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Napoli reportedly agree Keita Balde Diao transfer, but is it real?

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This has the hallmarks of a fast-moving Napoli deal — but it also reeks of being made up for leverage.

SSC Napoli v SS Lazio - Serie A Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

The Italian rumor mill exploded on Monday with activity from Napoli, with the partenopei early on Monday being reported as having made a €22 million bid on Lazio winger Keita Balde Diao, then a few hours later reports emerged that a deal had been agreed, though at an unknown fee. If the reports are true, signing Keita would be incredibly exciting for Napoli fans — if the reports are true.

Keita has been linked to a move away from Lazio for months, with a number or transfers to clubs like Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, West Ham, Juventus, and Inter Milan mooted over the course of the summer. He’s had two previously-reported agreed deals to West Ham and Inter that just kind of disappeared, and with Lazio desperate to drum up further interest — and higher bids — from Chelsea and Manchester, there’s little reason to think that this report of a Napoli transfer is anything more than a leverage play by Lazio or Keita’s agent.

That said, there are a couple of things these reports have going for them. They originate from Radio Kiss Kiss, a Naples radio station with close ties to the club that is regularly briefed on major goings-on in the club. They directly reported contact between Aurelio De Laurentiis and Lazio president Claudio Lotito that achieved a “major financial agreement” between the clubs, leaving the fate of the transfer in Keita’s hands.

Notably, Keita supposedly made his preference to stay in Serie A known to Lazio recently, which if true — there’s that phrase again — would give Napoli a big leg up, especially with Lotito not wanting to sell him to Juventus. If Napoli really are able to use that preference to their advantage, it would be a great coup.

That’s because Keita is a wonderfully talented player who has started to come into his own over the last couple of years. The ex-Barcelona academy product was frustrating to watch for a long time because of his unrealized potential, but his 16 league goals last year show that the 22 year old Senegalese forward is starting to figure it out. Primarily a left winger, Keita’s two-footedness lets him play effectively on the right as well, and he’s done well playing up top, scoring 10 of his league goals as a second striker last season.

Keita wouldn’t dislodge Lorenzo Insigne on the left side of Napoli’s attack, but he’s good enough to push Jose Callejon for playing time on the right, and provides valuable depth and options up top and out wide. His arrival would mean an unfortunate reduction in potential playing time for Adam Ounas, but the increase in quality isn’t a bad thing at all for Napoli.

Assuming that all this is true, of course, and assuming that it gets done. Right now, those look like very big assumptions.