Keita Balde Diao, the Lazio attacker, is a confirmed Watford transfer target but the Hornets will be wary of noises emanating from Italy that he is keen to remain in Rome.
Balde Diao, we can report, is on the club’s shortlist of attacking options but is by no means the only alternative the Premier League club are pursuing as they look to fortify their goalscoring and creative options.
Schooled in the Barcelona academy before moving to Lazio in 2013, Balde Diao has played 15 times for Lazio this season and fits the bill of the young striker with top-flight experience the Hornets are seeking. The club are ideally seeking a striker in the age bracket between Obbi Oulare and Odion Ighalo and a wide player with pace and power. The 20-year-old Balde Diao is experienced beyond his years and is in his third season of Serie A football. He could play in a 4-3-3 or in one of the two spots either side of Troy Deeney.
A reported price tag of £18m is a lot for a player who has as many goals as he has red cards this season – one. He played the full 90 minutes in Lazio’s 2-0 win over Udinese in September and Watford’s Italian connections, led by owner Gino Pozzo, chief scout Filippo Giraldi and consultant Nicola Salerno, will have a dossier on him.
Lazio, it is being reported in Italy, would be receptive to an offer if Udinese, the Italy arm of the Pozzos’ footballing portfolio, included Thomas Heurtaux, the French defender, as part of the deal. A similar exchange occurred in the summer when Miguel Britos ended up at Watford as part of the deal that took Allan from Udinese to Napoli.
Yet Balde Diao does not appear keen on a move. Either that or he is keeping the Lazio fans sweet.
“I am fired up, I work hard every day to improve with the objective of becoming an important player for Lazio,” Balde Diao told Sky Sport Italia. “Coach Stefano Pioli knows he can count on me.”
According to Il Tempo he told a fan yesterday: “I’m not leaving completely. Watford? Stay in Rome. I am charged. I work every day to improve and make myself available to the team. The fans? We are very happy that people come to see us, they always give as much support and so much strength.”
Watford have had mixed results when signing players from Rome clubs. Jose Holebas was seemingly dragged here kicking and screaming, Victor Ibarbo has not worked out while Juan Manuel Iturbe did not endear himself to Quique Sanchez Flores and Scott Duxbury. With Watford a long way towards securing another season in the Premier League, players will be queuing up to join the Hornets and Duxbury knows Watford can have their pick and be judicious in their selections.