Keba Sidy Coly ready to step into Mohamed Salah’s shoes at Roma

Corriere dello Sport (Roberto Maida) One somersault, then another. As they were realising who it was that had scored, Roma supporters were seeing how acrobatic and agile he is. It happened on 3rd September, when Roma were playing in a friendly in honour of Pope Francis against San Lorenzo. But Keba Sidy Coly had already won over Luciano Spalletti. The goal he scored at the Olimpico for the first team was the result, rather than the cause, of the coach having belief in him.

It’s not hard to imagine that Keba could also soon be in and around the first team given that Spalletti, who is thinking how to fill the void left by Salah when he leaves for Africa in January, has already pinpointed him as being a credible alternative, regardless of the options that sporting director Massara is considering in the transfer market.

Keba is 18 years old, a stocky but very quick forward. He started out as a centre forward but under the tutelage of Alberto De Rossi, he is transforming himself into an almost unstoppable winger. Similar to Salah, in fact, although he is right footed. When he gets going, it’s very difficult to stop him, as some of the first team are starting to realise now that Spalletti has started calling him up to play in the senior side’s training matches. During the international break in October, he was irrepressible in a training game played on the campo Testaccio, testing the likes of Bruno Peres in a way that they never expected. He has been superb for the Primavera, scoring 8 goals in 7 games in the league as well as being the primary protagonist in the 4-0 victory in the Supercoppa at the Olimpico, a stadium he obviously likes playing at, against Vecchi’s Inter. He only needs to get off the mark in Europe, as he’s yet to score in the Youth League.

Keba is an example of the results achieved by the new network of academies set up by Roma. He is Senegalese and has been living in Italy for 2 years. His father is an officer in the army, his mother is a teacher: they sent him to Europe both to study and to nurture his passion for football. But Keba, who is still studying in a comprehensive school at Ostia, really knows what he’s doing when he has a ball at his feet. So Roma, on the suggestion of the technical director of Unicusano Fondi Luca Evangelisti, followed his progress until they signed him from Spoltore, a club in the Abruzzese first division, in December 2015.

As he couldn’t be officially registered at the time, as he was still underage, he played some trial matches for the Primavera during their Christmas tour to Orlando, Florida. Keba didn’t hang around, scoring 6 goals in 3 games. One of these, an acrobatic effort where his outstretched foot was almost at the height of the crossbar, left De Rossi open-mouthed. “He’s an interesting player,” the coach said. “His characteristics allow him to find space on the wing but he’s very good in front of goal as well.” In the summer, he signed his first professional contract.

Keba has a very confident and extrovert character, and he quickly started to get along with Totti and the other players in the first team. He shares a room with the Cameroonian midfielder Perfection at Trigoria, where he has both found his home and happiness. Incidentally, he also gets on famously with Marchizza, who yesterday scored the decisive goal from the penalty spot for the Italy Under 19s against Armenia.

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