By Will Butcher
Newcastle are planning a quick move for left-back Cheick Keita from Serie B side Virtus Entella, according to a report.
The Sun claim that the 20-year-old full-back is also interesting Italian giants Juventus and Roma as well as French sides Le Havre and Angers, as he continues to catch the eye in Italy’s second tier.
The Toon also face competition from these shores for the France-born star, with Bolton and Crystal Palace monitoring his situation at Virtus.
The Sun claim Rafa Benitez is weighing up a quick move to snap him up before any of the bigger clubs come in.
It is believed that scouts have been flocking to watch the uncapped Mali defender, after he broke into the first team following his move from French giants Monaco in 2014.
Despite possessing three recognised left-backs in Achraf Lazaar, Paul Dummett and Massadio Haidara, Benitez is keen to strengthen the left side of his defence.
Known for his low centre of gravity and blistering pace, Keita offers both a defensive stability at the back and an attacking outlet on the left flank.
Since breaking into the first team, Virtus’ number three has made a total of 48 league and cup appearances and already possesses plenty of first-team experience despite his tender age.
Football Insider verdict:
Keita’s potential move to St. James’ Park would almost certainly spell the end of Frenchman Haidara’s future in the north East, as he continues his recovery from a long-term injury. Without Haidara, the Toon would still have three left-backs if Keita joined after Morocco international Achraf Lazaar joined the Magpies in the summer from Serie A outfit Palermo. Lazaar is set to remain in Newcastle for the next month after being overlooked for Morocco’s national side, but could find that leaving the Toon altogether will be his best option in search of first-team football. Nonetheless, Keita possesses bags of potential and would be a top signing if Benitez can beat the likes of Roma and Italian champions Juventus.
In other Newcastle transfer news, this 37-time Venezuela international is also on Benitez’s shortlist.