By Kingsley Kobo
Lacina Traore - nicknamed the ‘Gentle Giant’ - is a striker whose full potential remains untapped, but his loan spell with Everton could provide him with the perfect platform.
At 6ft 8in, Traore will provide a target from the flank for Everton’s wide men as well as offering another option in attack for Roberto Martinez, who feels the striker will fit in perfectly at Goodison Park.
|THE GENTLE GIANT
|LACINA TRAORE'S CAREER STATS
And while the Ivory Coast international is a significant threat in the air, his technical ability with the ball at his feet is not to be ignored. As pointed out by Monaco coach Claudio Ranieri prior to the forward’s move to the Ligue 1 club on January 4, Traore is "a good all-round player."
His stint in Russia, which lasted just under three years, started at Kuban Krasnodar, where 18 goals in his debut campaign paved the way for a switch to Anzhi Makhachkala. During that time Traore proved Ranieri’s brief analysis to be accurate. He is strong enough to hold off defenders while moving with the ball and has the ability to score various types of goals, from dribbling past players to close-range finishes.
His main weakness is an over-reliance on his left foot, though Everton will have few complaints if this loan move secures them Champions League football.
Traore proved once again last season at Anzhi that he can provide a regular source of goals. The 23-year-old scored 14 times in 34 appearances, while his only barren spell occurred during the middle of November 2012 where he went four games without finding the net.
And Traore cannot be considered a flat-track bully either; the forward has a habit of contributing at crucial times. Half of his goals last term were either an equaliser for Anzhi or the decisive winning goal.
Both Manchester United and Liverpool have been linked with a move for Traore, with the player's agent claiming last August that the Premier League champions had come the closest to signing the forward. Zenit St Petersburg were also interested, although their coach Luciano Spalletti ruled out a bid on the grounds that he had enough attacking options.
This season has been more difficult. Anzhi, following a similar clear-out, are yet to win a game in the Russian Premier League, while a campaign which has been disturbed by a shoulder injury has seen Traore find the net only on the opening day of the season in July.
Anzhi’s policy of selling their high earners also hampered Traore’s recent months in Russia. The supply from the likes of Willian and the link-up play with Samuel Eto’o had gone and Traore had struggled in a disjointed side.
But Everton will still be hoping for goals from their new boy, particularly with top scorer Romelu Lukaku having struggled to find the back of the net in recent weeks while Kevin Mirallas has managed only five so far this season.
Traore is likely to play an integral part in Everton’s bid for Champions League football this season, but the striker is only a fringe player in the Ivory Coast national team.
Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou, Seydou Doumbia, Gervinho and Wilfried Bony are all preferred to Traore at present. A temporary spell in the Premier League and, if successful, the accolades of helping a team finish in the coveted top four will boost his profile ahead of this summer's World Cup.
After this season a debut campaign in Ligue 1 beckons, where his new club could be in need of a new leading marksman if Radamel Falcao leaves.