Lacina Traore: AS Monaco nab another gem in the big Ivorian

Eto’o, Willian, Carcela Gonzalez, and now Traore. Everything that owner Suleyman Kerimov wanted for his beloved Anzhi has all gone completely wrong, and a team that has not won once in 19 Russian Premier League games has now lost its one remaining star.

The lanky 23 year old Ivorian striker Lacina Traore has finally left the stricken ship of Anzhi Makhachkala and moved to steadier waters at AS Monaco, but I wonder just why it took him so long to move.

While tall strikers aren’t always the most elegant, Traore defies the stereotype. Standing at a massive 6ft 8 inches, he certainly can win any aerial duel, but that isn’t his strongest attribute at all.

His technical skills are second to none, and Monaco should feel lucky that they managed to secure the purchase of one of the hottest strikers in European football for the past few seasons.

If you’re wondering just how I can call him one of the best forwards in Europe, well I forgive you. His move to Anzhi from Kuban Krasnodar was barely given a mention after the club secured the signatures of players such as Eto’o for example, but if you‘ve seen any games in which he’s played in, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Still only 23, he already seems to have been around for a long time. I can still remember watching him in the UEFA Champions League for CFR Cluj, and then he already looked like a promising young forward. And when he made the move to Russia with Kuban I realised just how talented this guy is.

While his height may make him at face value stand out from the others, I can’t say that I’ve seen too many headed goals from him. With his feet he is a gifted player, and some of the goals that he has scored in Russia have been spectacular.

None of those goals incidentally were scored with his head. He really made his name in Russia with Kuban, and he scored some real stunners there. His unforgettable goals against Rostov and Zenit in particular made Anzhi want to splash the cash on him, in a fee that equated to around 18 million euros.

And even if his time with that club didn’t end too sweetly, Anzhi fans will have happy memories of him as they reminisce about the good old days of early 2013 and 2012. The days when their club was on the lips of every football fan and expert.

His move to the French Ligue 1 of course shouldn’t come as any surprise to the Anzhi faithful. But for Traore, it’s not going to be an easy road now. Whereas at Cluj, Kuban and Anzhi he was practically always the first name on the team sheet, he’s going to really have to earn his place with Monaco.

With players of the highest calibre such as Falcao and James Rodriquez up front, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him struggle to get in the first team. Not because he isn’t up to their level, but because the competition is just so fierce.

And Monaco themselves seem to understand that. Even before it became official that Traore is a Monaco player, rumours were circling that he would be sent out on loan for the remaining of the 2013/2014 season. That in itself isn’t anything particularly strange, in fact it happens quite regularly.

But if that’s the case, then why can’t he just stay at Anzhi on loan until the end of the season? Yes Anzhi aren’t exactly having a lot of success in the Russian league, but they’re into the knockout stages of the Europa League and match practice against high level opponents would still come his way.

Instead though he seems to be off to England. West Ham have been heavily talked about taking the Ivorian hitman onboard, and for them it would be a pretty good deal. West Ham lack strikers of a high level, and Traore could certainly help them keep their place in the top flight.

But for Traore, is it a good move? Well I’m not so sure. You see it happen quite a lot, when a player goes on loan somewhere and their parent club just seem to forget about them. And with players such as Falcao already in their team, that’s a very big possibility.

But of course, the counter argument would be that surely it’s better to at least get some time on the field than to just sit on the bench doing nothing. Whereas it’s true I think he would have trouble getting a first team spot right away, I think it would be more worth staying with Monaco and try to prove himself, than go away and be forgotten about.

He has the raw talent and skill to compete with and against the very best, and if Monaco are willing to give him a chance, they won’t live to regret it.


Written by Shaun Nicolaides

Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93

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