Adama Traore linked with Chelsea despite being ineligible for the Blues

Credit: Chris Axon
Credit: Chris Axon /

Now that the Diego Costa furor has died down we can return to the regularly-scheduled winter silly season rumours. Chelsea’s supposed interest in Adama Traore fits the bill nicely.

Finalizing a permanent transfer for Patrick Bamford was supposed to be Chelsea’s main bit of business with Middlesbrough this month. However, the transfer rumour mill has Chelsea seeking to replace Bamford in the loan army with Boro’s winger Adama Traore.

Traore would then win the award for least distance travelled to reach a loan club. Traore came on as a late substitute for Aston Villa in August before transferring to Middlesbrough. He therefore has reached his maximum number of clubs for the given season. Chelsea could either keep him around as the training ground all-star, or loan him back to Boro for the remainder of the season.

That constraint, of course, begs the question: why would Chelsea consider this? The only real possibility is that Antonio Conte sees Traore as part of his long-term vision for the club. Traore is one of the fastest players in the Premier League. He is a strong dribbler and could play as a winger in the style of Pedro. Traore is also a product of Barcelona’s academy, which partly explains his over-valuation at £20 million.

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His attributes, though, are far from unique and accompany a string of liabilities. Traore combines Pedro’s high-energy runs with Willian’s tendency to over-dribble. The attributes that he learned at and received praise for at La Masia are impractical – if not counter-productive – in the Premier League.

Traore has many of the raw materials that go into a top-flight footballer. However, he has yet to combine them into holistic package. In his eight starts and six substitute appearances for Middlesbrough this season, he leads the squad only in dribbles per game. None of his other statistics stand out compared to his teammates, let alone compared to Chelsea’s midfielders or wingers.

Adama Traore is even further from being ready to play for Antonio Conte than is Michy Batshuayi. Given Batshuayi’s struggle to earn a few scraps of playing time, Traore could be years (not an exaggeration) away from a spot in the starting XI. And that is assuming that he has the dedicated training time like Batshuayi. More likely, Traore would spend the majority of time under contract at Chelsea somewhere else on loan.

Antonio Conte seems more interested in drawing down the loan army rather than packing new players into it. The only possible upside of purchasing Traore is to sell him at a profit after a year or two on loan. But that would be a pretty craven maneuver, reinforcing the worst perceptions of Chelsea’s loan system.

Next: Grading Chelsea's transfer window: Much ado about nothing

Between the Diego Costa feud (er, blazing row), Chelsea’s limited activity and rumours like this, January 2017 is shaping up as one of the bleaker winter transfer windows. Let’s get through the month and never speak of it again.