez to see the value of the Keita deal, with Leicester City reportedly holding out for £50-£60 million for a player coming off the back of a disappointing season, who is also 4 years older than the Lazio winger. When compared to this, £27 million seems a bargain.
Spurs need to make sure they act fast. A deal seems to be coming along nicely, but they need to make sure they agree terms with the player quickly. No doubt these negotiations will attract other Premier League clubs, and Spurs fans do not need to
be reminded of the debacle between a certain Brazilian winger they tried to sign and another London-based club.
Act fast, Tottenham Hotspur, and you could have a real star on your hands.
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