‘My heart told me to play for Senegal’ - Keita Balde on why he chose not to play for Spain

Keita Balde Roma Lazio Serie A
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The Monaco forward could have opted to play for the La Furia Roja but said he followed his heart to play for the Teranga Lions

Keita Balde has said it was his heart that told him to choose Senegal over the Spanish national team.

The 22-year-old was born in Arbucies, Spain to Senegalese parents and could have played for the Red Fury after he was drafted into the Barcelona youth team setup.

But the former Lazio forward who made his debut for the West African nation on March 26, 2016, as a late substitute in the 2-0 win over Niger in an Afcon qualifying game says although he wanted to play for the Spanish national side, his heart ultimately chose Senegal.

“I waited for a Spain call-up but then my heart told me to play for Senegal,” Balde told L’Equipe.

“I took this decision after discussing it with my parents and to me, it was an unbelievable feeling to play my first game for the national team in front of my family.”

The winger also lifted the lid on why he left the Stadio Olimpico to join the French Champions in the summer and added Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy influenced his decision.

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“When I came to Italy, at 16, I learned things that aren’t taught in Spain, the physical and tactical parts of football,” he added.

“I wanted to leave Lazio, experience a new football style, know different people. I have followed Ligue 1 and Monaco last season, they did great in the league and in the Champions League.

“My friend Benjamin Mendy, whom I talked to before signing, also spoke highly of the club,” he concluded.