When West Ham United line up against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday one player in particular will be in the spotlight.
Adama Traore has been on fire this season as he finally seems to be realising his potential at Wolves.
Traore’s blistering pace and strength has now been allied to goals and assists.
The winger has six goals and seven assists this season. He also has an average match rating approaching 8/10 (Whoscored).
But it is the constant threat he carries – which means the opposition can never safely push higher up the pitch – that makes him so valuable.
Traore’s rise to prominence galling for former suitors West Ham
For West Ham, Traore’s rise to prominence is galling.
Back in June 2018, with Traore struggling to impress for Middlesbrough in the Championship – a familiar tale from his time at Aston Villa – the star was once again linked with a move to West Ham.
It was literally a footnote on The Daily Mail’s transfer story about Traore’s then Boro teammate Ben Gibson.
Interest in Traore was nothing new, though. He had been linked with West Ham for the two previous transfer windows back to the summer of 2017.
Reliable West Ham insider ExWHUemployee revealed the Hammers had ‘re-opened’ negotiations with Boro for Traore back in January of that year.
Given the Antonio news (which if you want more info on I hinted about it on this week’s podcast) West Ham appear to have reopened “initial discussions” with Middlesbrough over Adama Traoré although a deal is far from being near at this point ⚒
— ExWHUemployee (@ExWHUemployee) January 12, 2018
Some West Ham fans questioned the wisdom of signing a player who had flopped at Aston Villa and Boro.
Others pointed to his raw potential and the fact Traore came through the Barcelona academy system.
For the reported £5million fee being negotiated, plenty felt it would be a bargain buy for West Ham.
Whether the speculation boosted his confidence or things just started to click, Traore’s performance’s for Boro steadily improved. He ended the 2017/18 Championship campaign with a modest five goals from 40 appearances.
But the Boro fans and players could see it. He was named Fans’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year at the end of season awards.
His valuation was now on the rise.
Hammers signed £40m Anderson instead
Meanwhile West Ham were about to spend big under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.
West Ham made winder Felipe Anderson their then record £40million signing in the summer of 2018.
And in the August Wolves swooped to give Traore another shot at the Premier League.
West Ham looked to have made the right call last season.
Anderson netted 10 goals and a number of assists in his debut campaign for West Ham.
Meanwhile Traore struggled to shine for Wolves, scoring just once in 36 appearances.
The roles have been reversed this season, though.
Anderson has scored just once in 24 games and has at times been accused of looking disinterested.
Traore has become one of the most coveted players in Europe with Liverpool linked (The Sun).
West Ham face daunting prospect of keeping former target quiet
The sobering reality for West Ham is that Traore could have saved them as much as £35million in the transfer market.
And who knows how much more he might have made them on top given the interest he is generating with a valuation upwards of £60m (The Sun).
Now West Ham face a daunting task of keeping him quiet on Saturday.
The Hammers know only too well how much Traore enjoys stretching his legs on that big London Stadium pitch.
He ran from the halfway line to get a late winner the last time the two sides met here in the 2018/19 campaign.
Spare a thought for Aaron Cresswell who is likely to be marking Traore.
Particularly after the winger revealed he has been working on becoming even faster during lockdown (Wolves official site).