Amidst a largely disappointing conclusion to the summer transfer window for Manchester United, the deadline day acquisition of 18-year-old Amad Traore has provided a bit of a silver lining.
A creative winger, Traore has built up a reputable name for himself at the famous Atalanta academy. United snapping up the Italian youth international in the late hours of deadline day came as somewhat surprising. But with time, we may learn that acquiring the services of the Ivory Coast native was not a headless move.
At a hefty £19 million paid up front, which could eventually rise up to around the £40 million mark with add ons, Traore doesn’t seem to exactly present an immediate improvement to the squad with just three substitute Serie A appearances to his name. Or does he?
The young wide man’s talent is undeniable. There is a hint of both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial about him. Very silky on the ball and possessing the ability to utilize bursts of pace, Traore has looked a nuisance to full backs of all age groups in the limited match footage available of him.
The 18-year-old also bagged a goal on his Serie A debut. Traore only has 24 Italian top flight minutes under his belt, all coming last season, but he only needed a few of those to get on the scoresheet with an expert finish.
Picking up the ball out wide, on the right, Traore glided forward before placing a low driven effort with his left foot inside the opposition net. It was the kind of confidence and swagger that every manager and fan wants to see from a debut. But to those following his career closely, it wasn’t all that surprising.
Traore’s numbers all throughout his youth journey are outstanding. The youngster boasts 1 goal and 3 assists in 6 UEFA Youth League appearances last season. It is also worth noting that the lone goal and one of the assists came during an away fixture against Manchester City’s academy, in a 3-1 Atalanta victory.Embed from Getty Images
In that UYL campaign, Traore averaged 7 dribbles, 3.9 tackles, 3.6 shots, 2.8 fouls won and 2.9 chances created per game, as per Statman Dave’s analysis on Twitter.
Evidently a keen dribbler and an adventurous mind in the final third, Traore also notched up 6 goals and 5 assists in 16 Italy’s Primavera 1 (first division of youth football) appearances. The 18-year-old had an impressive goal contribution every 106 minutes during his youth team’s title winning campaign.
On statistics alone, it becomes less and less shocking that United were willing to fork out the money they did for an inexperienced teenager. And while understandably the majority of the fan base is sourly disappointed at the club’s failure to snap up Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund — signing a talent like Traore could very soon prove to be a shrewd piece of business.
Traore is a natural right winger that is also able to play anywhere across the front-line. But the emphasis has to be put on the fact that he is a right sided player. A positional trait that United have been crying out for, for years.
With Mason Greenwood occupying that position for the Reds at the moment, even the Sancho interest felt unwarranted for some. But looking at the bigger picture, the Englishman is unlikely to be deployed out wide for much longer. Whatever happens in future windows, Traore’s route into the first team is an open road. It’s a straight shot.
Even from watching YouTube highlights alone, it’s easy to grasp the confidence that oozes from the youngster when on the ball. There is a certain ease to his dribbling. His head is always up. His body looks perfectly balanced and alert. He has an eye for goal and the killer pass. He is left footed which makes the full back ask all sorts of questions about where he may go next.
On paper, he looks a very nice fit.
Throughout his career for club and country at all youth levels, the 18-year-old has provided 22 goals and 21 assists from the right hand side. He likes to play out there. It’s his position. As is quite usual in the modern game, the fact that he is left-footed encourages him to drift inside in order to create, but out and out, he is a winger.
Arguably the most upsetting factor of this deal is that Traore cannot join the team right away (eligible on January 1, 2021). But, in hindsight, this might be a good thing.
For one, it is already October. Once his medical is complete and the work permit secured, Traore will be able to join United in just under 90 days. The lack of professional game time of course played a part in the youngster not being able to secure the permit in the first place.
Traore was also destined to go out on loan just hours before United popped up with other ideas. Perhaps now, knowing that Traore will be joining the Reds and heading straight into the first-team setup upon arrival, Atalanta will revisit his squad status and the player will see some valuable first-team minutes before making the switch.
The moral of this transfer window is that United were supposed to pull in a few world class players to make an instant impact, but instead, they ended up securing the services of a number of stars of tomorrow.
Securing the future of the club is by no means a bad thing, but it is understandable why some fans may feel let down, or simply disappointed.
But, on the flip side, giving chances to young stars like Traore is an exciting feat of its own. There are few things better than a youngster coming in and setting the world alight. And with Traore’s glaring talent, his January arrival could see United starting to develop a Sancho-project of their own.