By Robin Bairner | French Football Editor
It’s fair to say that a number of eyebrows were raised in France on Tuesday afternoon when Nancy midfielder Bakaye Traore announced via RMC that he will sign for AC Milan.
The 27-year-old is moulded in the form of many African-French midfielders over the course of the last decade, offering great physical strength, excellent power and terrific energy. But despite all this, he has lacked the consistency to pin down a regular place in Nancy’s starting XI throughout his three years with the Lorraine club, so his summer move to San Siro, which will come via a Bosman deal, does come as something of a surprise.
In some ways, it mirrors the move that the Rossoneri made for Taye Taiwo last summer; gambling on a rather raw Ligue 1 talent who could potentially provide a high return for very little initial outlay. The bet on Taiwo, who arrived from Olympique de Marseille, failed, but Milan are ready to return to the table already, this time betting on a player with even less top-level experience.
"This is a great pleasure," Traore told Sport24 in April, before any deal was completed. "Milan are among the top four teams in the world along with Real [Madrid], Barca and Manchester United ... Now I must not get carried away."
Traore joined Nancy in 2009 after six years with Ligue 2 side Amiens, where he played over 100 times in the league. With les Chardons he has been a semi-regular, appearing 71 times in the league to date, a good portion of which have come from the bench.
BAKAYE TRAORE | LIGUE 1 STATS WITH NANCY
Suggestions of an unexpected move first arose during Traore’s purple patch earlier in the campaign, when he scored five goals in four matches, including a crucial strike in an unlikely 2-1 home win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Goal scoring, though, is not an attribute typically in the player’s remit, and indeed these are his only tallies for the season. He is a defensive midfielder by trade, though his dynamic running and boundless energy does allow him to get forward and support the attack, hence the 10 goals he has mustered over the last two campaigns.
Like Taiwo, it’s the tactical side of the game that Traore is likeliest to struggle with. There is not an issue with the Mali international’s physique or pace, and although he’s not technically the best player and may therefore be picked as a weak link in this regard by the better sides he faces, his positioning will be most rigorously tested in Serie A.
|"Milan are among the top four teams in the world along with Real [Madrid], Barca and Manchester United"
- Traore relishes San Siro switch
At times he can be found to stray, and in a more tactically-astute league this tendency could be heavily punished. Indeed, it may even be advisable for the midfielder to cut out his offensive bursts entirely for a settling-in period, allowing him to focus on the more defensive aspect of the game, which is, ultimately, what his job will entail.
Having been a substitute for much of his time at Nancy, the Paris-born player no doubt expects to spend some time on the bench in Milan, where he’ll surely provide backup to the starting players to begin with. As fatigue kicks in, though, Traore will be called upon to provide relief, and just as he has done at Nancy, he will be expected to step positively and effectively into the spotlight.
Playing to 80,000 passionate fans at San Siro, however, will be a very different experience to playing in front of less than quarter of that number as he does in Nancy on a fortnightly basis.
It’s a terrific opportunity for the midfielder, who at 27 will not get another shot at featuring for such an illustrious club, and it’s one that he simply could not turn down. Now it’s up to him to make sure Milan don’t regret their latest dip into the Ligue 1 Bosman market.
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