It might have been overshadowed by the exploits of Nabil Fekir and Malcom, but Bertrand Traore will score few better goals in his career than his stunning free-kick to open his account for Lyon on Saturday.
It was a moment Traore has been waiting for, and from the moment he placed the ball he was confident of executing a skill he has practised over and over again.
“I told Nabil that I wanted to take it,” he told OLTV . “I saw the wall was well placed for me and my left foot. I regularly score free kicks like that.
“When I’m with my big brother in the national team, I have competitions with [him] over this.”
— Olympique Lyonnais (@OL) August 19, 2017
Alain, Traore’s big brother, flickered brightly and briefly in France’s top flight for Lorient, gaining a reputation for being able to score spectacular goals but was unable to show the consistency required to maintain a career at that standing.
Bertrand, through determination and application, appears better placed to star in the long term.
His strike at the weekend was a first tangible glimpse of what the 21-year-old Burkina Faso international will bring to his new club after two previous displays that held promise.
Though Traore went through the youth ranks of the renowned Auxerre academy, he first emerged into the public consciousness when he moved to Chelsea in 2013.
Like so many youngsters at Stamford Bridge, he found his playing time limited and spent two campaigns on loan at Vitesse and Ajax in the Eredivisie, sandwiching one with his parent club.
Having played a significant role in helping Ajax to the Europa League final last season, which included knocking Lyon out at the semi-final stage, going back to England was not an option.
“I had to leave Chelsea, I would never have had a chance there,” he said as he was presented following his €10 million move.
“At this point in my career, Lyon were the best choice I could make to keep growing. Adaption should be quite easy here and I will have the stability that I’ve been seeking for so many years. I had to find stability by finding a club where I could play a leading role, and I’ll do everything to achieve that with OL.”
In a side seeking to replace several key players, not least Alexandre Lacazette, Traore has quickly established himself as a protagonist. Although he can play as a centre-forward, he’s typically been used down the right by coach Bruno Genesio, fulfilling the duties that were undertaken by Mathieu Valbuena last year.
As a winger, Traore has thus far proven himself scrupulous and has offered a hard-working presence on his flank. His industry has already earned the respect of the Lyon support, while there are signs that things are starting to click offensively. Against Rennes a fortnight ago, he completed all 34 of the passes he attempted.
“Before each game, I tell myself that I have to carry my weight defensively because that allows the team to be stable,” he said on Sunday. “I feel good on the field. I hear the applause of the fans when I go back to tackle.
“After that, I must try to allow the others to play and to be decisive. I try to lose as few balls as possible, that’s important.”
If he has been used primarily on the flank to begin with, there is the prospect of being utilised in a more central role in the months ahead.
Mariano Diaz has been Lyon’s No.9 in the early weeks of the season, but in some games the Spaniard’s poaching style will not provide the team with the qualities they need in terms of defending from the front, an attribute Traore has in abundance.
“His flexibility is a major plus, he can score goals but he can also help others to score them,” Genesio explained. “He can play at the point of the attack or on the wing, which will help us to have a different style of play.”
Every sign so far points to his move back to France being a hit. His first strike for Lyon may be destined to be the best forgotten goal of 2017-18 in Ligue 1, but he is sure to have many more moments that live long in the minds of fans of the Rhone giants.
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