In the first part of our interview with Bertrand Traore we discuss development, decisiveness and different types of goals…
Consider for a moment what qualities a young footballer with aspirations of making it at the top of the game must possess. Many go hand in hand: a work ethic that can maximise natural talent, for example, or the capacity to remain steadfastly self-confident and patient when not playing.
Last week, Guus Hiddink noted another critical aspect of a footballer’s development: a willingness to listen, to learn and then to act on what they have seen or been told. The manager was speaking with Bertrand Traore in mind, more specifically explaining why the 20-year-old has recently been chief back-up to Diego Costa in attack.
‘It’s true, he has talked to me a lot,’ Traore confirms to the official Chelsea website. ‘And I have learned a lot.
‘It’s all been about playing quicker football. I try to play one and two-touch and then move forward. I don’t try to dribble with the ball like I did before. Instead I try to move between the defenders and then get in the box whenever I can to look for the goal.
‘The speed of the play here is really tough but I have been with the team now since the beginning of the season and I think I have got used to it, from training and in matches. You have to think before you get the ball about what your next step will be.’
Traore says that in the hustle and bustle of English football you sometimes simply don’t have the time to weigh up your options. Indeed, his first three Chelsea goals, against MK Dons, Newcastle and Manchester City, were prime examples of that: instinctive and deadly accurate first-touch finishes.
But it was Traore’s intelligent movement in the first instance, before the ball had reached him, which gave him the platform to exhibit that innate goalscoring touch. He acted on what Hiddink and the coaching staff had told him. No wonder our experienced boss praised his attitude and called him ‘very clever’.
‘It’s important to be decisive,’ Traore points out. ‘That’s what I try to do every time I come on the pitch. During games I am always looking for the goal and that is something that comes naturally.
‘I can score different types of goals and that is one of my strengths. I have scored some from outside the box, like against Stoke. I scored a header against Man City. The other two were from balls coming in to the area from different sides, so they have all come from different situations.’
Alongside the four goals he has scored in his past six appearances (at an average of one every hour he has been on the pitch) was a fine first-time assist for Diego Costa at Norwich City.
That game in East Anglia was the man from West Africa’s full Chelsea debut. He lined up on the right-hand side of the three attacking midfielders behind Diego Costa, and it was from that position he teed the striker up for our second goal. He retained his starting position for the Stoke game that followed but this time led the line.
‘I don’t know what my best position is,’ Traore insists, reiterating what he told us during pre-season.
‘I can play in every attacking position. I feel good in any of them. It’s an advantage in football to be able to do that and I will continue to work hard at it, wherever I am asked to play.
‘I always have my eyes on the goal to try and score or make an assist. Staying focused on the game, working hard and trying to be decisive - that’s what I can bring to the team.’
It is clear Hiddink has no qualms starting Traore or bringing him off the bench at big moments, as he did when we met PSG a couple of days ago. Another reason why that is the case, the manager says, is because Traore ‘is not afraid to make errors, and is not influenced by external circumstances’.
He smiles and nods in agreement, softly spoken but exuding self-confidence.
‘I always try things. If you never try something, you’ll never get it. So I’m never worried about making mistakes because I know I will learn from them.’
Further evidence Traore has all the right ingredients to go to the very top.
By Rupert Cane
In part two tomorrow, Traore talks about settling in to the first team squad off the pitch and a big few weeks coming up for club and country on it, starting with the FA Cup tie at Everton…
- Chelsea TV's Preview Review programme discussing Bertrand Traore can be viewed below.