Bertrand Traore's Chelsea Development Shows There's No Need for Romelu Lukaku

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2016

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20:  Bertrand Traore (L) of Chelsea in action during the friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Velden, Austria. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

A youngster impresses, but his club delves into the transfer market to spend millions on a more experienced recruit. Sound familiar?

It should; it's the narrative often played out at Chelsea.

Now it's Bertrand Traore who finds himself centre stage in the soap opera.

The 20-year-old was on the scoresheet again this week, firing home Chelsea's opening goal in the 3-1 defeat of AC Milan in the International Champions Cup. The game brought the curtain down on the Blues' U.S. tour, where they've won two and lost one.

The focus hasn't been on what's developing on the pitch for Antonio Conte's side; the headlines have been about players who are wearing a different shade of blue, notably Romelu Lukaku.

On the back of the Milan victory, Conte was quoted by the Evening Standard's Simon Johnson suggesting that Chelsea are still looking to bring players into the club, with some also being sold.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 3: Bertrand Traore #14 of Chelsea and Andrea Poli #16 of AC Milan go for a header during the first half of the International Champions Cup match on August 3, 2016 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Fo
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

"I think in the future something can happen with the transfer market, in and out," the boss explained. "We know that in the future, different changes can happen, both in and out, with the players."

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The impression is that Conte was referring to Lukaku, for whom Chelsea are reportedly offering £67 million in a bid to bring him back to Stamford Bridge just two years after selling him to Everton for £28 million.

In the same Evening Standard report, Conte also confirmed that Diego Costa will remain a Chelsea player regardless of the transfer business the club does this summer.

"I repeat that Diego Costa is now Chelsea's player, and for me this is the most important thing in this moment," said Conte.

So if Lukaku arrives, where does that leave Traore?

Firmly down the pecking order and without a hope.

Forget the fortune Chelsea are offering for Lukaku, it's Traore's career that must be the concern here. After an impressive six months to end 2015/16, the upcoming campaign should be about the striker becoming more established in the first team in order to continue his development.

Coming up against the £30 million Michy Batshuayi, Costa and Lukaku, that isn't going to happen, regardless of whether or not Conte plays with two strikers.

Throw Eden Hazard into the mix as a potential second striker off the main man up front—as we saw against Real Madrid at the weekend—and Traore's chances are looking even slimmer.

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20:  Bertrand Traore (R) of Chelsea scores a goal against goalkeeper Alexander Kofler (L) of WAC RZ Pellets during the international friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthersee Stadion on July 20, 2016 in Ve
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

It shouldn't be the case, not when Traore continues to impress and make big noises.

No player has scored more goals for Chelsea in pre-season than Traore—he's tied on two with Hazard and Oscar—which outlines the progress he continues to make. He's rivalling his team-mates, even if it has been in friendly matches.

Last weekend's loss to Real Madrid at Michigan Stadium showed he has much more to do if he is to mature into a world-class talent, yet that is only going to happen through playing matches. Being the fourth-choice striker at Stamford Bridge is going to limit him.

Traore's age tells us where he is in his career right now. At 20, he's in that awkward position every player finds himself in at some point in his development. He's too old to be considered a young prospect, but he doesn't quite have the experience to command a starting place.

What he needs is minutes in the way Guus Hiddink gave him last year. Traore was in and out of Chelsea's side, playing 90 minutes one week and appearing from the bench the next. Gradually, we saw his confidence grow, and he was becoming more involved in what Chelsea created in the final third.

Against Stoke City, Traore scored a wonderful solo goal, and against Norwich City at Carrow Road, he hinted at his ability as the second frontman to assist Costa with a perfectly weighted through ball to seal victory.

If Traore doesn't play more this season, those marginal gains under Hiddink will have been for nothing. Throwing another superstar striker into the mix will make Traore regress.

Indeed, it's ironic that the potential arrival of Lukaku should spark the conversation on Traore's development, as he's potentially facing the sort of problems that ended Lukaku's Chelsea career before it even began.

VELDEN, AUSTRIA - JULY 20:  Bertrand Traore (C) of Chelsea celebrate scoring a goal with the Diego Costa (R) near goalkeeper Alexander Kofler (L) of WAC RZ Pellets during the international friendly match between WAC RZ Pellets and Chelsea F.C. at Worthers
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

Lukaku did nothing in a Chelsea shirt, as he was never given enough time to at least hint at the fact he would. Despite the goals he scored on loan with West Bromwich Albion and Everton, he was never trusted to do the same at Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku couldn't play matches because Chelsea had Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba, Loic Remy and Costa all ahead of him at some point in time. It's why Chelsea sold him, and now he's seen as the solution to fire them back into the Champions League this season because, outside of Costa, those strikers didn't produce enough.

So why not learn from those lessons and afford Traore the opportunities few youngsters have been given this past decade? Why not allow Traore to play a supporting role to Costa, Batshuayi and potentially Hazard? Why not give him the time to develop and save the club £68 million?

To suggest Chelsea can't take that risk in the coming season is nonsense. We've heard that Chelsea have struggled to blood their youth, as the club couldn't risk derailing their success at home and abroad, but those times are over now. Chelsea bottomed out last term, and Conte's first few weeks have been about rebuilding the squad and the club's overall confidence.

Chelsea's Romelu Lukaku reacts after missing a penalty during the penalty shootout during the UEFA Super Cup football match FC Bayern Munich vs Chelsea FC on August 30, 2013 at the Eden Stadium, in Prague. AFP PHOTO / ODD ANDERSEN        (Photo credit sho
ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

In order for that to be effective, it requires a plan beyond getting back into the Champions League in time for 2017/18. It needs longevity, and at 20 years old, Traore should be a part of that. His age is perfect for Chelsea's future, and most importantly, his ability suggests even more so.

The chase for Lukaku in recent weeks has highlighted the mistakes Chelsea have made too often with their young talent. The hope now is that the same player won't represent that policy being extended into the Conte regime.

Chelsea have Traore; they don't need Lukaku.

                 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes