Bertrand Traore has said that he decided to leave Chelsea for Lyon because he knew he would never be given a chance to shine at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea confirmed on Monday that they had agreed a deal reportedly worth around £8.8 million with Lyon to sell Traore, who scored 13 goals in 39 appearances in all competitions on loan at Ajax last season and impressed as the Dutch giants made a surprise run to the Europa League final.
Speaking at his unveiling, Traore said that he could not face a repeat of last summer, when new head coach Antonio Conte sanctioned a loan move at the end of preseason after concluding that the 21-year-old striker was not ready to contribute to Chelsea’s first team.
“It was time,” Traore said. “Considering my age and for my development, it was time for me to leave the club. I could have stayed at Chelsea and played a few minutes in every game, fighting every day for a spot, knowing that I’ll never get a spot. I trained at the club, I did everything.
“Two seasons ago, I challenged the starters but we all know what happened last year. I was there during preseason and then I was sent out on loan.
“So this year, I did not want to re-live the same scenario. It was time for me to find a stable club where I could play first-team football, where I could be one of the key players in the team.”
Traore joined Chelsea in January 2014 and spent the first 18 months of his Blues career on loan at Vitesse, where he contributed 17 goals and five assists in 48 Eredivisie appearances.
Retained as part of Jose Mourinho’s first-team squad at the start of the 2015-16 season, he was given a chance on the pitch by interim successor Guus Hiddink and showed flashes of promise, scoring four goals in his first five appearances under the Dutchman.
Conte’s arrival last July, however, halted Traore’s upward momentum at Stamford Bridge and the £33m signing of Michy Batshuayi from Marseille prompted him to seek out regular first-team football at Ajax.
Chelsea’s agreement with Lyon reportedly includes an option to buy Traore back for an unspecified amount, but he said that he is focused solely on establishing himself at his new club.
“To be one of the key players in the team, you need to fight, and here, I’ll do everything to be amongst them,” he added. “I’ll give everything for the club.”
Liam is ESPN FC’s Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.