Keita Balde is an extremely talented player with a year remaining on his current contract. These are words that make Beppe Marotta salivate at the opportunity to acquire players at cut-rate prices. This sort of situation gives both the player, and rival clubs significant leverage in contract and transfer discussions.
It appears as though Lazio is attempting to remove that leverage, by freezing Keita out of the squad. Keita’s agent, Roberto Calenda, took to Twitter today to share some less than joyful words:
For those who would like to read it in English, here it is run through Google Translate from GDM’s website:
" In these two days we read of everything. I categorically deny that Keita has pulled back or had muscular problems (as he himself, however, clarified after knowing the exclusion). In fact, he always trained with commitment, getting ready for the game as usual (and his preparations all know him, since last year he played sculls of matches, he scored 16 goals).
The truth is in the eyes of everyone: Keita did not bid for a proper contract renewal and did not convene him for the first major game of the season. I do not say he did not play: he was not even summoned. Obviously the company does not intend to invest in the player. The rest are chatting and they only serve to mask this reality . "
That to me, doesn’t sound like a happy agent. An unhappy agent, usually means there’s an unhappy player. An unhappy player/agent, is probably in favour of moving on from the team that’s making them unhappy. This could probably make a move to Juve (or somewhere else, but let’s assume the reports are true and he does only want Juve), all the more likely.
On the other hand, it could mean that Lazio is willing to play hardball, and give Keita the bench (or worse) treatment. If they have already done it for one game, who’s to say they won’t do it for others?
It goes without saying that freezing out Keita would be a bad move on their part. They have a few solid options:
1 - Sell him now and take what you can get for him. Obviously not the most ideal situation, but that’s what happens when you leave a star player to only having a year left on his contract.
2 - Let him continue to be a star player and run out his contract. Hear me out. If Lazio isn’t receiving any solid offers, they can bet that Keita will be worth more to them this year than the transfer fee would have brought in - similar to Lewandowski’s last year at Dortmund.
Keeping him and letting him rot on the bench for a year would be borderline moronic. Not only do you not get the transfer fee, but you also waste a possible year of huge production from a guy that scored you 16 goals last year. Not to mention the huge red flag it signals to future talented young players that Lazio would be pursuing.
So Lotito, it’s your move - but for the sake of what’s best of your club, make the right one.