Liverpool have engaged in a period of heavy spending this summer to bolster their squad, buoyed by cash received for the sale of Luis Suarez and Champions League qualification.
Long before last season’s final Premier League standings were known or the Uruguayan left Anfield, however, the Reds were said to be eyeing up one of Europe’s most precocious young talents.
Last September Brendan Rodgers’ side were first linked with teenage Lazio forward Keita Balde - said to be sending scouts to Italy to assess the youngster up close.
In May Keita’s agent admitted that Liverpool had been regular spectators for his client over the course of the season, in which the 19-year-old tallied five goals and three assists in Serie A.
Carrying the tag of ‘bad-boy’ for a prank during his days at Barcelona that essentially saw him tossed out of La Masia, the winger’s solid campaign marked a coming of age of sorts as he became a first-team regular at the Stadio Olimpico.
And Liverpool look to have been thoroughly impressed with his transformation. According to Sky Sport Italia, the Reds saw fit to offer £16 million for Keita this summer, a bold move indeed.
But Lazio reportedly sent the Merseysiders home empty-handed, demanding no less than an astounding £24 million for their young star.
It’s clear that Liverpool were quite intent to get their hands on Keita, as bidding £16 million for a player shy of 20-years-old is a big statement - even if it fell short of Lazio’s valuation.
Perhaps, the Reds missing out on Keita is a blessing in disguise. Whilst Keita was superb at times last season, he’s still a raw talent - and doling out £16 million for him would’ve been a sizeable risk.
Even as Keita reached new heights on the pitch in 2013-14, he still showed some lingering indiscipline by incurring suspension for a training ground row with a team-mate and could use more time to mature.
Should he top his exploits from last term and keep his nose clean from a behavioural standpoint, Liverpool can be more assured of heavily investing in him down the road.
Keita would likely have an even higher price-tag on his head in the coming years should he flourish, but may well be worth every penny should he fulfill his vast potential.
Liverpool have plenty of time to track Keita’s progress due to his young age - and make their move for his services sometime in the future with a full file of evidence suggesting he’s ready to prosper at Anfield.