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Why Barcelona Starlet Adama Traore Is Worth the Premier League Fuss

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterAugust 13, 2015

Adama Traore of FC Barcelona during the friendly match between Napoli and FC Barcelona at Stade de Geneve on august 6, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
VI-Images/Getty Images

Barcelona's reputation for moulding and promoting exciting young talents precedes them; they've created a dynasty based on La Masia products such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol and irrepressible possession football.

But now the tide is changing. Luis Enrique has taken the club away from tiki-taka in favour of a more direct, Ivan Rakitic-centric approach, and the hierarchy also stand more prone to selling off youngsters than ever before.

It used to be that they would be given every chance to succeed; even Jeffren and Isaac Cuenca were given a good honest go. But now, whether it's a book-balancing act or a sign of a decline in calibre of player, teenagers and young 20-somethings are being flogged, not stashed.

Adama Traore appears to be the latest name destined for the Camp Nou exit doors, with the Spaniard completing a medical at Aston Villa, according to the Daily Mail. The price of the deal ranges from £6 million to £12 million depending on the publication you read.

The 19-year-old's entourage appear to have led him on a condensed, Martin Odegaard-esque tour of Britain this summer, with Stoke City confirming they'd spoken to the player, via Sky Sports, and Liverpool showing a keen interest too.

But it's Villa who appear to be on the verge of sewing up a deal. They're in need of a winger and Tim Sherwood has been hunting for a more natural wide outlet this summer, and in Adama, it appears that has been found.

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The holder of just one starting appearance for Barcelona's first team, the young Spaniard, born in L'Hospitalet, is a largely unknown quantity to football fans the world over. Allow us to fill you in.

1. Physical

Adama Traore is 5'10", built low to the ground and powerful when running. He's ideally sized as a winger—not so tall he loses short-area quickness and adjustment ability, but big enough to hold his own.

He boasts explosivity from a starting position, able to bend his knees and drive out of his breaks like Paulo Dybala does, and is blessed with excellent top-end speed. He's not Jordan Amavi or Jordi Alba quick, but his pace will take him away from most defenders if there's green to run into.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 06:  Adama Traore (R) of FC Barcelona is challenged by Blerim Dzemaili of SSC Napoli during the pre-season friendly match between FC Barcelona and SSC Napoli on August 6, 2014 in Geneva, Switzerland.  (Photo by Valerio Pennici
Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

He's probably as strong as a winger not named Andriy Yarmolenko can become—that man is a true anomaly in the wide positions at 6'2"—and has enough upper-body strength to jockey in tight spaces and feed his lust for driving at players.

As with any player as good at dribbling as Adama, he boasts exceptional poise and balance at all times. Sky Sports' Graham Hunter described him as "a well-built middleweight boxer"—an apt comparison.

2. Genuine Width

The first thing to love about Adama's game is the width he holds on the pitch. Yes, he will ideally cut in and shoot with his left if given the opportunity, but he starts wide and stays wide until he receives the ball.

Stretching the pitch horizontally is hugely important; Roberto Mancini's Manchester City lost the FA Cup final to lowly Wigan Athletic in 2013 due to a lack of width, as the Italian played three No. 10s in the advanced positions (Samir Nasri, Carlos Tevez, David Silva) and all of them clogged the central zones, getting in each others' way.

Manuel Pellegrini sought to fix that in his first transfer window, signing Jesus Navas, and has now signed Raheem Sterling to offer the same due to Navas' end-product struggles. Adama is the kind of player you check in on when you're searching for a proper winger who expands the area in which your team plays.

Credit: Segunda

His physical attributes are a big bonus here and allow him to take up a wide role, with his acceleration, pace and balance all key. He's also pretty patient when the ball is being moved over to his side, able to create five yards between himself and his marker so he can receive the ball and move forward.

Defenders often give him a cushion because they're aware of how quick he is, and it's difficult to know, as a full-back whether you should show him inside or outside; he's happy to go either way.

3. Dribbling & Forward Motion

When it comes to dissecting the ingredients of Adama's style, it will become very obvious to anyone who watches him that his dribbling ability stands his best asset by a distance.

His ability to lower his knees and twist out of turns, creating explosivity in tight areas, is a big help, but his technical ability can be jaw-dropping at times too. He's not a sprinter in football boots like Jose Holebas, he's a technician first and foremost—as you'd expect from a La Masia product hailing from Catalonia.

Credit: Segunda

There were times at Barca B where he'd take on four markers and beat them with ease; they'd all dangle their legs in hope but he'd skip and weave between every challenge, dancing around the danger like a veteran helmsman navigating shallow, rocky waters.

Credit: Segunda

He can dribble to avoid pressure or pressing, or he can turn on the after-burners to start a quicker attack. He was often the pace-changer for Barca B this past season, taking the team's tempo from easy to frenetic in the space of seconds. 

Whether he's found out wide in the final third, squaring up to his marker one-on-one, or asked to burst forward from deep and gain his side 60 yards of territory, he can do it. 

4. Selfish?

There is, though, a vice that naturally occurs when you're as effective as Adama is on the ball: He's pretty selfish at times.

OptaJose @OptaJose

243 - Adama Traoré completed 243 dribbles in the Segunda 14/15, more than any other player in Europe. Supersonic. http://t.co/axqdxsZAmP

According to Opta, Adama completed 243 successful dribbles in 2014-15—significantly more than next-bests Eden Hazard, with 180, and Lionel Messi with 173. A 58 percent success rate across all attempted dribbles is pretty impressive, but these numbers also confirm he takes on the world by himself a little too often (he attempted 419 dribbles in one season!).

Credit: Segunda

He totalled 14 assists in Segunda last season, per Transfermarkt. That's a healthy tally, but given how much of the ball he had in the final third and the amount of time he spent in typical chance-creation areas, it's actually a bit low.

His end-product isn't yet up to scratch, and that's likely because he hasn't had enough crossing reps. He was the star of Barca B last season and he knew it, and that perhaps shaped his game into something a little more introvert than it should be. At a club like Barcelona, that's not going to fly.

Credit: Segunda

Being the star means grappling the mantle, and it would be disingenuous to suggest, purely based on statistics, that he's selfish. But away from the numbers, Adama sometimes takes himself into more clogged areas and less dangerous zones by insisting on beating his marker before doing anything else.

Rather than cross from deep, for example, he'll sear past the left-back and try and squeeze a tight cross in from the byline. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Whatever the result, you can bet a one-on-one victory preceded it.

5. Goal Threat

Adama managed just three goals from 37 games in Segunda last season, per Transfermarkt. It's a low tally given his penchant for cutting in and shooting.

He may call Messi his idol, but starting out from the right and cutting inside to let loose, he looks awfully like Arjen Robben at times. He drops the shoulder and nudges the ball left to create space, then cannons an effort on goal.

Credit: Segunda

Unfortunately, he's yet to develop an understanding of when is and when isn't a good time to shoot. When he curls them, left-footed, beyond the goalkeeper's outstretched paw, they look fantastic; most of the time, though, they're blocked at short range or deflected wide off a mass of bodies.

His top-end pace and explosivity make him a big danger when searing through one-on-one on the counter-attack, but he missed a few of those last season too, failing to divert a finish away from the onrushing net-minder.

He's seen as right-footed, but due to playing out on the left and cutting inside, he's often releasing efforts with his left instead. It's an area to work on.

Projection

In many ways, Adama Traore reminds of Bruma, the Portuguese winger who broke through at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2013.

His speed, technical ability and dribbling skills looked set to pave his way to stardom, but he's struggled in Turkey at Galatasaray, been loaned out due to homegrown-quota issues and sustained a bad knee injury at one stage too. Adama has the same weaving skill set, though he's thicker-set and two inches taller.

Some may be surprised that Barcelona are willing to let such a precocious talent leave their walls, but really, it makes no sense for the Spaniard to stay. Pedro can't get a game because of the Neymar-Messi-Luis Suarez troika up front for the senior side, Arda Turan will come into the mix in January and Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez are next in line.

Credit: Segunda

Adama is far too good for the Segunda B division (Barca B were relegated to the equivalent of England's League One in 2015) but can't breach the first-team setup. It's likely Lucho will sell him but retain a buy-back clause in case he blossoms, as he did with Gerard Deulofeu and a number of other prospects.

Villa are an excellent match for the player; Tim Sherwood won't shackle him, allowing him to express himself, and it shouldn't be long before he displaces someone like Scott Sinclair permanently in the XI. Should the deal finally be confirmed, Adama will represent the most exciting young player Villa have signed since Ashley Young under Martin O'Neill.

Adama has the potential to excite, the technical quality to star and, perhaps most importantly, the physique to transfer his game from Segunda to Premier League. 

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