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Roma Close to Signing Seydou Keita on Free Transfer?

Roma's first capture of the summer might be the free transfer of Valencia's 34-year-old midfielder, Seydou Keita

David Ramos

The summer transfer window has been open less than 72 hours and perhaps due to World Cup preparations, the rumors and moves haven't been as frantic as we'd normally see, but that hasn't stopped the mill from churning. While Cesc Fabregas is headed for Chelsea and David Villa to the as yet non-existent NYC FC, Roma's first foray into the marketplace appears to be 34-year-old midfielder Seydou Keita, formerly of Barcelona, most recently employed by Valencia.

Although there are rumors that Keita is already in Rome and will undergo a medical examination on Friday, speculation does exist that Walter Sabatini remains unimpressed with the notion of signing Keita, largely because of his likely duties to Mali in January's Africa Cup of Nations.

International duties aside, apart from a relatively cheap salary, what would he bring to Rudi Garcia's Roma?

Well, he's an able bodied and experienced midfielder, one who traditionally excels in the defensive aspects of the game, while possessing a keen passing eye (89% for his career), and would provide cover as a defensive midfielder for either Daniele De Rossi or Radja Nainggolan. Furthermore, Keita has 15 titles to his name, including two from the Champions League, so the man knows pressure and success; qualities that can't be overlooked on an ambitious side like Roma.

However, beyond being a free transfer, one who will reportedly earn "only" €1m per season, this isn't a terribly exciting move, particularly as Keita will be Rodrigo Taddei's titular replacement. With that in mind, let's do a quick comparison of the two men.

This past season was a bit of a revelation for Taddei, for no other reason than he actually saw the field, making nearly five times more appearances than the previous season. Not only that, Taddei proved to be an effective and flexible option off the bench, featuring as central midfielder and full back, knocking home two goals (his most since 2009-2010) and completing 90% of his passes.

This doesn't necessarily look like a man past his expiration date, right?

However, sending one 34-year-old midfielder out to pasture and then signing another necessarily pits the two men against one another, so let's have a quick look.

Taddei saw 851 minute of action to Keita's 757, so the gross numbers are a bit unbalanced. Given Taddei's greater tactical flexibility, it stands to reason that his passing, scoring and creating numbers were better, even when viewed through per match and per 90 minute metrics (they were); Taddei was also the more effective and efficient tackler. Keita was, however, far, far more effective in aerial duels, clearances and interceptions.

But, might that be the point of this move?

Perhaps Garcia and Sabatini are lusting after a pure defensive reserve, one that comes in a cheaper, albeit less flexible, package than Taddei. At the reported figures (one mil), Keita is nearly 50% cheaper than Taddei was this past season, and Roma can still sign or promote a younger player to fill Taddei's jack-of-all-trades role.

So it would be appear that Sabatini has found a strictly defensive reserve in the midfield,  while shaving a few hundred thousand Euros off the wage bill. Though one has to wonder, now that his contract his set to expire, would Taddei come back at a reduced rate?

Taddei's exit was always bound to be a sad one, but, depending on what role either would assume in Roma's hypothetical 2014-2015 squad, the man ostensibly filling his shoes barely registers as an upgrade.

So what do you think? Are we happy with this move? Does Taddei have enough in the tank? And for that matter, does Keita?