Bertrand Traore’s upwardly mobile 2014-15 season saw him become one of the most talked about youngsters certainly in Dutch football, and increasingly in European football.
The talented 19 year-old, on loan from Chelsea at Vitesse Arnhem, switched from a familiar wide attacking role to that of centre forward in late November and proceeded to plunder seventeen goals as Peter Bosz’s side soared into the upper reaches of the Eredivisie table and eventually qualified for the Europa League. It made others sit up and take notice; Dortmund were said to be very interested in a permanent deal in April, whilst Chelsea’s loanee liaison guru Eddie Newton noted just last week that his phone has been ringing regularly from potential suitors for ’15-16 and beyond.
Jose Mourinho is clearly a fan too, telling ChelseaTV last summer that “Traore does not play in England, because he has no visa. Otherwise, he would already be playing with us. Bertrand must now ensure that he plays enough international matches with Burkina Faso.”. Bosz reinforced that sentiment earlier this month, saying “Mourinho is crazy about him. IIf the opportunity is there, they prefer to take him back.”
So, the question stands: is the opportunity there? Does Traore now qualify for a work permit to play in English football?
Let’s begin with the required criteria, helpfully detailed by The FA on their website:
2. The player must have participated in at least 75% of his home country’s senior competitive international matches where he was available for selection during the two years preceding the date of the application; and
3. The player’s National Association must be at or above 70th place in the official FIFA World Rankings when averaged over the two years preceding the date of the application.
The latter point is easily dealt with first; The FA produce an aggregated two-year rankings list on a monthly basis to take into account the regular changes in the FIFA Rankings and will use those to determine whether a given nation is ranked inside the boundaries at the point of application. Their most recently published update – April 2015 – saw Burkina Faso ranked at 61, and therefore well within the required top 70. They are currently ranked at 66 and project to retain a top 70 spot in The FA’s lists going forward.
For the first item, we have to whittle down Burkina Faso’s fixtures from the two years up to the end of April 2015 to just the ‘senior competitive international matches’. That means World Cup Qualifiers and African Cup of Nations matches; not friendlies, not African Nations Championships matches or anything else lower than the African Confederation’s foremost competition. It leaves us with fourteen matches to look at:
[table class=”table table-striped”]
09/06/2013,WQA,Niger vs Burkina Faso,Yes,
15/06/2013,WQA,Congo vs Burkina Faso,Unused Sub,
07/09/2013,WQA,Burkina Faso vs Gabon,Unused Sub,
12/10/2013,WQA,Burkina Faso vs Algeria,Yes,
19/11/2013,WQA,Algeria vs Burkina Faso,Yes,
06/09/2014,ACO,Burkina Faso vs Lesotho,Yes,
10/09/2014,ACO,Angola vs Burkina Faso,No,Injured
11/10/2014,ACO,Gabon vs Burkina Faso,Yes,
15/10/2014,ACO,Burkina Faso vs Gabon,Yes,
15/11/2014,ACO,Lesotho vs Burkina Faso,Uncertain,Was named as a substitute
19/11/2014,ACO,Burkina Faso vs Angola,Yes,
17/01/2015,ACO,Burkina Faso vs Gabon,Yes,
21/01/2015,ACO,Equatorial Guinea vs Burkina Faso,Yes,
25/01/2015,ACO,Congo vs Burkina Faso,Yes,
(Sources: http://www.soccerway.com, http://www.11v11.com, http://oegjdva.soccervista.com)
The injury picked up against Lesotho in September of last year is hugely important. It meant he was prevented from playing in the away match in Angola four days later and, as per regulations, matches where a player is proven to be injured are excluded from the review:
If a player was not available for selection for a match or series of matches due to injury or suspension and provided that written evidence is submitted to this effect, those games will be excluded from the total when calculating the player’s appearance percentage. Ideally, evidence should be obtained from the player’s National Association or club doctor, stipulating which games the player missed through injury.
Please note that, where a player does not take part in a match, he will not be considered as injured if he was listed as a substitute and therefore any such matches will be counted as non-appearances when calculating the player’s appearance percentage.
With that in mind, Traore played some part in 10 of 13 eligible matches, attaining a (rounded) appearance rate of 77%. The details of the match away to Lesotho in November 2014 are sketchy but he was called up and appears to have been named as a substitute at the very least; if he came on then that percentage improves further, and it would also put him in the clear were his injury two months prior disregarded.
There’s even more good news too. As we approach the end of this international break, Bertrand has added two African Cup of Nations Qualifiers appearances to his resume and, supposing a July application for a work permit was made, he would see one of his two Unused Sub outings from June 2013 drop off the list for a net gain of one extra appearance.
It therefore appears he qualifies for a work permit to play in England, leaving the ball firmly in Chelsea’s court. A few interesting decisions lie ahead.
(The FA’s regulations on Work Permit applications can be viewed in full here (PDF): http://www.thefa.com/~/media/files/thefaportal/governance-docs/registrations/players-gbe-criteria-2014-15.ashx?la=en
UPDATE: In response to a few questions concerning The FA’s revised guidelines due to come into force; these haven’t yet done so and whilst they may be imminent, the information provided on their website is as of April 2015 and the projections above assume an application is made before the changeover occurs.