The wider world of football scouting often throws up complicated situations which don’t quite fall into the usual well-defined paths we tend to expect.
As Chelsea, like many other elite clubs, seek to gain a competitive advantage by casting their net far and wide, they have invariably stumbled upon a couple of these situations, and whilst the names involved may be familiar to some, the circumstances are somewhat more uncertain.
Bertrand Traore is a full international of some half a dozen caps for Burkina Faso. Theirs is not a name which immediately makes people think of a footballing powerhouse but they were African Cup of Nations runners up in February and are in contention for World Cup qualification as things stand right now.
Traore’s involvement up to now has been sporadic, but the 17 year-old has already been captain of their Under-20 ranks for some time, and it’s his age where the issues really start to begin.
FIFA prohibit the cross-continental transfer of minors; ie those under the age of 18. Therefore, we can assume that Bertrand, who has been in and around the Blues’ academy for the past two to three years, remains ineligible until his birthday this coming September.
How has he been able to live and train in England though, people ask? The answer isn’t particularly clear, but by piecing together what we know, a series of educated guesses can be made.
An important distinction to make is that although it was reported that Traore signed from Auxerre, this isn’t true. If it was, he would have likely been able to feature competitively (regardless of work permit issues). He had a trial there largely because his older brother Alain – quite the talent himself – was on their books. As Bertrand explains…
“I’ve learned a lot from Alain, firstly at the Centre de Formation Planète Champion in Ouaga(dougou, capital of Burkina Faso). In 2008, he made me go to Auxerre for a trial.”
He was with ASF Bobo-Dioulasso in Burkina Faso before that, and in turn we can presume that due to a lack of any proper contract, he was effectively a free agent for Chelsea to acquire after an impressive FIFA Youth World Cup in 2010. The club were able to have him feature in non-competitive outings and reside in England but not formally use him until he became old enough to feature under the rules of the game.
It’s a similar set of circumstances to those in which Lucas Piazon arrived under. He moved to the UK some five months before he was officially allowed to play, and did so for acclimatisation and training, all of which helped him when he turned 18. It’s simply been a longer wait for Traore.
Will he be worth waiting for? The small sample of evidence we have available suggests we should be. He has a fine scoring record in friendly outings for Chelsea, and anyone who makes a debut for their country at the age of fifteen when most of his contemporaries can only dream of doing so on a PlayStation must have something about them.
He’s tall, strong and quick, has an array of tricks to beat a man and finishes with composure and elegance. There’s a clear maturity to his play, which has led to his international ascent, and he’s a well-grounded, technically educated player with lots to offer. If and when he can play, he’ll become a regular for the Under-21s and potentially push the fringes of the first team, with whom he trains on a semi-regular basis.
He’s also not the only player on the club’s books afflicted by paperwork issues. Ivorian midfielder Victorien Angban arrived last summer as a 15 year-old playing amongst the Under-21s but, like Traore, had a contract situation which was as clear as mud. He was listed as being with Jeunesse of Abidjan but had the freedom to depart for sunny Cobham and presumably follow the same path as his African team-mate. By age group he will be a first-year scholar for the 2013-14 season but, given that he has no European passport, is set to be a shadowy figure until he turns 18 in September next year.
Colombian winger Joao Rodriguez spent three months on trial with the academy last summer and signed a five-year deal but, much like Piazon, returned to South America to play with his former club until such time as he can make the move to England. Unlike Angban and Traore, he was afforded the opportunity to play a decent standard of football with Quindio instead of an uncertain and unpredictable spell with an African junior team.
Whether any of them will ultimately turn out to be worth the relative hassle, of course, remains to be seen, and the cloak and dagger nature of affairs hardly lends itself well to a positive spin, but the club are increasingly looking to play the long game. These types of deals are a part of the process, and hopefully this sheds a little more light on proceedings.