Wednesday Jan 16, 2019. 09:15
January 16, 2019 marks the 39th birthday of retired Malian superstar football player Seydou Keita.
Born in the Malian capital city Bamako in 1980, Keita was signed with local football club Centre Salif Keita (founded by the legendary player, who was also Seydou’s uncle) before he was spotted by French giants Olympique Marseille and moved to the Ligue 1 club in 1997 as a teenager.
The young midfielder fought his way through OM’s youth system and made his professional debut, aged 19, in September 1999. This followed his strong showing for Mali’s team at the U-20 World Cup in Nigeria earlier in the same year, in which he helped his team finish in third place and was awarded the ‘Golden Ball’ as the best player of the tournament.
Keita left Marseille in 2000 but went on to establish himself as one of the French top flight’s best players over the next seven years in spells at Lorient and Lens. A move to one of Europe’s top leagues beckoned, and in July 2007 he signed a four-year contract with Sevilla in Spain’s La Liga.
After an impressive campaign with the Andalusia club, Keita was acquired by giants Barcelona in May 2008 – making him the first Malian to play for the Catalan club. Under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola, Keita enjoyed an incredibly successful spell with the Blaugrana.
While he was not a regular starter throughout his career with Barca, Keita nonetheless carved out a niche as a key squad member who was able to fulfil several different roles, with Guardiola appreciating the player’s versatility, composure and blend of technique and physicality.
In four years at Camp Nou, Keita made nearly 200 appearances across all competitions and picked up over a dozen major honours, including three successive La Liga championships, the 2009 and 2011 UEFA Champions Leagues, and two Copa del Rey titles.
With his career having peaked, Keita set out for a Far East adventure in July 2012 when he joined the growing list of players heading to the Chinese Super League, which offered big money for high-profile European-based players.
The Malian returned to Spain 18 months later, signing with Valencia in early 2014, before heading to Italian Serie A giants Roma later that same year. Keita played in the ‘Eternal City’ for two years before heading to Qatar club El Jaish in 2016 for his final season before retiring from the game.
Keita also enjoyed a great career at international level, making over 100 appearances for the Malian senior team and helping the ‘Eagles’ finish third at successive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments in 2012 and 2013.