Adama Traore was the most exciting yet frustrating player in the Premier League last season. His performances in many ways summed up our season. He would beat every player on the pitch but would come off without getting a goal or an assist.
In many games, as a team, we would look comfortable, not spectacular, but competing with the elite, yet we wouldn’t come away with more than a point.
This was a sign of things to come. Most Boro supporters were amazed. He carried on beating players at ease, pushing Middlesbrough forward when under pressure. Had we just brought a top player to the Boro? At first glimpse, I thought we had.
His first start came 2 weeks later, away to Arsenal at the Emirates. We drew 0-0 and Adama was unstoppable. The Spaniard was again completing a magnificent amount of dribbles during the game and was actually creating goal scoring opportunities. His crosses to both Gaston and Negredo should have been finished off, before forcing a world-class save from Petr Cech.
At that moment in time, I thought we had more than enough to stay up. Adama looked a world beater, and with the added quality of Negredo, Fischer, and Gaston we looked in a good position. He carried on beating players and started 4 out of the next 5 Premier League games, including the Arsenal game.
We lost 1, which was by a one-goal margin against the team which would later be crowned champions. He was then strangely left out of the starting lineup, then started just once in our next 5 fixtures, we lost 4. Coincidence? The 21-year-old was brought back into the starting XI away at Old Trafford. Again, he showed his pace and we went 1-0 up. He was brought off with 10 minutes to go, Boro then went on to lose the game 2-1. Another coincidence? Adama featured less and less, right when our form dipped.
I’m definitely not saying if he’d have featured more we would have been guaranteed to stay up. But I think you have to question Agnew’s decision to play Stewart Downing ahead of him. Obviously, Downing was superior defensively, but even then, if we look at Adama’s first 5 starts in the league we conceded 4 but scored 5 in a run which included Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City.
Now we take a look at the first 5 games of the season in which he didn’t start, we scored 5 but conceded 7. This included games against Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Stoke City. He can’t be that much of a liability defensively.
Why should he stay?
The Ex-Barcelona player is still only 21-years-old and has a bright future ahead of him. I agree, his end product does need working on, but at times he was crossing the ball with just Negredo to aim for, who didn’t exactly help in his movement.
The Sky Bet Championship is known to be a good league to develop the youth, so why not keep him and allow him to settle into a regular position in the side. Garry Monk likes to give the youth a chance, and there is no doubt Adama would get given his chance to shine. Most Premier League players and managers were unable to stop the speedster from tearing their defense open, so imagine what he will be like in a lower division.
Steve Gibson mentioned bringing in quick, eye-catching attacking players at the end of last season. Traore meets that criteria. If Adama does get given a chance and shows his qualities then his price will rocket.
The 21-year-old was brought in as an investment for the future under Aitor Karanka, but even though Karanka has departed it doesn’t mean we have to give away Adama. The Ex-Boro manager has an eye for young talents after working with a Spanish development side and recognized Traore as a talent. What’s the worst that could happen if we keep him?
Traore has been linked with a move away from the Riverside, and what more fitting destination is there for him than the Olympic Stadium. The rumored price is around £8 million, which for me is an insult to the player. The kid has a huge amount of talent, and most certainly didn’t look out of place in the English top flight.
We are currently seeing players like Jordan Pickford and Harry Maguire go for £15 million+ Whilst Fulham rejecting a £20 million bid for midfielder Tom Cairney! Yes, I did say £20 million. If we do end up selling Traore, we should push to get more for the winger than the £8 million fee rumored.
If Adama Traore does eventually leave, there is no doubt we will be adding in the attacking areas, and it looks set to be an exciting transfer window. Aiden McGeady has already been linked with a move to Middlesbrough, and would most definitely be an improvement on Stewart Downing after impressing at Preston North End last season. We already a handful of attacking talents in our club, which include Viktor Fischer and Harry Chapman, but we will need to strengthen if we want to ‘Smash the league’ as Gibson suggested.