Liverpool’s scouts were in the Stadio Olimpico stands to watch Lazio starlet Keita Balde make his full senior debut in their 1-0 victory over Legia Warsaw. They’ll have been impressed, with the young Spaniard of Senegalese descent a bundle of energy as he set up the winner for Hernanes.
Below we discuss the young forward’s career so far and what he has to offer the Anfield outfit, who are 13/20 to pile on the woe for Sunderland when they visit Wearside in their next Premier League outing.
Originally a prospect at Barcelona’s world-renowned La Masia academy, Balde’s promising career hit a road-block when – as punishment for putting an ice cube in a teammate’s bed as a practical joke – he was farmed out to Cornella, an affiliate of the Catalan giants.
He scored 47 times for their youth side, but instead of biting Barca’s hand off when they invited him back into the fold he moved to Lazio in 2011, reportedly turning down moves to Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Training with the youth team he shone in the Torneo Karol Wojtyla, notching six goals in four games as the stand-out player in the victorious Lazio side. After spending much of last season with the senior squad he made his debut in the first game of this year’s Europa League group stage.
Where he operates
In the aforementioned youth tournament he popped up variously as a central-midfielder and a centre-forward, but more generally he is the kind of attacker that can be employed in any position across the most advanced band of three, which is facilitated by his ambidextrous shooting ability.
Balde, known simply as Keita by the Biancocelesti, likes to ask questions of opposition defenders with direct, powerful running and acts as a willing, speedy outlet on the flanks with a composed first touch.
Sometimes he can be too keen to play the killer ball and can frustrate his teammates slightly, but his burst to the by-line and pin-point cross for Hernanes’ winner against Legia demonstrated that he is more than capable of producing quality passes under pressure.