Chelsea show their true standards with Adama Traore transfer decision as Tottenham move nears
Tottenham have been close linked with completing a deal for Adama Traore during the January transfer window, while Chelsea were said to be interested in the summer
Adama Traore: the Wolves winger with pace, trickery and physicality that some of Europe’s elite coaches want to turn into a wing-back.
The Spaniard is in many ways a footballing enigma with a physical frame more often associated with a bodybuilder than a tricky, forward thinking footballer, and it’s perhaps even more surprising there are teams hoping to redeploy his talents.
Tottenham are close to securing a move for the player as Antonio Conte tries to establish his preferred formation at Spurs, and the 26-year-old has been earmarked for a key role on the right flank as Spurs enter the business end of the season.
It wouldn’t be the first time Conte has surprised members of the footballing world, as the Italian reinvigorated Victor Moses’ Chelsea career by making a similar swap, and it undoubtedly worked for the Blues.
There is confidence that Traore will make the move before the end of the window, with fees from £20million to £30million touted for the signing, with the transfer being driven by Fabio Paratici.
However, they aren’t the first to be tempted by Traore’s merits as a wing-back.
The former Barcelona and Aston Villa star was utilised in the position at Wolves under Nuno Espirito Santo, and even in the summer of 2021, Thomas Tuchel was believed to have suggested the player after Chelsea missed out on Achraf Hakimi.
While Traore appears on his way to Spurs to start for the club, it’s difficult to see how he would be more than a rotation option given Reece James’ position as first-choice wing-back.
Nevertheless, given the hamstring injury James picked up in December, it would be easy to have a school of thought which would suggesting the signing may have been shrewd.
Chelsea have been searching for a wing-back due to injuries to the England international and Ben Chilwell. Names such as Sergino Dest have emerged, while the Blues preference appears to have been to secure their left flank with hopes of cutting Emerson Palmieri’s loan at Lyon short.
There appears to have been little chatter or interest in reestablishing an interest in Traore.
A similar fee £20million fee was noted in the summer, and it’s a figure that would have been well within Chelsea’s capability of reaching, but despite this winter’s misfortune they may have landed on the right decision.
It’s undoubted that Traore has attacking talent and would be able to drive with the ball down the right, but James has been a real strength of the Blues’ forward play.
The Cobham product has been one of Chelsea’s more dangerous players this season, recording four goals and five assists this term in 16 Premier League appearances. Traore has produced one goal so far this campaign, and recorded just two goals and three assists in 2020/21.
James’ numbers are stellar and will be difficult to replicate of course, but he also provides plenty of defensive acumen. Understandably, that would also be difficult for Traore to fulfil give his career further up the field, but he is further characterised by poor defensive contributions and committing too many fouls.
Even so, he probably still could have provided cover for the Blues. He’d certainly be alternative to what Cesar Azpilicueta has provided in the role, and if a permanent conversion took place it would make more sense than placing Callum Hudson-Odoi or Christian Pulisic in the position.
Yet, that may still not be enough for Tuchel.
Chelsea’s wing-back search in January has predominantly been focused on the left, despite that being home to the Blues’ only natural remaining wing-back in Marcos Alonso.
The Spanish international enjoyed a great start to the season and has dutifully performed as Chelsea have tried to overcome what they lost through Chilwell’s injury. However, Alonso’s contribution has always been greater in attack, with his acceleration sometimes letting him down in his defensive duties.
Traore would have likely presented the Blues with similar problems. Both players provide something different, but would perhaps not be an option you want week-in, week-out.
Traore could be a revelation at Spurs. He has attributes few players in the world possess, and leaves defenders sweating.
The Blues cannot settle for players to merely ‘do a job’ if they hope to close the gap to Manchester City, however. They need depth and players who can plug in and play the role in it’s entirety.
It will be a challenge to find those players, when the talent is as good as Chilwell and James, but that has to be the standard the Blues aspire to.