Kuban will go to Rostov Saturday hoping recent signing Lacina Traore will return from injury. The Ivorian prodigy, 20, has made an impressive debut in the Russian Premier League, having drawn comparisons with Chelsea compatriot, Didier Drogba.
He is tall, strong, and from Cote d’Ivoire. Didier Drogba? No. But it could well be his heir. Meet 20-year-old Lacina Traore.
This season, the 2.3-meter-tall forward became Kuban’s most expensive ever player. He has followed manager Dan Petrescu, with whom he spent two years at Cluj in Romania.
“Kuban is a team that wants to develop, and make a significant breakthrough. This transfer took place because of Petrescu, whom I know and respect a lot. My transfer was his idea, to help me grow and develop my career,” Traore said.
And it seems like Petrescu can be satisfied with the results of the team so far as Kuban sit eighth, and have one eye on the Europa League. While Traore has become one of the most dangerous players among Kuban’s forwards, scoring six goals and making three assists.
Traore says he’is already used to living in exotic Russia, and is enjoying his time here.
“When I go to my national team, my team mates ask me a lot about football in Russia, but their first questions are about the cold weather and racism. But I tell them, ‘Guys don’t worry, both these aspects are fine. It’s even hotter in Krasnodar than in Africa,” he stressed.
“They follow Russian football because of me and CSKA’s Seydou Doumbia playing here, so they all are very interested in the Russian Premier League,” he said.
With the growing ambitions of the Krasnodar side, the tallest player in the league does not want to stop progressing, as his long-term dream of copying Drogba and playing in the English Premier League is still beyond his reach.
But producing good performances in Russia could become the stepping stone in his career.
“Russia’s top flight is of a good standard, and can help you get to the top European leagues – primarily the one in England – which are popular throughout the world, and to which all players aspire. My favorite player is Drogba, and I enjoy watching the English Premier League,” Traore said.
Meanwhile, Kuban are keen to get rid of their reputation as a yo-yo team. And with Petrescu in the dug-out and Traore on the field, the Yellow-and-Greens could become one of the surprise packages of the Russian Premier League this season.