Transfer Talk: In-demand Traore has always Ad more than a few admirers
There is nobody else quite like Adama Traore in the world of football.
The Wolves winger’s unique qualities are both a blessing and a curse — and perhaps why he finds himself in something of a predicament this summer.
Despite being courted by many of Europe’s elite, so far clubs have been reluctant to make a move for the former Barcelona youngster.
But that could all be set to change before the transfer window slams shut on August 31.
New blood in the pack
It has been a summer of change at Molineux.
For starters, manager Nuno Espirito Santo has been replaced by fellow Portuguese coach Bruno Lage.
The club have also signed the highly-rated Francisco Trincao on loan from Barcelona, finally filling the void left by Diogo Jota’s departure to Liverpool last summer.
Though Lage has stuck with Nuno’s 3-4-3 in pre-season, he had great success with Benfica using a 4-4-2 and could yet switch formation once the Premier League campaign gets under way.
If he does, it leaves Traore in limbo, with Trincao and Pedro Neto likely to be used as the wide players in that system.
Traore, 25, is a throwback winger.
Nuno said it best when he praised the former Aston Villa man back in February.
He said: "Adama is a unique player in the world. There is no one like him. He’s very, very special."
Traore is the sort of player to hug the touchline, as evidenced by his heat map. The Spain international tends to attack the byline and beat players on the outside.
As a result, he is not much of a goal threat. Compared with forwards in Europe’s top five leagues over the last year, he ranks in just the fourth percentile for expected goals per 90 (0.07).
Most elite teams want their wide forwards to provide goals but the Wolves No37 is not tasked with this at Molineux.
That does not mean he cannot do it, just that he has not been asked to take on that role while in the West Midlands.
On the flip side, there are no guarantees he has that ruthless streak required to net 15 goals a season.
Without evidence that he can add goals to his game, teams have so far been reluctant to part with big money for the six-cap Spaniard.
According to reports, his price tag has been significantly slashed during the current window.
Why there is such an interest
When compared with his fellow wingers and attacking midfielders across Europe’s top five leagues, Traore is in the 96th percentile for progressive carries (10.12) and the 99th percentile for completed dribbles (5.3) per 90 minutes.
Give him the ball and, more often than not, it ends up in the opposition’s final third.
With so many teams sitting deep and looking to control the space, that sort of progression is invaluable in the modern game.
Traore makes things happen, just not in the quantifiable sense of goals and assists. He forces the opposition into committing to stop him and this creates pockets of space for team-mates to exploit.
Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea and Leeds are all believed to be interested in the £30million-rated winger.
It is unlikely that Barcelona will swoop given their current financial situation.
Liverpool usually want their forwards to be genuine goal threats, with Jota, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane all sharing a number of attacking traits not currently possessed by Traore.
Chelsea are an interesting option given Thomas Tuchel is fond of a wing-back system and Traore could cause chaos on the right at Stamford Bridge.
Leeds use inverted forwards with Jack Harrison on the left and Raphinha on the right.
But you should never second guess Marcelo Bielsa. If he is interested in the Wolves man, he will have a plan for him.
The best fit
Of those reportedly interested, you would have to say Traore seems best suited to Chelsea.
With Tuchel sporadically using Reece James as a right-sided centre-back and Cesar Azpilicueta not getting any younger, there is space in the squad for a new wing-back.
Chelsea want their forwards to operate in central areas so they need wide players who can single-handedly dominate the flank. Traore can do that.
The wildcard option is Leeds and it would be intriguing to see what sort of player the ex-Middlesbrough star could develop into under Bielsa.