Seydou Keita was one of those players that most culés would not probably consider in their favourite starting XI. But for some reason, most of us are already missing him. I think this is related to his behavior and his influence in the dressing room, but it also has to do with his football.
Portrayed as one of Pep’s favourite members of the squad, Keita’s behavior in Guardiola’s team full of stars was ideal. Every time he was given the chance, he did a good job, and when he didn’t play, he was there supporting his team mates. He never made a single comment, or showed discontent at his place in the team. This might have been mistaken for conformity, but I prefer to see that as respect towards his team mates and the coach.
Particularly this last season, Keita transmitted a sense of safety. In my case, whenever I saw him walking onto the field, I felt that we were safe, that the midfield would be balanced, either from the start of a game or during the second half, when we needed to cool things off. Keita would enter the field and do his job with no hesitation, either backing Sergio Busquets up when he took more risks, or sometimes going forward, using his height as a strength, to try to score. He was crucial in several games, like the one against Betis when he also scored.
Perhaps he seemed a bit off of the team’s level the first year he arrived, but then he found his place, even if he had to play only occasionally. Keita also added something much more valuable to the team than just hard work: a fantastic and unique work rate, yes, along with humility and commitment to the team. This is exemplified in a remark he made upon his departure: “I am not Catalan, but I was proud to defend this team.”
As most of our players have already said on Twitter, he will be much remembered, something that cannot be said of greater footballers that have worn our shirt recently. I would have loved it had Keita been able to say goodbye to his team mates in person, not just receiving their kind words and good wishes over Twitter. Was that so hard?
I have also been thinking that now, with Keita gone, the club has put itself in a position where they need to sign someone. I have read many times this past weekend that Busi will be alone now. “What if Busi gets injured?” some people ask themselves. Is there a ‘canterano’ to replace Keita? Jonathan Dos Santos seems to be a possible answer to that, but we still lose many things by losing Keita.
On the other hand, if Barça are looking for his replacement, either at Barça B or at Athletic de Bilbao, it seems he must have been important, if he needs to be replaced. In that case, wouldn’t it have been better to renew his contract for one season? Wouldn’t it have been better if he could have stayed a bit longer, and not create a problem that will hardly be solved in two weeks? On the same note, was it too hard to show some gratitude to a player that, despite being an ‘underdog’ , showed exemplary behavior over four years? Maybe he wanted more money, or to feel more valued. I just wonder, was this the best decision for the team, not Barça’s finances? Even so, if money was the issue, why are we willing to pay 40 million euros for a player like Javi Martínez, who is good but not a guarantee of success?
There are many questions surrounding this departure, and few answers. Let’s hope this was also Tito’s decision and that he has a plan to cover the space Keita is leaving behind both on the field and in the dressing room. Let’s also hope this new challenge brings him success!
In the mean time, as we look for those answers, let’s remember Keita’s scoring abilities, in this awesome goal against Betis.
Video by FC Barcelona clips; Image: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images