In the black and blue half of Milan, all the talk was of Luka Modric and the potential of a sensational move from Real Madrid. While that plot thickened though, another started to come to light, with Monaco’s Keita Balde Diao was suddenly thrust into the conversation.
The talented wide man had impressed in Serie A before at Lazio, and now it seemed his destination would be San Siro. At 23 years old, he has all the attributes to be an excellent addition and one that would bring a new element to Luciano Spalletti’s team.
The Nerazzurri havealready enjoyed an excellent transfer window, but if they can push this deal through, then they will add to the plume of feathers already in their cap.
The Senegal international was originally reported to be coming to Italy with Antonio Candreva going in the opposite direction. With the Italian international unconvinced though, it appears sporting directorPiero Ausilio has once again got a club to agree to a season-long loan with an option to buy.
Keita is said to have agreed personal terms and is ready to return to Italy, just a year after he left Lazio. His life in Monaco was blighted by injury - he played only 23 games - but Keita still managed to score eight and assist five.
He was originally part of Barcelona’s prestigious youth academy, but was allegedly kicked out for his pranks, although the supposed final straw of putting an ice-cube in a team mate’s bedstill sounds harsh.
He made a new home in the Eternal City, moving there for €300,000 in 2011. It wasn’t until the 2013-14 season that he eventually broke into the first team and started to show what he could do. Between 2013 and 2015-16 he managed 11 goals and eight assists across 93 games, showing that while he had all the raw talent, he lacked consistency.
It was during the 2016-17 campaign where he seemed inspired by Simone Inzaghi and found both his consistency and the net. This was perhaps no surprise, as he had worked with Inzaghi for six years in the youth ranks, and he finished the campaign with 16 goals and three assists.
Now, as a move to Inter comes closer, Spalletti can hope to get a man who has raw pace, superlative dribbling ability and is difficult to contain when he is running directly at a defender. He loves to cut in from the left and can receive and give the ball quickly. He is also capable of crossing with pace and can shoot.
What is interesting for the Nerazzurri coaching staff is that they haven’t got anyone like him. Ivan Perisic is powerful and chips in with goals, but simply doesn’t have the extreme pace that Keita has.
Yann Karamoh does have the potential to develop into a player that has all the right attributes to be a star at Inter, but he’s still learning and needs to trust his own ability. Matteo Politano scored 20 goals in 96 games for Sassuolo and will get more chances at Inter, and has similar qualities if he can be consistent. Finally Antonio Candreva, if he remains, can be superb on his day, but lacks pace and last season didn’t score a single goal - consistency an issue again.
What Keita Balde will bring to Inter is something different, someone who can carry the ball a great distance and quickly. When playing the likes of Juventus or Champions League opposition, he will be perfect for the counter-attack. After the arrival of Lautaro Martinez, he would further lift the burden of goals that has sat on Mauro Icardi’s shoulders, giving the Beneamata a player for the future who can grow with some of the other bright young hopes.
Keita is a player with unquestionable ability who, if he recaptures his Lazio form, will send shivers down the spines of Serie A defences again.