Lassina Traore: Things to Know About Ajax's Latest Prodigy

Declan Houten
Oct 25, 2020, 2:46 PM GMT
Traoré made headlines by scoring five (FIVE!!!) goals against VVV-Venlo
Traoré made headlines by scoring five (FIVE!!!) goals against VVV-Venlo | Soccrates Images/Getty Images
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Not a bad weekend for 19-year-old Lassina Traore, then - got some minutes under his belt for Ajax against VVV-Venlo, gave a good account of himself, and...notched five goals and three assists in the same match.

You might not have known who Traore was before Ajax travelled to Venlo, but you definitely do now as the Burkinabe forward went from promising youngster to the next big thing after starring in Ajax's 13-0 demolition of VVV.

Of course, with Frenkie de Jong patrolling the Barcelona midfield, Matthijs de Ligt beginning to make an impact at Juventus before injury and Donny van de Beek one of the most exciting bench options in the league at Manchester United, it's important to remember that Traoré isn't just any youngster - he's one who has been produced by the fabled Ajax academy.

But how did Traoré get to where he is now? What sort of player is he? And which Aston Villa forward
(to be fair, you can probably guess) is he related to? Look no further for an answer to these questions - everything you ever wanted to know about Lassina Traoré, but were too afraid to ask, will be answered.

He's Looking to be Ajax's Next Great No.9

Could Ajax have the new Marco Van Basten on their hands?
Could Ajax have the new Marco Van Basten on their hands? | ANP Sport/Getty Images

In case it wasn't already apparent from Saturday's display, which saw him rising for thumping headers, pouncing on rebounds and arriving at the back post in the nick of time, Traore's game is above all about one thing - scoring.

While his youth career has seen him shunted all over the pitch, playing out wide and as a number ten, his blend of physical prowess and clinical finishing naturally led to him being selected as a central striker.

Indeed Ajax director of football Marc Overmars was unerring in what he believed to be Traoré's best quality, summing it up succintly to Het Parool: "With the inside of his foot he [Traore] can shoot very accurately and powerfully."

Greatness Runs in the Family

Traoré's cousin, Bertrand, has just secured himself a big move to the Premier League
Traoré's cousin, Bertrand, has just secured himself a big move to the Premier League | Visionhaus/Getty Images

A very fun fact about Traore is that he is in fact the cousin of Europa League legend and current Aston Villa new boy Bertrand Traore, who himself played at Ajax for a season.

But when it comes to the source of his footballing talent, Traore, whose father was also a footballer, credits his mother as the most skilled of them all.

"It’s clear that my football talent comes from her," said Traore of his mother (via Ajax's website).

"Mama was the captain of Burkina Faso’s national team, and I always thought she was the best player in the country. A true number 10, technically skilled and creative."

He's an Ajax Cape Town Graduate

Traoré was previously playing his football at the Cape Town Stadium
Traoré was previously playing his football at the Cape Town Stadium | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Following in the footsteps of Steven Pienaar and Thulani Serero, Lassina Traore is one of several Ajax players to have been picked up via Ajax Cape Town, a South Africa-based club which has been partnered with Ajax for more than 20 years.

After being spotted playing for Rahimo FC in Burkina Faso, he was offered a place at the prestigious academy, and after developing there he was offered a contract by Ajax as soon as he turned 18.

As it turns out, Traore will be one of the very last players to have come through the affiliate team, with Ajax selling their shares in the club after they judged its output to have fallen short of their years of investment.

His 'Internship' at Ajax Didn't Exactly Go to Plan

It all turned out OK in the end...
It all turned out OK in the end... | VI-Images/Getty Images

For most people, an internship involves lots of photocopying, answering emails and keeping the office supplied with biscuits. For Traore, it involved being man-marked by one of the best young defenders in world football.

Before signing for Ajax, Traore was offered a chance of an 'internship' at the club (which sounds like a posh/legally sound way of saying a 'trial'), but the club didn't exactly try and settle his nerves when they picked out a marker for him.

"Matthijs de Ligt was my direct opponent and he was so incredibly strong," recalls Traore.

"He won every duel against me, and got the ball off me every time. I knew that I’d need to work hard on my strength to be successful in the Netherlands.” (via Ajax's website)

His Weight Was Previously a Concern

Traoré was already a star at Jong Ajax
Traoré was already a star at Jong Ajax | ANP Sport/Getty Images

Overmars didn't exactly mess around when assessing Traore's suitability for the top level while at Ajax Cape Town, outlining his key concern in just four words: "He was too fat." (Het Parool).

A coach was sent to Cape Town to prepare the striker for life at the highest echelon of football, and he soon became much leaner as he grew into his 6ft frame.

Since making the move across to Amsterdam, he has been in absolutely lethal form for Jong Ajax in the second tier of Dutch football, banging in 14 goals in 17 games last season as he competed for the Eerste Divisie Golden Boot with players ten years older than him.

He Already Has a Bit of International Pedigree

Traoré has been impressive across his eight outings for Burkina Faso
Traoré has been impressive across his eight outings for Burkina Faso | JAVIER SORIANO/Getty Images

Burkinabe football is experiencing something of a Golden Generation at the moment, with the Traore cousins joined by skilful Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Edmond Tapsoba in an exciting and youthful national side.

Traoré himself has already impressed in his eight outings for Les Etalons, although you suspect Benin fans will have been happy to see the back of him, with all three of his goals having been scored against them.

Most impressive? Every one of these three goals was bagged at the outrageously young age of 16.

He Made History at the Weekend

Records were made to be broken!
Records were made to be broken! | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

The list of records set by Ajax against VVV goes on and on and on... the 13-0 margin of victory is their largest ever in Eresdivisie history, second only in their all-time pantheon of thrashings to a 14-0 win over Differdange in Europe.

Traoree himself entered history on a number of fronts, becoming the first teenager to score five in a game for the team since Marco van Basten in 1985 (that a club can hold this record twice is quite something), as well as the only player in the 2000s to be involved in eight goals in a Dutch top-flight match (via beinsports).

He Saw This Season Coming...

This is all part of the plan for Traoré
This is all part of the plan for Traoré | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Traore has been waiting for his moment at Ajax for a while now - the eagle-eyed may even have recalled that he made the bench for them in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final against Spurs, although to be fair that was not the most memorable aspect of that particular game.

The forward, however, was more than prepared for the possibility of being called upon, and it's clear from an interview given to Ajax's website in July that he won't stop at his Venlo heroics.

"I think it's the moment to show what I can do," said a disarmingly confident Traore of the upcoming season.

"I had some time to adapt, I had a few games with the first team and I know my qualities."

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