Hibs linked with HNK Gorica defender Cheick Keita as Easter Road side looks to strengthen squad

Hibs are reportedly keeping tabs on HNK Gorica left-back Cheick Keita as they plan for life without Josh Doig.

Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 1:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 1:13 pm
Cheick Keita in action for Bologna against AC Milan

The 19-year-old has been linked with a string of clubs including Burnley and Watford, and ahead of Sunday’s Scottish Premiership opener against Motherwell at Fir Park, head coach Jack Ross admitted the defender was likely to leave the club in the coming days.

While the Easter Road side can still call on reliable veteran Lewis Stevenson, with Sean Mackie facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines they will be short of options if Doig completes a move away this month.

Reports in Croatia recently suggested a large number of scouts had taken in Gorica’s home game with Sibenik on July 24, with the hosts running out 3-1 winners.

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Winger Kristijan Lovric has been the subject of interest from Cel tic and Hellas Verona and is understood to have been one of the players of interest while Keita is also thought to be attracting attention after a string of strong performances in the Prva HNL.

Hibs’ reported interest in the 25-year-old comes just days after Sporting Director Graeme Mathie welcomed a partnership with Ivan Kepčija and his Croatian-based football consultancy Planet Football.

French-born Keita, who represents Mali, spent time as a youngster with Paris FC before joining the INF Clairefontaine academy, whose graduates include Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud, and Thierry Henry.

He then spent three years in Monaco’s youth system before joining Italian side Virtus Entella following a series of trials with clubs in France.

Keita made his debut for the Ligurian club in 2015, playing 48 games in total before sealing a move to Birmingham City. He played just 11 times for the Blues and spent time out on loan, returning to Italy with Bologna during the 2017/18 season and scoring twice in 24 games during a loan spell at Belgian side KAS Eupen.

He was released by the St Andrew’s club in the summer of 2020 and joined Gorica in January 2021, signing an 18-month deal.

An attack-minded full-back, he is also capable of operating as a left-wingback or further up the pitch. The bulk of his appearances have been in a back four but he has been deployed wide left on several occasions, scoring twice and assisting once.

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