Adama Traore has become a target for the Premier League’s boot boys.
That’s the view of Wolves chief Nuno Espirito Santo who says the Spain international is playing through the pain barrier for him.
The speedy winger, who reportedly had a £50million fee slapped on him by his club last season, has been hit and miss this season.
He has been on the substitutes’ bench for the last two games – following a run of four straight starts.
Asked about a downturn in form, however, his boss defended him by saying that he has been struggling to shake off a foot injury.
And it’s not been helped because he’s been singled out for some rough treatment.
Nuno said: “My admiration for Adama is obvious. As a player, he is unique.
“He is fantastic and talented but unfortunately, he’s been affected by problems, both in matches and during training.
“Since he returned from his national team, he has not been totally confident in training. He’s had a knock on his foot.
“But he has shown a commitment to overcome the pain he feels and I’m immensely proud of him.
“So it’s not about him playing in the starting XI or that he is coming off the bench – he’s shown what he is capable of. And he’s getting better – but every time he plays, he’s clearly a target.
“It happened against Chelsea. In his first involvement in the game, he took a big knock.
“That totally unbalanced him. He was getting better then, suddenly, in one second, he goes. Unfortunately, this is football.
“We are trying to bring back the best in Adama but it is not that easy.”
Wolves were one of the surprise packages last term as they built on their first season back in the Premier League.
Nuno fielded a side that almost picked itself at times but he could be without over half of the team that turned out 12 months ago against Sunday’s opponents at Molineux.
Centre-half Willy Boly, midfielder Leander Dendoncker, defenders Matt Doherty and Jonny along with striker Diogo Jota are either unavailable through injury or have moved to pastures new.
The Portuguese is attempting to establish a fresh identity for a new side.
But as well as those five, he is also missing striker Raul Jimenez – and it’s an absence that he admits is now being particularly keenly felt.
He said: “I will admit that the absence of Raul is very important for us. We have felt it since the moment it happened. And it was a huge blow.
“It’s not only about what he does on the pitch, it’s what he means for the squad. The confidence that the players have in him. The belief that until the last minute he’s going to put one away for us.
“It takes time. We are overcoming that. How? Solutions with new players.
“I wouldn’t compare him to other teams. For us, his absence is terrible.”
That is likely to prompt an early move in the market when the window opens in just over one week’s time.
The help of super-agent Jorge Mendes could prove crucial in sourcing a replacement.
Nuno added: “We are preparing for it. There’s not a day goes by when the staff don’t speak to each other about it. We’re here every day.
“And, of course, we have to re-balance our squad – there’s still a very long season ahead of us.”
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