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Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist: Keita Baldé

If Spurs are trying to make a splash this summer, they’d be wise to look at Lazio’s 22-year-old starlet.

SS Lazio v SSC Napoli - Serie A Photo by Marco Rosi/Getty Images

We at Cartilage Free Captain do transfer rumors often, and we do them well. But sometimes it’s worth doing a deeper dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s transfer targets, so we’re bringing back a series from a couple of years ago — Daniel Levy’s Imaginary Shortlist. These are players that Spurs have either been linked to in the transfer window, or sometimes who they should be linked to as the club tries to improve to challenge for a Premier League title.

Up next: Lazio and Senegalese National Team Forward: Keita Baldé Diao.

The Basics

Name: Keita Baldé Diao
Age: 22
Team: SS Lazio
Nationality: Senegalese
League: Serie A
Primary position: CF/LF
Can also play: ST, AML, AMR, AMC

Keita Baldé is a rising star for Lazio and for Senegal’s National Team. He was born to Senegalese parents in Spain, and came through the famous La Masia academy at FC Barcelona. In 2010 he was loaned to Cornellà, a lower league club affiliated with Barca. The loan was punishment for a prank he orchestrated, while in Qatar for a tournament, that involved putting ice cubes in a teammates bed. A year later Barcelona wanted him back, but he signed for Lazio and began to play for their youth teams. In 2013 he made his senior debut, and has scored 26 goals in 110 appearances for the Biancocelesti since.

Keita could’ve played for Spain, but opted to represent Senegal. He got his first international caps in 2016, and to date has scored 3 goals in 12 appearances.

He is a versatile player who played all over Lazio’s attack last season. According to WhoScored, he made 12 starts as a LF and 7 starts as a CF. Keita’s 16 goals in 31 total games have put quite a few big teams in Europe on alert over a possible transfer.

The Specifics

Keita Baldé’s game is all about technique and flair in the most important area of the pitch. Don’t expect him to be too dedicated to tracking back and playing defense, but he’s an attacker who always wants the ball at his feet when approaching the other team’s penalty box.

He’s more of an inside forward than a winger, and he shows this with his ability to effectively cut inside using his acceleration and dribbling skill. Lazio spent a good amount of their season counter-attacking, and Keita thrived in that system. He can pick up a ball on the break and carry it a very long way.

What really gets your attention when watching Keita Baldé is his finishing. He has scored some wonderful goals in Serie A and in Europe during his Lazio are just a few:

The curl on that shot from Keita was filthy. Poor Joe Hart never had a chance. And it’s even more impressive because Keita did this in a crucial late-season game as Lazio were challenging for Italy’s 4th Champions League spot.

Keita’s celebration is great too. Apparently it was a bit of a shot back at the Lazio fans, who he has had trouble with over the years.

Keita’s pace and strength on the ball are more evident here. He gets the better of Jonathan Tah, and in doing so scores a goal that looks an awfully lot like one that we’d expect Son Heung-Min to score. Sonny and Keita have very similar skill-sets, and we’ve already seen the type of success the former has had at Tottenham.

This goal is from Lazio’s 6-2 thrashing of Palermo in April. It was Keita’s third goal in 6 minutes, making it the fastest hat-trick in Serie A history.

The defending is horrible, but it’s still an impressive combination between Keita and Lucas Biglia for the goal. Keita’s first and second touches are exactly what you’re looking for from a forward in that area of the field.

The Verdict

Likely price: Around £25 million

Chances that the valuation is wrong: Keita has made it quite clear he wants to leave Lazio. There’s only one year left on his contract and he’s not signing a new one, so it wouldn’t take a crazy fee to buy him.

Team’s willingness to sell: As Keita lit up Serie A last season, Lazio fans knew what was coming at the end of the campaign. The writing of his departure from the club has been on the wall for a long time. Lazio are ready to cash-in, rather than let him leave for free next summer. They have to sell him.

Fit at Tottenham Hotspur: Due to Erik Lamela’s injuries and Moussa Sissoko’s probable departure, Spurs may choose to focus on the right side of the attack in the transfer market. But Keita is a versatile player and one of the best young attackers in Italy. Mauricio Pochettino would find room for him. He’d be able to play on the left wing or in Dele Alli’s CF/second-striker role. And he’d probably also see time ahead of Vincent Janssen coming off the bench as another striker.

Possibility he ends up at Spurs: Not very high. Liverpool are the club in England he’s most been linked to, and Spurs have been mentioned as being interested as well. But as with most up-and-coming players in Italy, Juventus will most likely be his destination. But as the great Kevin Garnett once said, “anything is possible.” Maybe Juventus will realize that they have too many forwards.

Grade if this transfer goes through: A- Signing Keita from Lazio would be a sign of intent for Tottenham. It would be a message that, despite the new stadium and previously failed big-money signings, Spurs recognize the need to spend to keep their squad improving. It would also be a message that Pochettino and company don’t trust Vincent Janssen much as second-striker. Keita would provide attacking depth on the wings and in the middle of the attack.

Keita would be another talented young player to add to Spurs roster. He’s only 22, has an amazing scoring record, and is certainly better than whichever unproven French winger the club will actually end up signing this summer.