Adama Traore is blazing a trail in the Premier League and has quickly become one of Europe’s most exciting and sought-after players. Sky Sports News spoke to those closest to his journey to get unique insight into his astronomical rise.
The 24-year-old’s performances for Wolves have already seen him estimated to be valued in excess of £100m.
The shy boy who was let go by Barcelona has been transformed into a near-unstoppable attacker in Wolverhampton and those who know him best believe he is only going to get better.Kai Havertz – Chelsea have reportedly agreed a five-year contract with the Bayer Leverkusen forward (Sun, August 11); Chelsea are finally free to make their move for Havertz after Leverkusen were dumped out of Europe (Star, August 11); Havertz has reportedly agreed a five-year contract at Chelsea with the Blues heavily linked with a transfer for the Leverkusen star (Daily Star, August 9); Havertz was Manchester United’s No 1 target a year ago before the club turned their attention elsewhere (Daily Star, August 10). Bayern Munich have handed Chelsea a huge boost in the race to sign Havertz by confirming they will not bid for the star this summer (Sun, August 4). Chelsea could finally secure the signing of the Leverkusen star on Sunday, Peter Bosz has claimed (Sun, August 2); Havertz is pushing hard for Leverkusen to agree a deal with Chelsea before next week’s Europa League match against Rangers (Sky Sports News, July 28); Chelsea are confident if signing the Leverkusen attacker after qualifying for next season’s Champions League (Daily Mail, July 27).
Declan Rice – West Ham have dismissed reports they have received a £50m bid from Chelsea for Rice (Sky Sports, August 11)
Nicolas Tagliafico – Chelsea have expressed an interest in signing Ajax’s Argentina international left back (Sky Sports, August 10).
John Stones – Chelsea boss Frank Lampard is hoping to snap up Manchester City defender Stones in a bargain £20m deal (Daily Mirror, August 9)
Ben White – Chelsea are planning to hijack Liverpool’s move for Brighton defender White – and ditch Antonio Rudiger in the process (Daily Star, August 9)
Sergio Reguilon – Chelsea are considering the Spaniard as a cheaper alternative to Ben Chilwell at left back (Mail, Aug 7); Chelsea have joined Everton in the race to sign Real Madrid’s Sergio Reguilon, voted “the best left-back in La Liga” last season (Sky Sports, August 3).
Jose Gimenez – Frank Lampard has made Atletico Madrid defender Gimenez his first-choice addition to his side’s defence this summer (Daily Star, August 6).
Dean Henderson – Henderson has told Manchester United chiefs he wants to either be made the team’s first-choice goalkeeper or leave this summer amid interest from Chelsea (Daily Express, August 5); Chelsea are prepared to more than double the Manchester United goalkeeper’s wages to £170,000 a week in a bid to lure him from Old Trafford (Manchester Evening News, July 21). Chelsea have yet to decide whether to make a move for the Man Utd goalkeeper, currently on loan at Sheffield Utd (Sunday Express, July 19).
Traore grew up in the shadow of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy and worked his way through their doors and into the first team, aged 17, in 2013.
Diminutive compared to his current frame, Traore’s unpredictability and athleticism created a buzz around the club, enough for the teenager to find precious first-team minutes alongside Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.
Spanish football expert Graham Hunter explains how Barcelona, regretfully, ended up letting Traore slip through their fingers.
“Take into account that he burst into Barca’s first team in 2013 when he was 17 just two years before what would be a historic treble, yes that was massive expectation.
“He’d set an expectation with terrific performances in the youth teams and NextGen series. At that stage he was not only small, he was a diminutive figure and what he brought to the football pitch was a joyous kind of anarchy.
“Defenders didn’t know where he was going to go and there was a suspicion Adama didn’t either, but boy there was an excited chitter-chatter everywhere about this kid coming through.
“One of the things you have to feel sorry for is that he made his debut under Gerardo Martino who lasted one season at Barca and wasn’t popular with the players. The next time he plays it’s Luis Enrique.
“It’s really important to understand he left Camp Nou, not because Barca decided to sell him, but because there was a complete breakdown in communication between the agent, the club and the kid.
“He was liked everywhere, but the breakdown in communication was so fundamental with the agent. The club, his family and the agent all thought different things has been agreed.
“Barcelona should have been cleverer, it was only when the situation was in breakdown, did they finally agree to sell, but did they want rid of him? No way.
“Now as his potential is being harnessed by [Nuno Espirito Santo], he’s looking like he could take on the world, eat the world as they say here in Catalonia. Barcelona are deeply jealous.”
Pulis: I made him my best friend and built Boro around him
By August 2015, with only four first-team appearances to his name, Traore swapped Barcelona for Birmingham, but Aston Villa burned through four managers on their way to relegation and Traore only played in 10 Premier League matches that season.
His subsequent move to Middlesbrough also ended in relegation – but a drop down to the Sky Bet Championship and an invaluable working relationship with Tony Pulis was his kickstart to superstardom.
“Picking him up from the start, he lacked a lot of confidence, and a bit of self esteem. I just made him my best friend, as I have done with other people in the past, who I think have talent that they haven’t really produced,” Pulis revealed.
“The lads knew he would get special treatment. A few people were frustrated there with him. People could see there was enormous amounts of untapped talent there. It was just getting it out of him, turning that tap on, so that talent wouldn’t be wasted. I spent a bit of time with him, we gave him quite a bit of leeway.
“The balance of the team was all about getting Adama wide in one-on-one positions as much as possible when we had the ball – training sessions were all about getting the ball to Adama as quickly as we possibly can.
“I used to say to Adama, just take them on. You either get to the by-line and get crosses in, or if you are cut off, come inside and get a shot away. He’s got a good left foot – he’s not as confident as he should be with it, he could come in side and score goals.
“We simplified it, gave him licence to be a bit looser in the team, and everyone bought into it, because he started to produce the goods. He was creating chances, and scoring goals, and his confidence, that wasn’t there when I first went in, just flourished.”It was lovely to see him grow as a person and an individual. He’s a fantastic lad, he used to make me a nice cup of tea.
“There’s no one more pleased than me to see him doing well, because of the personality he is, he is a lovely kid.”
How an Olympic sprint champion slowed him down
Middlesbrough even employed former Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell to refine Traore’s sprinting technique and unlock the even greater untapped potential the Spaniard had.
“I went into the canteen […] saw Adama Traore and went up to him and said ‘you don’t realise how good you can be, and I’m here to fix you’,” Campbell recalls.
“I guess being a failed footballer myself – I was fast, but no one showed me to slow down and use it. He reminded me of myself, he didn’t know how to control his speed.
“He already had the condition. It was about teaching him to control his speed. In your car, you have six gears – Adama always used sixth gear. So for me, the key straight away was slowing him down.
“So instead of 100 per cent, the key was to get him to 80 per cent. His 80 per cent was still faster than everyone else in the league.”At 100 per cent you hold your breath, and tension comes. So you’ve lost that ability to sigh, just before you cross the ball, or make a cross. For me, the change was ridiculous. To see him go from the bench, to a super sub, to starting games – and then by the end he was taking corners. I thought, for me – job done!
“He could definitely be a successful sprinter at 60m – maybe 100m. So much of his running is natural, he has fast-twitch fibres. The fact that he’s the fastest footballer out there tells you his speed is exceptional.”