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Getting To Know: Seydou Keita

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BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 05:  Seydou Keita of Barcelona controls the ball during the la Liga match between Barcelona and Real Zaragoza at the Camp Nou stadium on March 5, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 05: Seydou Keita of Barcelona controls the ball during the la Liga match between Barcelona and Real Zaragoza at the Camp Nou stadium on March 5, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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Full name: Seydou Keita
Squad No: 15
Position: Midfielder
Date of birth: 16 January 1980
Place of birth: Bamako, Mali
Height: 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Weight: 77 kg (170 lbs)

Seydou was born in the capitol city of Mali where he "joined" a footballing family. His cousin is Juventus star Mohamed Sissoko and his uncle, Kalif Keita, is arguably one of the best players in Mali history. He started his career with Centro Kalif Keita, a training club set up for promising youngsters. There he was spotted by Olympique Marseille's scouts and at the age of 17 he signed with the French side.

He spent three seasons with Marseille's reserve team, but on 19th September 1999 he was rewarded for his hard work and he made his first team debut against Troies. He appeared in only nine game for Marseille, but he did score his first professional goal.

At the end of the season he joined Ligue 2 side FC Lorient on a free transfer. He immediately established himself as a started and in two seasons, one in the Ligue 1, played 60 games, during which he managed to score twice.

In the summer of 2002 he transferred from Lorient to RC Lens for an undisclosed fee. At Lens he moved from his usual central midfielder position to the holding midfielder spot, but he quickly familiarized himself with it. With normal playing time for one of France's leading clubs, his talents were regularly on display and he soon attracted interests from bigger clubs. For his work ethic and leadership abilities he was quickly named captain of the team. In four seasons with Les Sang et Or Keita made 185 appearances while scoring 19 goals, amazingly 11 of them came in the 2006-07 season.

After his most productive season he left France after 11 years and joined Sevilla on a transfer valued at around €3.1 million. In Andalusia he really shined and was one of the most used players in Manolo Jiménez's team. He became known as a steady midfielder with a very good long range shot. Because of his strong play in his first season he became a hot commodity and he ended up being transferred to Barcelona. In the one year he scored six goals in 38 games for Sevilla.

At the end of May 2008 Blaugrana and Los Nervionenses agreed on a transfer fee of €14M and Seydou signed a four year contract. His Barcelona debut came in the Champions League against Wisła Kraków. Initially Seydou struggled to fit in with Guardiola's one touch, fast flowing football, but he soon adjusted and became one of Pep's most trusted midfielders. During the three years stay in Catalonia "Seydoubilen" became a regular fixture in the middle of the field and he has also been a consistent goalscorer. In 130 games he has scored 16 times, including a hat-trick against Real Zaragoza.

Keita is one of Mali's biggest starts, so it comes to no surprise he is an important part of their national team. His international career began when he joined Mali's youth team, where he was a crucial member of the squad that finished the 1999 FIFA World Youth Championship in third place. They were beaten in the semi finals by the Spanish team led by Xavi. In 2010 Keita decided he needs a break from his national team, but he has now informed Alain Giresse, coach of the Mali national team, he is ready to return to the intentional stage. So far he has appeared in 55 games for Les Aigles and scored 16 goals.

Profile
Seydou is a hard working central midfielder known for his toughness and awareness. For a player that is also very good as a defensive midfielder he has a surprisingly good ability to score goals. Keita is very strong in the air game, even in the oppositions penalty area. His passing range isn't world class, but while it is above average he hasn't been known to deliver that final pass to the strikers on a regular basis.

Honors
FC Lorient

  • Coupe de France (1): 2002

Sevilla FC

  • Supercopa de España (1): 2007

FC Barcelona

  • La Liga (2): 2008-09, 2009-10

  • Copa del Rey (1): 2008-09

  • Supercopa de España (2): 2009, 2010

  • UEFA Champions League (1): 2008-09

  • UEFA Super Cup (1): 2009

  • FIFA Club World Cup (1): 2009

Individual

  • FIFA Youth Championship Golden Ball (1): 1999

Keita's first contract tied him with the club until 2012, but he later signed a contract extension that will keep him under club control until June 2014.

Next week I take a look at Sergio Busquets

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