ADAMA TRAORE: All you need to know about rumoured Liverpool target.

Adama Traore taking on Ozan Kabak

With just under two weeks to the start of the 2020/21 Premier League season, Liverpool fans are getting more and more restless as all the noises coming from the club suggests no further incomings. The frequency of links have dwindled and fans are wondering if the club’s plan to use Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as a false nine is less of a bluff than they’d hope.

One name which has veered through the cracks and into the media space is Wolverhampton Wanderers winger, Adama Traore. We’ve been linked with him in the past, but with his value having shrunk (he was rated at £70million last summer), rumours have whirled again about the Reds making a move for the Spanish international. Contract talks between Wolves and the player have stalled, and with two years remaining on his deal, Wolves have reportedly placed an asking price of £30million on him.

The Mirror, Goal, Sky and a few other publications credit Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United with an interest in the player. Italian transfer guru, Fabrizio Romano also confirmed Liverpool’s interest and suggested the Reds will make a move when they move on Xherdan Shaqiri. With Nuno Espirito Santo moving on to Spurs, it is understood the player wants a new challenge, which is why contract talks have dragged.

With that being said, we will take a deep dive into Adama’s career to date, and see if there’s more to him than just baby oil and blistering pace.

Adama Traore oiling his arms

A product of Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy, Traore joined Barcelona’s youth setup in 2004 at the age of eight, before being promoted to the Barcelona B team in 2013. In November 2013, he was given his La Liga debut at the age of 17 by Tata Martino, replacing Neymar late on in the 4–0 home win over Granada. He made his UEFA Champions League debut later that month, coming on for Cesc Fàbregas in the 82nd minute of a 1–2 defeat away to Ajax in the group stage.

Traoré also featured for Barcelona’s U19 side in the inaugural edition of the UEFA Youth League, playing five times and netting twice as they won the trophy. He was named in the Segunda Division Team of the Year. He scored his first goal for the Blaugrana’s first team the following season when he netted a solo goal in an 8–1 home demolition of Huesca in the 2014–15 Copa Del Rey after coming off the bench. He left the La Liga giants for Premier League side Aston Villa, in 2015, having made just four senior appearances.

He signed a five-year deal with the Villans for a reported £7 million (€10 million) that could rise to €12 million, with Barcelona inserting a three-year buy-back clause in his contract. He made an immediate impact on his debut, a week after signing, when after coming off the bench, his cross was turned into an own goal by a Crystal Palace defender. He scored his first goal for Villa three days later in a 5-3 win over Notts County in the League Cup. This led to Villa boss Tim Sherwood infamously saying “Adama is a bit of Ronaldo and a bit of Messi.

19 year old Adama Traore unveiled at Aston Villa

A combination of an ankle injury and tactical discipline issues meant Traore could only play 11 games that season, with ten substitute appearances in the Premier League (one assist) and just one start all season, coming in the League Cup. A bright start only papered over what appeared to be genuine flaws in his game. It didn’t help that Villa struggled that season, and sacked Tim Sherwood midway through the season and replaced him with Remi Garde as the threat of relegation held a chokehold on the club.

On a £40,000 per week wage, the youngster was a target for disgruntled Villa fans and he asked for a move away after just a year. It was a bit of a culture shock moving from La Masia to a Premier League relegation dogfight. Adama had a lot of work to do on his work outside possession, his positioning, defensive covering and maintaining of the team shape. In possession, he was failing to marry that searing pace and raw talent to actual end product.

Adama later admitted to his difficult time in the Midlands: “It was difficult at Villa because they’d struggled for two years and I’d come mainly from Barcelona B in the second division in Spain,” said the Catalan born-and-bred son of Malian parents. “I needed time to adapt but Tim Sherwood and Rémi Garde had to win games; they didn’t have time to think about little things about my game. It was a bad moment, it was such a hard, sad experience.”

Adama Traore with his head in his hands

So off to newly promoted Middlesbrough he went, Traoré signed a four-year contract for an undisclosed fee and Albert Adomah moved in the opposite direction. He endured another learning curve of a season as he got more playing time and completed the most dribbles in Europe (145 in all competitions) but crucially lacked the end product to back it. He didn’t score a single goal that season as a total of 31 games saw him provide one assist and create just 20 chances. Middlesbrough finished 19th and were relegated to the Championship.

Middlesbrough coach Aitor Karanka realised the same discipline issues that had dogged Traore’s time at Villa. “He needs to learn discipline on the pitch. Karanka said: “If he is to play for 90 minutes then he has to just keep learning.I knew when I signed him I had to teach a lot to Adama. When you work all week in training and then he makes a mistake it is frustrating – but it is my job to make sure he does not make mistakes.

“We knew that we have a lot to teach him and to be fair to him he is improving, he is improving a lot and if he continues to do that then he will be a really good player.” The player himself admitted to having lots to learn too, “Aitor tells me I need to work on my tactics and the way I sometimes play the game because here in England it’s different to Spain,” he said. “If the team’s playing on the counterattack, I have to go back and defend.”

“At Barcelona, it was a bit different. There wasn’t as much focus on defending and ‘doing your job’ when you didn’t have the ball. Aitor takes me to one side a lot and tells me the things he wants to work on. I don’t want to become a totally different player, but I know there are things I have to improve.” Traore continued; “People tell me I’m the first in dribbling, but it’s important that, after dribbling, I cross or pass or score. If I don’t, then dribbling is pointless.”

“When I was at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola told me: ‘You’re the fastest in the club,’” he said. “Maybe I’ll be the fastest in the world but it’s only good when you cross or shoot at the end. With the ball I can run 37kmh but I’ve never been timed without it because my job is to play football. I’m not an athlete.” Aitor Karanka left Middlesbrough that summer and Garry Monk took over. He would also struggle before Tony Pulis came in and simplified things to get the best out of Traore and the team at large.

Adama Traore’s cross being closed down

Traore excelled in the Championship in the 2017/18 season, particularly under Tony Pulis. Going a level down and getting a coach willing to simplify his game, Traore looked much more like the prospect he was purpoted to be. He spearheaded Middlesbrough to the Championship Playoffs where they were unfortunately beaten by his former side Aston Villa. He totalled 40 games in all competitions, netting 5 goals and providing 12 assists, all while completing a quite staggering 273 dribbles.

He tore Championship full back’s to shreds on his way to winning Middlesbrough’s Fans’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards. A clean sweep for the 22 year old. After a successful season in the Championship, Traore decided to try his hands at the Premier League again, securing an £18million move to newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers on a five-year deal in August 2018.

In his first season for the club, Adama filled the role of an impact sub, as he only started 12 games across all competitions. His pace off the bench was an option Wolves boss, Nuno Espirito Santo used to great effect against tired legs. He made 36 appearances all told, scoring just the one goal, providing three assists and creating 22 chances to go along with 83 dribbles as Wolves astonishingly finished 7th to qualify for the Europa League places.

They also enjoyed an FA Cup run that took them all the way to the semis. It was the following season (2019/20) however, where Adama really came into his own. With Wolves signing Mexican striker Raul Jimenez permanently after a hugely successful loan spell, the two formed a deadly partnership that took them all the way to another 7th placed finish. Wolves went on an incredible run in the Europa League, going all the way from the qualifiers to the quarter finals where they were knocked out by eventual winners Sevilla.

It was the best season of Adama’s career, with the highlight being a brace he scored against reigning champions Manchester City in a 2-0 away win in October. He was unplayable that day and went on to also win the PFA Player of the Month award for January 2020. He was finally realising his potential at age 24. He finished the season with a quiet impressive 6 goals, 13 assists, 66 chances created and 249 dribbles completed in 54 appearances.

Adama Traore celebrating a goal for Wolves

His stock was at it’s highest as reports of a £60million – £70million price tag made the rounds. In the 2020/21 season though, Traore struggled once more, as his partner in crime Jimenez was ruled out for the season with a skull fracture. He and the entire club suffered for Jimenez’s abscence as they limped to a lowly 13th placed finish. Traore scored 3 goals, notched 3 assists, created 57 chances whilst completing 157 dribbles in 41 matches across all competitions.

He did enough to convince Luis Enrique of his place in the Spanish team for EURO 2020 though, where his sole appearance off the bench increased his tally to six caps for his country of birth. Adama Traore’s combination of raw power, pace and supreme dribbling ability, not to mention his natural ability to draw two or even more defenders to him, could be a useful tool to add to Jurgen Klopp’s squad.

With the established front three of Salah, Firmino and Mané gearing up for their 5th season together, there’s a need to make sure the quality doesn’t drop off a cliff when they need to be given a breather. Jota, Traore’s former teammate at Wolves, did an excellent job covering and challenging the trio. But his own injury problems meant there was no one to do that in his abscence, with Origi, Minamino and Shaqiri proving incapable so far. What Adama lacks in end product and consistency, he more than makes up for in the sheer mayhem he brings on the ball.

His off the ball work has improved too, as Espirito Santo used him even at right wing back at times. He is versatile as well and was used on the left wing and even as the support striker behind Jimenez on occasion. Jurgen Klopp has professed his love for the player in the past, often branding him “unplayable”. And with his world class ability to bring more out of players, who’s to say he can’t finish the job Espirito Santo started by smoothening out the last rough edges of Traore’s game and making him the finished article?

Jurgen Klopp embracing Adama Traore

At 25, he’s now entering his prime, and for a fee of £25million, rising to £30million, we could have quite possibly the scariest sub fullbacks can think of. Whether against a low block where the team is struggling to find a way through, or against a top team where the team is trailing and could use extra impetus, or even in a crucial Champions League knockout game where the team is under pressure and holding on to a lead. I can’t think of any scenario where bringing on Adama on 70 minutes, won’t be an exciting sub.

He won’t break the bank either and ticks a lot of boxes for the club’s transfer committee. One for Jurgen Klopp and Michael Edwards to rack their brains over as the Premier League looms large over the horizon.


One thought on “ADAMA TRAORE: All you need to know about rumoured Liverpool target.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s