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Bertrand Traoré departs Chelsea for pastures anew in Lyon

After weeks of speculation and negotiations between Chelsea and Olympique Lyonnais, the transfer of 21-year-old attacker Bertrand Traoré has been completed, for a sum of €10 million.

The transfer fee has turned out significantly lower than the €19 million figure that was widely reported in the press and while buy-back clauses are technically disallowed in France, the low transfer fee may suggest that the clubs have struck some sort of similar agreement among themselves, or that there are a large number of performance-based bonuses involved.

Although his ambitions at Chelsea have faded away for the moment, Traoré has gained some much-needed stability in his career by virtue of this move. He said the same upon signing his five-year contract in France.

“OL and I intend to continue to progress, to learn with the coach and with my new teammates. I want to help the club go far. Personally, I have set a goal to seek stability and, by signing a contract at the OL, can not ask for better. I have time to show everyone what I can do and what I am worth."

- Bertrand Traoré; source: Olympique Lyonnais

Traoré took the unconventional path to Chelsea, catching the eye at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup as a 14-year-old and eventually making appearances for Chelsea youth sides in unofficial games and friendlies. He officially remained a trialist until 2013, when he signed a four-and-a-half year deal, having also made three appearances in Chelsea’s pre-season tour of Asia and scoring on two occasions as well. He was immediately loaned out to Vitesse as he was unable to secure a work permit, where he spent the next one and a half seasons and found great success, registering 20 goals and 7 assists in 51 appearances.

Vitesse Arnhem v AZ Alkmaar -  Eredivisie Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

After finally securing a work permit to play in England in 2015, Traoré was part of Chelsea’s first-team for the 2015-16 season. He had to wait until the latter half of the season to see any sort of significant involvement though, and didn’t disappoint when he was called upon by Guus Hiddink. Despite being among a strike-force bloated with the likes of Falcao, Alexandre Pato, Diego Costa and Loic Remy, Traoré made 16 appearances and scored 4 goals, averaging a goal every 128 minutes. His most memorable involvement that season was a long-range strike against Stoke City followed by a passionate celebration which made for an absolutely euphoric few moments.

Chelsea v Stoke City - Premier League Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

He was heavily involved in pre-season when Antonio Conte took charge, often starting alongside Diego Costa, but an eventual shift from a two-striker system meant his minutes were likely to be limited, hence resulting in a loan move back to the Eredvisie with but this time to Ajax. He was a key player for Ajax and had a huge role in their Europa League run that saw them finish as runners up to Manchester United. While not quite as ready to slot into the first-team for Chelsea as say, Thibaut Courtois was in 2014, Traoré could’ve certainly played a role for Antonio Conte’s side this season either as an inside forward or a striker and would’ve made a valuable depth option with potential to improve much further. Alas, it was perhaps simply not meant to be.

Traoré will spend the foreseeable future in France, most probably as a replacement in the Lyon side for outgoing winger Rachid Ghezzal or perhaps even striker Alexandre Lacazette. He will, no doubt, find opportunities easier to come by there than at Chelsea and hopefully it’ll help him realise his true potential. Traoré departs, leaving us wondering what could’ve been but he is young and the future is not set in stone so who knows, maybe he could yet again don Chelsea blue in the future. Farewell, sweet prince.

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