Is Liverpool and Manchester City scouted prankster worth another look?

SS Lazio fans

Dubiously renowned for his antics off the pitch, Keita Balde dazzled on Sunday for Lazio.

The Lazio man began his days as a footballer at the tender age of nine, snapped up by Barcelona’s vaunted La Masia academy with hopes of grooming him to be a star of the future.

Along with the burgeoning forward’s undeniable talent came a penchant for misbehaviour, however, a tendency that would eventually bring out the demise of his Blaugrana career.

A 2010 practical joke involving an ice cube in a team-mate’s bed spelled the end – seeing him shipped off to satellite club Cornelia on loan, never to return.

Lazio proved willing to take a chance on him for a nominal fee in 2011, where he shone for the youth side before breaking into the first team this term.

Keita’s old conduct issues came to pass back in December when he was suspended for a training ground bust-up with Stefan Radu, but has seen fit to make amends on the field.

Yet the spotlight was firmly planted on the Spain-born Senagalese – reportedly scouted by Liverpool and Manchester City earlier this season – for the right reasons on Sunday afternoon in Verona.

Within 10 minutes he had already begun his decimation of Chievo, bursting down the left flank to pick out Antonio Candreva for the opener.

Only some acrobatic work from Flying Donkeys shot-stopper Christian Puggioni kept him off the scoresheet himself in the intervening period. But Keita would get his just rewards in the 70th minute – his well-struck effort from distance taking a deflection to nestle inside the near post.

And the Stadio Bentegodi crowd was left impressed at the 18-year-old having picked apart their favourites, offering a standing ovation as he was substituted late on.

The performance serves a reminder of exactly what the teen is capable of when he focuses on football rather than extracurricular activities.

If he can keep it up and establish consistency in his displays, could he earn a harder look from Liverpool and City?

Keita certainly isn’t the first footballer to have had a mischievous streak in his younger years - the goal now is to become more known for his play than dressing room stories, and maybe down the line a top club will in turn be in for him.

image: © Andrew

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