Shachtar yearns for Traoré’s breakthrough, a glimmer of hope in wartime

Shachtar yearns for Traoré’s breakthrough, a glimmer of hope in wartime
Lassina Traoré shouts it out

NOS Soccer

Comparisons were immediately made with Marco van Basten when Lassina Traoré became the next teenager employed by Ajax to score five goals in a premier league game. They should have waited 35 years for it in Amsterdam.

He was the new prodigy. Raised in Burkina Faso, where he perfected his technique barefoot in the talent class of former Premier League player Rahim Ouédraogo. And prepared at Ajax Cape Town, then the South African satellite club.

But as stormy as his breakthrough was, his retreat was quiet. Less than three months after Traoré’s five goals and three assists in the historic win over VVV-Venlo (0-13) had gone around the world, with Sébastien Haller another new striker was already being acquired.

Sold to Sjachtar

Traoré dropped down the pecking order and was eventually sold for big money to Shachtar Donetsk, now Feyenoord’s opponent in the Europa League.

“We consider Traoré one of the most promising attackers in Europe,” chairman Sergei Palkin spoke upon his arrival. “Frankly, until recently it was hard to believe that we would be able to capture him. In most cases, players do not leave Ajax so easily.”

Teenager Traoré following in Van Basten’s footsteps with five goals in one game

The striker made himself popular at his new club, but remarkably did so not only through his performance on the pitch.

Doom soon struck him, when he suffered a serious knee injury in a Champions league match in a duel with Denzel Dumfries. After a flying start, including two goals against Dynamo Kyiv in the Ukrainian Super Cup, Traoré was sidelined for nearly a year.

While Traoré was rehabilitating in Amsterdam, war broke out in Ukraine. Almost all the foreign stars left, the striker mostly cherished fond memories of the first months at his new club. Once fit, he decided to be one of the few to return.

‘From day 1 at home in Ukraine’

“I decided to stay, primarily because of my love for the club and the country, which welcomed me well when everything was going well,” Traoré told reporters. “I felt at home in Ukraine from the first day.

Traoré is now showing his skills in empty stadiums there, where he has since resumed scoring goals for the Ukrainian league’s list leader. After the departure of Mychajlo Moedryk for a hundred million euros to Chelsea, Traoré is the new intended star.

Lassina Traoré

“It won’t be easy, after what the team has been through,” he told me after his comeback. “But we will fight together to keep the honor of the club high.”

How good Traoré actually is, they have not found out at Shachtar to this day. Only once did the striker complete the ninety minutes during a league game.

Against Feyenoord he will meet his old friends like Danilo and Quinten Timber, the latter of whom, incidentally, will not be in action due to a knee injury.

Champions League semifinals

The semi-final against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, dramatically lost by Ajax, was something he got to witness from the bench as an eighteen-year-old, which made him dream of big European duels.

In nothing like the pain that Shachtar has been through, where Traoré hopes to put a smile back on the face of the club and also himself as a challenger to the European top.

Kayleigh Williams