It’s not really clear whether Adama Traoré is all that good of a player. He does one thing—dribble—impossibly well, but is at best mediocre at all other facets of attacking play. He has next to no passing vision or creativity, is not especially good at shooting, and does almost all his damage way out wide, far from goal. Even his dribbling doesn’t carry the threat his raw stats might imply. For instance, the average Jack Grealish dribble, because of where it takes place on the pitch and what the player can do with the ball afterwards, is much more dangerous than the typical Traoré run. But while there are dozens of players who could line up where Traoré does for Wolverhampton and contribute more to the team, I feel confident in saying that there isn’t a single other player in the world who could’ve done what Traoré did in Monday’s match against West Ham:
That run, which culminated in an assist to Leander Dendoncker that got Wolves back into a match they ultimately lost, 2–3, was simply stunning. Not only did West Ham’s entire right side prove incapable of keeping up with the Wolves winger, they weren’t even fast or strong enough to bring him down! Look at how Traoré flicks the ball past Vladimir Coufal, and as Coufal impotently attempts to scurry over to block Traoré’s path, Traoré is still able to sprint around the defender and shrug off his stiff-arm like it was nothing; it’s just about as comprehensive an example of physical superiority as you’ll find in this sport. The speed, strength, agility, technique, stamina, and confidence Traoré displayed in that moment are traits of his that I don’t think any other player in the game today can match.
Traoré’s unique skill set and style of play aren’t ideal in the modern game. He doesn’t attack well enough to be an elite forward, and he’s not good enough defensively to be a full-time full back. And if the modern game were as strictly regimented as it sometimes seems, so much so that it couldn’t find room for an unconventional talent like Traoré, who probably will never be great but can do amazing things thanks to the one thing he does better than anyone, we’d all be much worse off.