Mandela Keita has made his feelings about a summer transfer clear with the Leeds United target ready to snub the Premier League in order to stay at Royal Antwerp.
The question on the lips of many a Leeds supporter, following heavy defeat after heavy defeat, was a rather probing one. ‘Who on earth are the agents of Marc Roca and Weston McKennie’?
It is hard to believe, based on how the Spaniard and the Texan have performed since arriving at Elland Road, that they can point to Bayern Munich and Juventus on their respective CVs. McKennie’s £33 million option-to-buy clause looks almost laughably oversized. As for Marc Roca, well if you’ve figured out just what on earth the former Allianz Arena benchwarmer brings to the table, then answers on a postcard please.
Mandela Keita, a Belgium U21 international who has been described as a mix of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, could be a popular and highly-affordable replacement.
How does Mandela Keita feel about joining Leeds United?
Het Laaste Nieuws back up claims from Gazet van Antwerpen, insisting that the OH Leuven-owned youngster has caught Leeds’ eye with his silky footwork, tidy distribution and press-resistant dribbling.
At £9 million, Keita would cost less than a third of the fee Juventus want for the bafflingly-ineffective McKennie.
“He’s very intelligent and picks things up quickly,” Marc Brys, coach of Keita’s parent club Leuven, tells Het Nieuwsblad. “He listens and develops at a fairly high pace.
“He holds his own, leads and is often free (to receive the ball). Mandela Keita is a natural talent and plays on intuition.”
Keita joined Royal Antwerp on loan in January. And, given the choice, he would obviously prefer to stay at an upwardly-mobile side closing in on a first domestic league title since the 1950s. Antwerp, coached by former Dutch international Marc van Bommel, are a point clear of Union Saint-Gilloise in the play-offs.
“Of course, I want to stay. Who wouldn’t want that?,” Keita tells Gazet van Antwerpen.
“Antwerp is a top-level club. The atmosphere here is fantastic. There is a positive vibe, everyone pulls themselves up. Even when you play a less good game, the atmosphere carries you.”
Keita’s future, however, appears to rest in the hands of others. What he wants, and could happen, may still be very different.
Royal Antwerp’s CEO handed Leeds a boost a fortnight ago when he suggested that Keita’s £9 million price-tag was likely to be beyond their financial means.