It wasn’t too long ago that Keita Balde was a forethought of many Juventus fans as their selection to bolster their favourite team’s attack this for the coming year. Many news outlets had linked Keita as a potential transfer target, and from the surface it made sense that Juventus would be looking to pick him up as part of their quest for a new winger. In the past few weeks though, those links seemed to die down, and apparently for good reason.
Lazio’s President, Claudio Lotito, today confirmed that Juventus nor Inter have made a formal bid for the winger. From Gianluca Di Marzio’s website (and run through Google Translate):
"Keita will not finish out like Pandev: thanks to me, cases of this kind no longer exist. If there is no news, he will remain a Lazio player and Inzaghi will use it in the way he feels most appropriate. I have not received offers from either Juventus or Inter, but have come from abroad, "
Goran Pandev left Lazio in 2009 on a free transfer after his contract expired. Lotito has supposedly ruled out that Keita would do this. The problem here would be that it would take two to make a thing go right for Juve, and to make sure that Keita doesn’t do exactly that. Keita is well within his rights to let his contract expire then join any team he chooses next summer. Sure, Lazio can play hardball and make him sit on the bench for a year, similar to Llorente before he joined us), but that would be sacrificing one of their star players and they may be reluctant to do that.
As it stands though, Juventus have not made a formal bid for him though, so if Lotito really does not want to lose him for free and Keita does not want to extend, he could push hard for a sale this summer. This could mean accepting a lower price later on, if Keita doesn’t want to go to these ‘abroad’ teams that have supposedly bid for him.
The question is also where he would fit in this current Juventus team. From a financial move, Beppe would almost surely be looking to acquire Keita if it were at a very discounted price, but with the arrival of Douglas Costa, and the imminent arrival of Federico Bernardeschi, there may not be space for him to get many minutes. Perhaps this would open the door for Pjaca to go on loan and get some quality minutes under his belt after being hurt most of last season.
Keita scored 16 goals in the Serie A last year, there’s no questioning his talent. If he is available for free next summer, Juventus will almost certainly be in for him. Lotito is claiming it won’t get to that point. The question remains whether Juventus will step up and bid for the winger, or risk having another club offer him a deal he can’t refuse and lose him altogether.