Boro would miss Traore's tenacity, urgency if he were sold to Chelsea
Unimpressive at Barcelona and a controversial figure at Aston Villa, Adama Traore's arrival at Middlesbrough was rather bemusing.
The man who brought him to England, Tim Sherwood, described him as "a bit of Messi and a bit of Ronaldo". So, what would Boro fans tell you about 20-year-old Traore? That his arrival made an instant impact on atmosphere when he signed, that pulses began to race on his debut with a cameo appearance against Crystal Palace. In just the nine minutes he was on the pitch, chaos ensued with Palace players falling over themselves to eat Traore's dust as he muscled by them with ease.
But he's still a bit-part player, more often a substitute than not, who has yet to properly prove himself with his output. His athleticism is not questioned by anyone at the club but his footballing brain and teamwork skills are definitely up for debate. On countless occasions, Traore has steamrolled through opposition midfields and defences, leaving six or seven men in his wake, only to fail miserably with a simple concluding pass to a teammate.
His contributions have largely been on the slight side. Boro fans at a dire away day at Southampton in December were braying for his introduction from the hour mark, but head coach Aitor Karanka only gave him the nod on 81 minutes, leaving minimal time for impact. He has appeared 14 times so far for Boro in this campaign but has not contributed directly to their paltry goals-scored tally. It's almost as though that's not the reason he's part of the squad, as the energy and motivation that his presence brings to the team as a whole seems all the more important.
Indeed, coming to Boro may well have been a shock to the system for Traore, who admits that there was "less focus on defending" when he was playing in Spain. Just what would it be that appeals to a Chelsea side that's jam-packed with some of the best international players around? Is this simply a move to boost back-up options?
Unless Chelsea have the patience to nurture Traore, many of his first-team colleagues would get frustrated at the holes in his ability and for having to cover the space he leaves when he makes one of his famous ranging breaks. Given his age and natural talent, Traore needs first-team football in order to ramp up his weaker skills, and heading to Chelsea seems like a move that would limit these chances for him.
The Boro faithful would not be happy to see Traore leave without an adequate replacement being sourced in this transfer window. With him gone, the club's creative outlets and options for pace would decrease dramatically, and the biggest loss would come psychologically, as the overall tenacity and urgency that Traore's pace brings would drop off a cliff.
Catherine Wilson ESPN FC's Middlesbrough blogger. You can follow her on Twitter: @Basslady