Adama Traore was born in Barcelona, just a short walk from the Camp Nou, to Malian parents and had a brief spell at CE L’Hospitalet before joining FC Barcelona at the age of eight. His incredible speed quickly earned him the nickname “The Arrow”. He moved up through three age categories during 2012 alone, and started to appear for the B team at 17.
He had begun his youth career as a full-back, but was a fully-fledged wide forward by the time he came into the public eye. With strong physical attributes and a lightning-quick turn of pace, he made an immediate impact in the Segunda Division and became a semi-regular starter during the second half of the 2013-14 season. Traore was also part of the under-19 side that defeated Benfica to lift the inaugural UEFA Youth League trophy that April.
By then, he had already made a brief Champions League debut as one of two substitute appearances for the first team in November 2013.
Traore remained with the B team for a while but did make a couple of cup appearances for the first team, and opened his senior account with a brilliantly taken goal off the bench in the 8-1 thrashing of third-division side Huesca in December.
Traore signed a new contract through to 2018 and Barcelona would ideally liked to have loaned him out to a top-flight team, home or abroad. His low buy out clause of £6M however, attracted the interest of numerous Premier League clubs.
Traore is a master of the one-on-one situation. Blessed with explosive acceleration, good touch, excellent balance and an incredibly tight turning circle, he is a regular tormentor of full-backs. But he still needs to learn how to use these attributes to best effect, well-organised defences are able to usher him into blind alleys.
– powerful acceleration and high top speed
– wonderful agility and balance
– needs to add variety to his game
Tackling: Not really required to do too much tackling in his wide forward role, and it is therefore difficult to judge his likely aptitude in this area. He is physically strong enough to suggest that he would be capable of competing for the ball.
Marking: Willing to track back and help out defensively, he rarely leaves his full-back exposed.
Heading: The style of play of the Barcelona B team did not require him to get involved in many aerial duels. He is relatively short (at 5-foot-10) but is athletic enough to suggest that he could have a decent leap on him.
Close control: His first touch is good and while the ball can sometimes get away from him at pace, he often has the necessary agility and fleet of foot to get a further onward touch to it ahead of a covering opponent. Indeed, these loose touches introduce a random element into his dribbling that reduces their precision, but that can make him even harder to stop.
Passing: The incision he offers is through his explosive dribbling rather than his passing skills. All three of his passed assists in his last season at Barca B were simple passes to clearly unmarked players inside the area. His dribbling had already done the hard work for him.
Positioning: Generally looks to receive the ball into feet before turning and facing goal. Does occasionally make off-ball runs down the flank ahead of his full-back, but could do with varying his movement to provide a threat in behind on the diagonal or by coming in at the far post onto crosses. Needs to be more alert to what is going on around him.
Crossing: Capable of providing good low crosses into the area having skipped past a defender to the byline, with nine of his assists last season coming via this route. The consistency of his deliveries with height on them would need improvement. Does everything at speed, and at times he just needs to slow down and assess his options more clearly.
Finishing: Traore scored just three times in 37 appearances (29 starts) for the B team in his last season. All three were well-taken efforts from inside the area. He is not really a threat from further out than the edge of the box and needs to work on this in order to add another dimension to his game.
What The Experts Say
ESPN : “Still only 20, he is more than capable to be decisive at top level, but his next coach needs to be savvy enough to make sure that he works on all areas of his game in order to meet the challenge of top-flight football.”
Quique Setien, former coach of Segunda Division side Lugo: “Adama is bullet-like: he is very powerful and is unstoppable in one-on-one situations. Even a cannon shot wouldn’t halt him.”
Traore has reached an important crossroads in his career. It is very rare to see such agility, pace and power combined in one player, and the next two to three years will be vital in developing the other elements of his game to ensure that he can make best use of his unique physical gifts. He is almost unplayable on his day but needs to add more variety to his play in order to deliver on a more consistent basis.
The 20-year-old’s attitude has been questioned on a couple of occasions, but he had previously been viewed as a humble and diligent character who had always shown a willingness to work hard on improving himself. Barcelona B were not at all well managed in his last season and it could be that he just needs a change of scenery and a tougher competition level in order to push on, fine-tune his strengths and iron out his weak points.
First-team football should be a priority at this stage of his career and a probable mid-table team like Middlesbrough may therefore represent his best option. One way or another, the young forward’s immediate future will be much clearer come the end of the season.