It’s perhaps always inevitable that potential stars slip through the net once in a while. Arsenal fans probably watched Serge Gnabry help lift the Champions League trophy last season with Bayern Munich, with gritted teeth, knowing that the German was once on their books.
Whilst Aston Villa haven’t quite had a faux pas like that, Adama Traore’s meteoric rise since leaving Villa Park back in the summer of 2016 is right up there with being one of the club’s biggest ever transfer blunders.
Signed a year earlier for around £7m from Spanish giants Barcelona, then Villa boss Tim Sherwood waxed lyrical about the kind of coup that they had pulled off. He said: “He’s dynamic, very quick and a maverick-type player – you never know what he’s going to do next and I mean that as a compliment. He’s a huge asset for this club. He can hurt the opposition and I’m delighted to bring him here.”
In the end, the winger never even started a Premier League game for Villa, playing just 186 minutes of football in the top-flight. Most of his game-time came with the club’s U21s, before he was eventually shipped out to Middlesbrough the following summer.
Now, Traore is tearing Premier League defences to shreds with his power and pace for Wolves, and it was even reported earlier in the summer transfer window that Nuno Espirito Santo’s side had slapped a €150m (£135m) price tag on his head to ward off potential suitors.
It’s quite the turnaround for someone who clearly had enormous ability in his locker, with former Villa ace Micah Richards not shy in admitting that the Spaniard completely embarrassed him.
He said: “We were warming up before training and I was really warm so I thought ‘yeah, I’m gonna see how quick this guy really is’. I always fancied myself to be fast. No-one I had faced had really out-paced me. The only people I had struggled with on a totally different level were Theo Walcott, Gabby Agbonlahor and Aaron Lennon.
“But Adama was way quicker than even them in their prime. I was just like ‘wow’. My confidence was shot after that. I never wanted to race him again. Honestly, he beat me by about 20 yards!”
All Villa had to do was show a bit more patience with the Spanish flier, and afford him the kind of leniency that normally comes with young, raw talents. Instead, they got rid of him at the first possible opportunity, and have been paying for it ever since.