Lacina Traore; ego to go

Big fish in small ponds.  Sometimes a player can outgrow a club, but more often than not it’s an ego that swells first.  This ego could be landing at a club near you soon.  Radu Baicu looks at an in demand striker.

Is it a striker’s right to be selfish?

That is THE question, after CFR Cluj’s Lacina Traore decided to go for personal glory at the Olimpico, refusing to offer Culio the chance to score a third goal against AS Roma, after the wonderful brace from two years ago, and maybe denyi his team the chance to get another great result in the Champions League.

Arsenal, Galatasaray, Hamburg, Udinese, Napoli, Liverpool. All these clubs have been linked with ‚CFR’s jewel”, as the club’s president likes to call Lacina Traore, the big forward who, against AS Roma this week, gave the kind of display that justifies both an affirmative and a negative answer to the above question.

At 0-0, he had enough luck to evade Nicolas Burdisso, but, instead of offering an assist to Juan Culio, in a situation that demanded such a decision, chose to take a shot at goal, hitting the crossbar. Traore offered a solid display, tormenting Roma’s defenders with his combination of pace, strength and skill; hitting the bar once more with a powerful left footed effort from just outside the box.  He received deserved praise from Claudio Ranieri, yet I feel we should get back to that key moment that defines a 20 year old who is at a turning point in his career.

“I am not mad at Traore. A forward needs to be selfish!” said, Arpad Paszkany, CFR’s owner.

“I’ve already told my players that the guy who will go for the shot instead of a pass, in a similar play to Traore’s, can kiss his salary good-bye for the following three months”

Victor Piturca, former national team coach, now at Universitatea Craiova

Ok, some agree that forwards need to get their share of shot at/on goal (Cristiano Ronaldo took 58 shots at goal so far, scoring just twice in La Liga!) and there are top professionals who would like to remind everyone that football is a team sport. So, maybe it is right to move away from the question at hand and come up with another one: “How selfish can one player be?”

Well, Traore thinks that he needs to be as selfish as it takes to make one of the numerous European clubs splash out a few millions. And quickly. So, he’s been playing accordingly since the second half of last season, when he was criticized by his team-mates and the ex-coach, Andrea Mandorlini. Always protected by the board, who even helped him get rid of a couple of deserved fines, Traore was so grateful that before the start of this summer’s training camps, demanded to be sold, as he doesn’t want to stay in Cluj.

Cluj president Iuliu Muresan managed the situation and probably promised the player and his agent, Alfred Obrou, that this will be Lacina’s last season in Romania, hoping to add a few more millions to his asking price after CFR’s campaign in the Champions League. One that started brightly for the tall front man, who scored against Basel and was a handful for AS Roma’s defense. But, in order to get the big picture, you need to know that he was the only forward fit to start both games and he was at fault for Basel’s goal in Cluj.  Heck, he could have helped his colleagues take at least one point on Tuesday, if he would have played for the team, not just for himself. A strategy that, by the way, has failed to deliver the expected numbers.

Last season, Traore scored just six goals in 25 appearances in Liga I, a competition that should allow a top forward to get double digits without too much effort, especially when playing for the champions. He added two more in the Romanian Cup and chipped in twice in his eight Europa League outings. The current campaign is not impressive either, at least in the Romanian league, where he netted twice in six matches, almost broke a player’s foot with a criminal tackle, which got him suspended for two matches, and was a disappointment even in the games he managed to put his name on the scoresheet.

Now, he might feel well after Ranieri’s comments and safe after those made by the board, but I doubt he has gained an ounce of sympathy in the dressing room. Not that he craves it, but this is something that should and will probably determine at least some of the interested clubs look a little further than his skills.

I have learned from some top scouts that a player’s character is sometimes even more important than his arsenal of skills.  Good luck Lacina.

To get the latest updates on Romanian football, please visit radu’s sublime blog, Scouting Romania.