Sheffield United appear to have won the race for the signature of Bénie Traoré. The 20-year-old Ivorian youth international has lit up the Swedish 1st division with Hacken which captured the attention of several big European clubs, including Ajax.
Sportbladet is reporting that Sheffield United have agreed a fee of £3.9m to acquire the promising forward. There are bonuses which could see the deal rise to £4.8m.
This season Traoré tallied 15 goals and five assists in 20 appearances across the league and cup, per Transfermarkt.
What are Bénie Traoré’s strengths?
After bursting onto the scene in 20/21, Traoré would carry that form into the 21/22 campaign scoring four goals in as many games. But he would unfortunately suffer a fractured leg that would prematurely end his season. The forward recovered from his injury and this season he carried on where he left off in front of goal.
One of his main strengths is his dribbling ability, and when comparing his 20/21 numbers to the rest of the wide forwards in the division he stacks up excellently. Traoré ranked in the 100th percentile in number of dribbles and dribble progression.
When comparing those metrics to centre forwards using his 22/23 numbers he actually ranks in the 41st and 27th percentile.
It is important to make these comparisons between the two positions; this is one of the key differences in his development because he initially broke through as a wide player, but he now plays a central player. His burst of speed, agility and dribbling ability make him a real handful for any back line when he gets into stride, although he attempts far less dribbles as a striker.
In contrast, there has been a clear improvement in his finishing ability since his first season. He ranked in the same percentile (56th) in 20/21 and 22/23 but his non-penalty goals increased from the 37th percentile to 80th percentile. Traoré averaged 3 shots per game with 1.6 of them landing on target in 22/23. His combined expected goals registered at 10.66, he would score 12 goals [SofaScore].
The Ivorian has significantly improved his vision and passing in the final third, in 20/21 he averaged 0.7 key passes per game, however in 22/23 he would double that to 1.4 key passes per game [SofaScore].
What are the negatives?
Traoré is such a promising player and it is difficult to assess him negatively, but there will undoubtedly be worries until he can demonstrate his talent in the Premier League, which is not a given.
In terms of his ability in front of goal, even though he has good numbers, four of his goals this season have come from the penalty spot which does concentrate his stats slightly.
A little bit like McAtee early last season, Traore could find the physicality of the game difficult as he is naturally lightweight. But that also serves as a benefit in some scenarios.
The addition of Bénie Traoré is a much-needed one. He gives Sheffield United a completely different style of striker to work with. His electric pace and dribbling ability could come in handy plenty of times next season as we will attempt to hit the bigger teams on the counter.
I do have concerns about how he will match up in a tussle with a defender. Let’s not forget he is only 20, and a huge part of football development at that age is as much physical as it is technical and mental.
Much like the Slimane deal, this is a low monetary risk with potentially a very high reward.