Current Italy Under-19 manager and former Lazio youth coach, Alberto Bollini, has recounted his time with recent Sampdoria signing Keita Balde, describing him as a "natural talent".
The 25-year Senegal international temporarily joined the Blucerchiati from Monaco which will make it his third stint in Italy in his senior career, having previously played for Lazio and most recently Inter Milan, last season on loan.
Balde’s career began as a youth with Barcelona and after eight years he joined the Biancocelesti as a 17-year old in 2012, spending a season with the youth squad before going on to make 137 competitive appearances over a four-year period, scoring 31 goals and providing 22 assists.
Bollini was a youth coach at Lazio during Balde’s arrival and was soon made assistant coach at the club.
“Keita Balde came to Lazio from the Barcelona Cantera. In the first six months due to problems related to the transfer he was unable to compete in the official matches,” Bollini told Sampdoria News.
“For every player, the Sunday match is everything, he [Balde] could only train with us and participate in the friendly games. He has a natural talent, it took little time to bring him to the fore. He is a very sensitive boy, he knows how to make himself loved in the locker room and cultivates friendships even outside the field.
“Balde made himself as a deejay together with his partner [Mamadou] Tounkara, another great talent now at Viterbese.
"He has always shown a great football personality. Temperamentally he is extroverted and likeable, at times I had to play the part of a somewhat severe coach, bringing him back to the tactical directives with discipline.”
Bollini went on to say that he and Balde are still in constant touch with one another and is happy with the progress he has made.
“He has always responded in an important way to my inputs, providing comforting feedback in the growth process. Years later, we are still writing to each other, over time he has matured a lot, has started a family and has never forgotten the values he believes in,” Bollini continued.
Bollini concluded by asserting that Balde’s technical qualities will be of immense benefit for Sampdoria.
“When I arrived in the [Lazio] first team with [Edoardo] Reja, Keita had already accumulated some important minutes,” he explained.
“For technical and physical qualities, Keita can cover all the roles on the offensive front, both second striker and on the flanks.
"Optimally he knows how to combine technique with speed and skill in dribbling the opponent. The technical value of any team that has Balde increases and the whole championship is enriched.”