Having scored a notable four goals in his 15 matches for Chelsea last season and enjoyed a solid 2016/2017 preseason under the newly installed manager, Antonio Conte, Bertrand Traore could’ve been forgiven for thinking he’d be given a chance to continue his development at Stamford Bridge this term.
Conte, however, had othes ideas, instead believing the Burkina Faso international would be better served going out on loan, as he already had two excellent centre forward options at his disposal in Diego Costa and new £33 million signing, Michy Batshuayi.
So, Traore returned to the Dutch Eredivisie for his third loan spell in the country, this time with Ajax, after the first two stints with Vitesse. Jumping at the chance to link up with the tactically sophisticated manager Peter Bosz again, who knows him very well from their time together at Vitesse, the decision made perfect sense for both parties. Indeed, Bosz was actually the man that instigated the 21-year-old’s transformation into a striker during their spell at Vitesse, recognising how well the then winger/attacking midfielder’s dynanic skillset could be applied to the position.
“There are few really good strikers in football – it is the most difficult position in the team, but Bertrand has the qualities. He is a player that can really make a difference as a striker,” he explained.
The fact Traore scored 17 goals in 2014/2015, his first season regularly operating as a number 9, was a brilliant way for him to repay Bosz’s faith in his capabilities to fulfil the role. The player himself was even somewhat surprised when recalling his success as a forward, asserting: “As a child, I always played as a right winger or as a No.10. This is the first season that I played as a striker. I did not expect it to go so well.”
Fast forward to now, however, and despite him having a slightly rocky start to life at Ajax, with form issues and Bosz questioning his condition at the back end of 2016, Traore’s overcome all this to emerge as a crucial player for the Dutch outfit. Although he’s largely been deployed as a right-winger, he’s formed a formidable frontline alongside predominantly exciting Danish forward Kasper Dolberg and inventive left winger Amin Younes.
Traore’s blistering pace and mesmerising dribbling ability, in combination with his adept finishing and space finding prowess, have seen him provide a hugely unpredictable and damaging proposition for defenders in Europe and domestically. While his 13 goals and four assists from his 36 appearances in the league and the Europa League are a fine return from a wide player, his averages of 3.4 shots per game, 1.4 key passes pg and 2.9 successful dribbles pg supplement the afore beautifully.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, he’s shown himself to be a valuable contributor too, as he’s pressed with intelligence and intensity, tracked back admirably, applied his strong tackling capacity purposefully and used his athleticism to win plentiful aerial duels. An especially fine example of his strength in this regard arrived in the first leg of Ajax’s Europa League semi final vs Lyon, where he worked relentlessly on his way to completing five defensive actions and winning seven headers.
All things considered, following another fruitful loan spell in the Netherlands, it’ll be fascinating to see what the future holds for the wildly gifted prospect – whether that be at his parent club or elsewhere.
With the Europe League final against Manchester United to look forward to in a little over a week, there’d be no better way for him to sign off on his fantastic season with the iconic Amsterdam club than by taking out the coveted trophy.
Join Eastbridge today for the best prices on global football!