Lacina Traoré 22 Striker Anzhi Makhachkala
There’s something we need to say, a phrase we want to use in this profile but we know it’s so, so wrong. We can’t quite believe we’re going to do this and we promise that IBWM will never walk along this dark a path again, but here goes.
“Lacina Traoré has got good feet for a big man.”
We’re going to hell.
Now we’ve put that loathsome saying out there, at least allow us to qualify it.
Firstly Traoré is a big man - six foot eight to be exact. To put that in perspective using the one universal measure of a footballer’s height, that’s a full inch taller than Peter Crouch. While his size in no way solely defines him as a footballer, there’s no denying he makes for an imposing figure for even the most rugged of defenders. Tall, strong, at a natural advantage in the air and with legs long enough to retrieve more than his share of lost causes, for our money whereas Mr Crouch has never truly embraced his need to shop in Big & Tall, Traoré has mastered using his frame for every possible edge it can give him.
Secondly, he has got good feet, bloody good feet actually, and he is currently using them to cut quite a swathe through the Russian Premier League with his new club Anzhi. Signed for a reported €18m to take his place amongst the great and the good being gathered in Makhachkala, he has taken to his new surroundings well. At the time of writing he has scored the same amount of goals as multi-multi-multi-millionaire team-mate Samuel Eto’o in fewer games, not to shabby when you consider that part of you that knows Eto’o could be still doing it in one of Europe’s show piece leagues. A really good prospect in really good form then, what lays ahead?
Well if you believe the papers, another move, which would be his fourth in a career that’s looking much travelled already at a relatively tender age. Liverpool, against whom he scored a winner in a Europa League game in November, are widely forecast to move in the summer and consider him a longer term target if he can’t be bought then. Udinese are also tracking him and allegedly preparing a surely doomed January bid. He has also been linked with Arsenal who dropped interest as they felt his attitude was not quite right, but the stats are now beginning to outweigh any possible doubts suitors may have had about the striker.
He has talked about his desire to move to England and his agent has already openly discussed the amount of interest in his client, dropping a none-too-subtle hint about the ‘list’ of clubs open to signing his charge. Agents are and will always be prone to stoking the fire, it’s in their best interest to do so after all, but it does seem the player doesn’t consider Russian football his long-term future and Anzhi’s Wild Division could just be a stop-over to the rest of his career.
Internationally he has now made the full Ivory Coast international side and on his debut against Austria in November, carried on his great form and scored. He had been playing for U23 side but his form has forced him into the full squad, staying there is another matter altogether.
He will need to keep his performances going as competition for a starting berth in the Côte d'Ivoire line-up is as tough as it gets for a striker. Ahead of him sit Gervinho, Salomon Kalou, Arouna Koné and Didier Drogba with over 200 caps and nearly 100 goals between them, beyond that wait Wilfried Bony and Seydou Doumbia who like Traoré have also been linked with moves to Liverpool recently. No matter as Traoré has time on his side and sooner or later will get a run as the main man, whether he makes the squad for 2013’s Cup of Nations or not is debatable.
So the future’s bright it seems and it’s hard to see what more Traore could have done at this point. Having started his professional career with CFR Cluj and proved he could score, the step up to the Russian League was made with FC Kuban with ease, and then again to the increase in status and pressure with Anzhi has also been negotiated well. He’s taking his first steps into the world of international football and seems equally at home, you wonder just what it’s going to take to faze him?
The mark has to reflect his progress and while it would be wrong to describe him as world class or the heartbeat of the team as of yet, he has made steady progress year on year and continues to impress. We know Russian football isn’t the highest standard but it’s also not for shrinking violets, so far all questions asked have been answered – what more can you ask from a 22-year-old striker playing week in week out in a top division?
His next move will be a big one, whether that’s to England or not depends on just how closely others are paying attention to the big man’s good feet. Whatever lay ahead he’ll be around for some years to come, probably at the higher end of the game, and let’s hope his ambition matches his talent and Anzhi’s millions don’t persuade him to stay long enough for a level of complacency to set in.
“Quick, powerful and clinical. His move to Anzhi confirms a gradual rise to the top but his performances since the move have alerted others to his potential. On course to be a prolific forward in a top league with a strong club.”– Domm Norris (Slavic Football Union)
C+ Doing everything asked, good season last year, great start this and now a full international