Fare thee well, Keiteeee!, you will be missed


This is my absolute, all-time favorite picture of Seydou Keita, the man I nicknamed “Huh? What?” because he always had a look of incredulity on his face that was hilarious. That man is leaving the club, it was announced today, as he informed the powers that be of his wishes to no longer continue with a club at which he became an integral part.

As we all know, now-gone coach Pep Guardiola had nothing but love for Keiteee. Here are some comments after, fresh from a return from the African Cup of Nations, Keita turned himself inside out to help the club outbattle a pesky Sporting Gijon side:

“This is a guy who never plays poorly and who always makes the right decision.

“There are many players who, when they lose the confidence of a coach, are offended. They feel that they are the center of the universe and do not understand that the coach does it [drops them] for the good of the team.

“But one of the most wonderful things in these four years is to have met a guy like him.

“Today I’m happy that he has had such a huge game and scored a great goal. The work he does makes my job easier and I hope he will stay here as long as possible.”

He joined the club in 2008 from Sevilla, the club’s first Malian player, for a sum believed to be around 14m. At the time, we set his release clause at 90m, something we apparently don’t believe any longer, as he is leaving on a free. And I bet you’ve forgotten, as I did, that his Liga debut was in a loss (against Numancia), one of only 7 that occurred under his watch.

His statistics aren’t really all that impressive, for you stat whores: 22 goals and 11 assists in 188 matches. And there was a growing cadre of “Keita is worthless” believers, who found it difficult to understand why Guardiola played him, when he seemingly contributed so little statistically to the side. But I remember my Keita Revelation thanks to Ramzi, verbose commenter and advocate for the Malian midfielder.

For a match, I watched Keita and only Keita, a task that made me realize why he plays. I also wanted to change his nickname to In The Way, because that’s what he does. You think that “Hey, any damn body can get in the way,” but not the way that Keita did. His loping strides seemed to almost always place him in a spot that made him a pain in the butt for the opponents’ attack.

But more than that, he was a physical presence in a world of sprites, a not-at-all magical creature who stood up, man-style, and kept out midfield from being pushed around by the big kids.

Here is Keita’s last goal for the club, in a 2-2 match against Betis, a header in which he gave up his body to score, and had to sit there and collect himself afterward, before getting up and continuing with his task of getting in the way.

He is going to Chinese club Dalian Aerbin, following what appears to be the new money trail. He will earn 10m per annumm over a two-year deal, at which point he will probably stroll off into the sunset, richer than Croesus.

It seems fitting that with the departure of Guardiola, the man who he called his moral barometer is leaving as well, even if I’m cranky as Hell for how he is leaving, which is on a free. I’m happy for him, but he’s also a valuable player, released from his contract by activating a clause within it that says he can leave on a free if he didn’t get time in 50% of matches last season. There were talks with Vilanova, and rumors that Keita had agreed to continue as if he had received the requisite number of minutes, etc, etc. When the rumors first broke, they were denied by his hew Chinese club, but they came from too many reputable sources for us to be fully convinced. So there we are.

If the club, which offered Keita a last-minute, half-assed renewal, gets anything from the departure, it will be pittance, because free transfers are kinda that. Bad business? A presumption that a player would do something different? Who knows. All we know right now is that dude is gone, and the midfield is a little weaker. We’re also losing a box crasher, a guy with a howitzer of a long shot who was unafraid to use it and a physical presence in the box. It should also be noted that the next time the African Cup of Nations rolls around, the club will be unaffected.

Did he go to chase money? You bet. And who can argue with that, really? He has had glory galore, being part and parcel of the club that has won so much, done so much and captured so many imaginations. Why not get paid. I would suggest that his meetings with Vilanova also left him unconvinced about his value to the Tito Project. So farewell and good luck, Seydou Keita, with your adventure in China. Here’s something fun to remember him by:

We have things to discuss, including your departure, such as:

Where the brothas at?

I noted today on Twitter that if the Keita rumor became reality, there would be no black players in the club’s roster this season, unless Eric Abidal made a miraculous recovery. And certainly, Spaniards who make monkey chants at Dani Alves will argue with me. Nothing extra to that observation, just a bit of oddness for a club that has in its very recent history Thuram, Toure Yaya, Henry, Eto’o, Abidal and Keita, that even started 4 black players, effectively thumbing its proud Catalan nose at those elements who aren’t all that fond of black players. So there we go.

And we replace him with ….

Nobody. Jonathan Dos Santos will probably be most pleased by this news, as he is the player currently on the roster who is most Keitaesque in his abilities. Rangy, smart with the ball, physical and fully capable of getting in the way with the best of them.

And that’s that.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. Messiah10
    July 7, 2012


  2. Messiah10
    July 7, 2012

    Absolutely gutted! I knew it was inevitable from the rumors floating around, but it still cuts deep nonetheless. Thank you for everything you’ve given us Seydou! We’ll feel the loss of your presence more than you know. You and Pep leaving is almost to much for me. 🙁

  3. Kimcelona
    July 7, 2012

    I’m sad but it was inevitable.

    Really admire him as a player and wish him the best at his new club. Hope he rolls in the money!

  4. nzm
    July 7, 2012

    Horrible news – do love Keita.

    Can’t blame him one bit though – off to make 7 mill per annum. Man can retire after that and be comfortable for life, provided he’s sensible with it.

    Just a word on the brothas. There are a HEAP of talented young African kids coming through La Masia right now – skills pour in abundance out of their every pore. They are setting the lower grades alight with their play.

    I’m not sure what the deal is with the Eto’o Foundation, but hopefully FCB gets first dibs on some of these kids and does manage to retain the most talented ones.

  5. Messiah10
    July 7, 2012

    For me what’s amazing is that football players earn far less then American baseball, football, and basketball players. Football is far more global and has many more fans right? So, why, for instance, is Eric Gordan, a very talented basketball player, but no superstar, signing for 4 years $58 million, when a player of Arteta(just naming very good player, but not superstar)stature makes maybe $2-4 million a year. Shouldn’t the globalization of the game and broader reaching audience entitle futbol players to earn more? Just curious from an American point of view. Regardless, the money these guys make, whether their bench warmers or not, is stupid silly! 🙂 I just think if Keita made what American sports players do, he wouldn’t be moving to China. Nor Drogba and Anelka.

  6. Nik
    July 7, 2012

    Sigh, at least him and Pep didn’t leave right at the same time. I don’t think my heart would have been able to handle that much sadness all at once. Adios, Seydou.

    I’ve noticed some people claiming we need to sign Javi Martinez now that Keita’s gone. I’m not sure I get the reasoning behind that. Martinez is a starter at Bilbao. Why would he come to Barca to sit on the bench? He’s not going to displace Busi as our starting DM (unless we decide to implement the double pivot system…), nor do I see him displacing Pique’s starting CB role. Martinez has too much quality to be sitting on the bench at this point. Besides, Bilbao’s asking price would be way too high for us to afford, no?

    • ciaran
      July 7, 2012

      We tend to play 60 games a season. Xavi, Busquets & Iniesta can’t start every game. Remember, without Keita ever being first choice he played an average of 47 games a season, that’s more than enough games for Javi Martinez.
      The only question will be that of price. Athletic do not have to sell, however it is also very likely that Javi wants to come play for us in some shape or form.
      He would potentially cost €25million if Athletic want to sell. A figure that we could come up with. Considering the finances, we only paid Valencia €7million this summer so we have a little extra room to play around.
      I fully expect next summer’s budget to be spent on Neymar, regardless of my own feelings about the purchase, between Rossell’s connection to Brazil and the player’s own feelings. The figures necessary between next summer and this make the Martinez deal possible if we choose so.

      • July 7, 2012

        Agree with ciaran. Look at Mascherano, and how people wondered about his playing time. There will be time. You could even see Mascherano, in the wake of a Javi Martinez signing, moving forward on the pitch to his natural position in many matches.

        And given the Bielsa hooraw, you wonder about how suddenly messy things are at Bilbao, who is on the record as saying “This is the price. Meet it, and he’s yours.”

        • Nik
          July 7, 2012

          Well, Masch got so much starting time because Puyol was out injured, right? Unless I’m missing some part of Martinez’ game, I can’t see him being played in any other position other than CB or DM. I don’t rate Martinez as any better than any of the starters that we have in those positions. He’d be a fantastic backup, but do we want to be spending more than 20m on backups?

          However, if Tito wants to start using a double pivot, then that’s a different story.

  7. July 7, 2012

    Some are speculating that we got 14m for him, which would be a nice bit of business. As far as filling his shoes, look for more forward migration from Mascherano, and as noted above, Jonathan Dos Santos will be getting serious looks in that ‘tweener role.

    I hope the money rumors are true. I’d hate to think of the club losing a sellable player on a free because of a clerical error, as in “How many minutes does Keita have, and what does his contract say?”

  8. simple_barcafan
    July 7, 2012

    Pep Guardiola left. Keita left. Pep and his team at #barcastuff are leaving… *sigh* …times are changing,.*feels nostalgic*…

  9. nia
    July 7, 2012

    Didn’t want Keita to leave but, i understand he has a family and wants to make himself financially stable. He is a good player and deserves more playing time although, i thought he would go to the epl. Hope he wont regreat his descision. Good luck Keita.
    As for the brothas all leaving Barca, i hope they have some coming in soon coz, i kinda like the team having diversity and the extra stregnth they provide. See how the team suffered when Abi got ill and when Eto’o left they initially missed his speed and stregnth and even as skinny as Keita was, he was quite strong.

    • ciaran
      July 7, 2012

      I really don’t care about the ethnicity of the players but I’m rather glad that we won’t have to be concerned about the ACN even though it’s not til the following season.

      • Messiah10
        July 7, 2012

        Im pretty sure it’s being played this year again because the ACN chose to switch the tournament to odd numbered years.

  10. mom4
    July 7, 2012

    Well damn. We’re gonna miss him, probably more than we can guess right now. Best of luck to him at the new club.

  11. Xavi6
    July 7, 2012

    Thanks for everything , Keita
    don’t feel good about his departure , our team is nearly composed of midgets … set pieces will be very dangerous from now on

  12. pr17
    July 8, 2012

    Great squad member – no more no less. Added some steel in matches when we had to shut down though not always incisive in matches where we were chasing a goal.
    All the best Keita. Hope JDS steps up now.

  13. Chiu
    July 8, 2012

    Thank you Keita for all the contribution. All the best for your new path and happy if you could phasing out your career with one last big paycheck.

    Now CB/DM hybrid type of player will be a priority for us.

    Visca BARCA! Can’t wait the season to start.

  14. nzm
    July 8, 2012

    OK – I have some questions – those of you who are pro-Javi Martinez, why is that?

    Is he really that good?

    I’ve watched him play in the U-21S as well as for Bilbao, and I think that he’s average. He gives away a lot of possession, and he also fouls a lot and draws cards. He’s also not that fast.

    Outside of the Bilbao system, he doesn’t seem to adapt that well. The only thing going for him is that he’s tall?

    Just wondering why all the hoo-haw about him, when we have JDS to fit in and see if he works, as well a call-back option that could be invoked to get Oriol Romeu which would be cheaper than forking out ridiculous moolah for Martinez.

    • ciaran
      July 8, 2012

      I’ve watched a lot of Bilbao and used to watch a lot of the Spanish u-21s.
      This season, Bilbao played a system that was the closest in the league to ours; high pressure, short passing and lots of running. Javi is very fit, physically very strong and has decent short range passing. Added to that, he scores very regularly from set pieces, he both fits reasonably well to our system but also adds, offensively and defensively.
      Let’s face it, height alone means nothing to a player in set pieces. Puyol is nowhere near the height of many CBs but is great in the air. Busquets is a beanpole and is average at best in the air.

      Javi Martinez is a young guy but has taken the role of the leader of Bilbao (and the Spanish U21s for that matter) and personality wise should do a good job assimilating into our system.

      On the ball he is not Busquets, but he could allow Busquets to rest more, along with Pique and could also play next to either of them when needed.
      Would I pay €40million for him? No.
      Would I pay €25-30million? Probably, he can cover 3 positions, has 6years La Liga experience, is only 23, scores goals and adds height to our midget squad.

    • lyd
      July 8, 2012

      J. Martinez:


      * La liga’s breakthrough player of the year’10. (won previously by the likes of Xavi, Puyol and Pique)

      * U17, U21 winners and featured in three cup finals for Athletic. (More big match experience than the regular 23 yr old might offer. Martinez > JDS/Romeu, in terms of big match experience)

      * In Spain NT since ’10.(Good relationship with the lads and experience of training alongside. If he joins then Barca, Spain would end up with 11 Barca players, with Puyol and Villa back. If he performs well here, he can challenge Ramos, Arbeola and Alonso all at once, for the starting 11)

      * Has 1 year of intense Bielsa training. (Like Alexis he has more than decent pressing abilities)

      * Admitted calling CR a SOB!

      * Can play CB and DM. Much needed versatility as compared to Adriano. At Camp Nou, he defended Messi really well, i thought (would be an asset in training). He can play box to box which might give us a different tactical edge, sort of like having Cesc/Yaya rolled into one (a bit exaggerated, i know!).
      – Martinez > Alvez/Alba (for 3 man backline) and Martinez > Masche (for DM/Busi role) imo.


      * 40m buyout clause (Major issue). But price can be negotiated.
      (And if things dont work out later, he’d still have a selling price of 25-35 mil after 2-3 seasons + Can be used as a bait to get Bilbao players 3:}

      * Not world class yet. (Minor issue in this case as he’s got the potential to be one. Plus having proven world class players on the bench wont be cool anyway)

      * Versatility (Counterproductive perhaps. Minor issue again)


      If i was Martinez, i’d pay 5M out of my pocket, agree on minimum salary and hope to join The Dream Team.

      Barca can afford to not look for any more signings next season!

      • Javi Martinez will be a great buy, simply because he will give us a brilliant option in holding midfielder role and he can also play in defense. But the question is how much will the club offer. I don’t think we will offer more than 18 Million.

  15. July 8, 2012

    Jan Vertongen signed for Tottenham Spurs, so that’s another one to remove from our list. Is there any particular reason we’re not giving Botia a shot ?

  16. Jim
    July 8, 2012

    Just taking a breather during the rain delay at Wimbledon. So proud of Andy so far. He’s playing an absolute storm – has to in order to stay with Federer. Hope he stays aggressive.

  17. Ryan
    July 8, 2012

    Sad to see Keita go. That long range goal that he scored last season, when any dropped points would have ended our Liga remuntada, was a thing of beauty.

    But congrats to Iniesta and his new bride!

  18. Messiah10
    July 8, 2012

    Fed played the best tennis I’ve seen him play in a while. It took that to beat Murray today. Fed is one of the greatest Champions in the history of sport. 7 Wimbledon’s says it all. I think Murray will get a Major someday. Hopefully, it’s at Wimbledon to satisfy the Brits. It’s funny, because before this tournament started, Murray was Scottish when he lost.. Now that he’s made it to the Final he’s British! LOL!

    • Jim
      July 8, 2012

      It speaks volumes that at one point in the second set I remember thinking I hope Federer makes a game of it and hasn’t just gone on too long !

      Pleased for Federer, one of my heroes who has surely all but settled the greatest ever argument and so proud of Murray who gave everything and had a lot more than just effort to offer.

      Only small gripe was that they made Murray go through the on court interview when he was clearl in no emotional state to cope with it. I ended up crying along with him

      • July 8, 2012

        Federer absolutely deserved the win today. He was calm, confident & consistent and aside from a few wobbles in the first set he looked like a winner.

        Murray was great in the first set, but I think that 20-minute-long game in the second set broke his will. After that he never really looked confident. Sad for him, and I agree that interview afterwards was cruel and unusual punishment.

        Nothing will ever measure up to the glory days of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe & Bjorn Borg, for me, but this current elite group of men’s singles is pretty fantastic.

        • Jim
          July 8, 2012

          He absolutely did deserve it, Blitzen, and there is no bigger Federer fan than I . I was torn who to support despite the fact Murray is a Scot.
          However, I’d have to disagree with your assessment of the second set. No way was Federer winning it until he played those two sensational points to break Murray. From where I was, that came out of nowhere after fighting hard to avoid losing his serve for most of the set. At 2-2 15-40 on Fed’s serve Murray had a very makeable pass with Fed stranded at the net. He then won his serve to love to make it 3-3. Murray again had break point on Fed’s serve at 4-4 and at that point I genuinely felt the set was Murray’s for the taking. At 4-5 he again won his serve to love and it seemed we were heading for a tiebreak. Then came those two points out of the blue and it was never the same again.

          The rot had set in at the end of the second and I’m not sure the roof had a lot to do with the result other than it coincided with Federer playing the best tennis I’ve seen him play for years, especially in a willingness to go for lines ( which I suppose might have been helped by the lack of wind under the roof.)

          • Agree with you that. The second set was all about Federer trying to stay alive in the match. I was getting ready for a tie-breaker and from nowhere Federer stepped up the game to seal the set. From there on Murray had no choice. Looks like Federer has developed a kind of defensive game to counter tough times and I believe this guy will see more Grand slam success. How can a 30 year old remain that fit? I mean Murray was huffing and puffing in the final and same with Djokovic. Nadal may be a great Athlete and Djokovic may be even better, but there is nothing like watching Federer play Tennis.

  19. lyd
    July 8, 2012

    Thank you Seydou Keita. Will never forget you.

    • hansh
      July 8, 2012


      Just kidding. Mostly. I’m so sad 🙁

    • nzm
      July 8, 2012

      #6 – Pepe Costa is still not far away from Messi – he takes his bodyguard duties very seriously!

      • July 8, 2012

        Pep went to the reception. I think he chose not to go to the ceremony so that the media wouldn’t focus on him.

        Still no word on whether Rosell & Laporta had fisticuffs or just pretended each other didn’t exist. 😛

    • July 8, 2012

      Congrats Iniesta and family! Anna looks beautiful. Love her dress, headgear and bouquet, very ’20-esque. Baby Valeria looks so cute 😀

      Leo gains a few kilos, I think 😛 Antonella looks glowing. Valdes and his wife look fierce. But the best dress has to go to Busi. He looks dashing in that suit and purple tie! He and Xavi on a date?

    • Messiah10
      July 9, 2012

      Who’s dude in red suit! I also laughed at the older men with women 20-30 years younger than them. Gotta love it. There were only a couple though. I think Samuel looks good with his hair back. He was probably the best dressed for me, besides Messi’s grey suit.

  20. providence
    July 8, 2012

    I watched the pics, its soo nice… and Xavi, why? he and Busquets are they single?

  21. Eduard
    July 8, 2012

    I just want to make a comment on the “Race” issue. And before I do so I know it’s a sensitive issue, so hopefully nobody gets upset about it.

    Firstly, I do think it sucks that there isn’t one black player represented in the first team. Specially because all those players you mentioned are all QUALITY players. and that’s capitalized because their contributions have been immense.

    also do want to make a note and say seeing Iniesta’s wedding pictures, the one with Eto’o, made me think how great it would be to have him back in the team. I’ll probably be naming my child Samuel.

    Lastly, what choices does Barca have in the market in which a player has all the versatility and technical skill set and is also black. I’ve thought about this and although there are some out there, most of them are not available.

    Barca are looking for a CB, maybe that could play RB & LB & DM. As for the forward/attacking.. Barca have focused on la cantera and maybe Neymar and some rumors about Van Persie.

    Counting out all the former Barca, Marcos Senna is still an option…..everyone fill out the rest…..

    • July 8, 2012

      Senna is not an option. He has, fantastically, decided to stay with newly-relegated Villarreal rather than explore other options. He is a hero and a legend and I hope he will be able to help the Yellow Submarine get back into the Primera. Wonderful player and by all accounts a great person as well.

        • July 8, 2012

          Me too. To be honest, Senna is the reason I am so disappointed with Keita’s decision. Senna had other options but chose to stay with the team he loves and help them. Admittedly he was wasn’t being offered a huge contract in China, but he definitely could be making more money.

          From the interview published today it seems that the sticking point was the new tax rules for foreigners in Catalunya. This is a bad portent of future problems for possible signings.

          • Eduard
            July 8, 2012

            That’s a great point Blitzen. In my opinion, it’s a bad move by Catalan politicians. It just give E.E. that little competitive advantage.

    • ciaran
      July 8, 2012

      I don’t think the signing of players is in the least bit motivated by race. Our number 1 transfer target by all accounts was Thiago Silva. We are also being linked with M’Vila and Capoue to directly replace Keita in the squad.
      In reality, the reason our squad has no black players at the minute is due to the strong Masia output. In a few years, if he fills his potential Jean Marie Dongou should be in a position to strong challenge the first XI.

      • Eduard
        July 8, 2012

        Let me just clarify. It’s a hypothetical situation. It’s a response to Kxevin’s “Where the brothas at?” segment.

  22. July 8, 2012

    Thanks Keita and best of luck! I’m going to miss “Keita Face” and his contribution to Barca 😀
    His kids from that video are so cute!!!

  23. Srini
    July 9, 2012

    Seydou Keita’s departure marks a sad day for Cules. A thoroughly decent human being and an adequately talented and systems-footballer leaves.

    Javi Martinez era to begin soon?

  24. Gogah
    July 9, 2012

    Gutted that Keita is leaving.

    Can’t tell if it will be a major factor, but I remember, when on the field, seydou would win almost every ball he challenged for in the air, atleast from a defensive standpoint. I’m also quite concerned about losing the sheer assuredness and reliability we enjoyed in Abi and keita.

    at the risk of touching upon a sensitive issue, The point about the lack of black players is also a huge concern for me. Even though our masia is in its golden era, it may hurt to have too much of a similar quality. I don’t know if its right for me to generalize, but i’ve always found a quality in black athletes that just isn’t there in others. Apart from the fact they are so talented in anything they do, there is a degree of tenacity and strength that is sort of irreplaceable. What more, all the dark skinned players who have played for barca have been absolute class.
    It just gives our squad a different dimension, a little more depth.

    oh and no JDS please..
    keep wondering if keita would have left had pep stayed.

  25. lea_terzi
    July 9, 2012

    Sad to see Keita go. Some of us tend to forget that, although not at the stratospheric level of Xavi, Iniesta, Busi and Cesc, Keita with his technique and rare skills could be a superstar in his own right at any other club. To me, he is far ahead of Javi Martinez in terms of skill and quality. Javi has age and versatility (and looks) going for him, but he would be a step back as the first man off the bench in tight matches.

    • lea_terzi
      July 9, 2012

      Not knocking on Keita’s looks, by the way, and his kids are absolutely adorable!

  26. Clouseau
    July 9, 2012

    In his Time at Sevilla he was considerd league-wide as the completest MF and yet at Barça he lost his reputation in no time..

    Wish him the best his was a great servant for the Club and I’ll miss his box2box crushing abilities.Him leaving for free was certainly avoidable as they could started the talks far sooner.It sounds arrogant to start the talks so lately as it’s puts Keita in a uncomfortable position..
    Well now he can gain some good Cash and live it up in China 🙂

    I’m not of JDS as he isn’t the type to play as a lone DM. This is where Barça B suffered the most as Romeu and Ilie were painfully missed.

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