Adama Traore's amazing journey from Barca youngster to Wolves' £18m man
Becoming Wolves' record signing after growing up at Barcelona and having spells at Villa and Middlesbrough – Adama Traore has had quite the career path.
But had it not been for Barcelona's persistence, none of it may have happened.
Born in Catalonia to Malian parents, Traore was spotted by Barca as a youngster, while playing for local team L'Hospitalet.
Seeing great potential in the now 23-year-old – arguably the quickest player in world football – they called Traore's mother, Fatoumata, but she did not answer the phone to them for a while.
And then when she finally did, she thought the whole thing was a hoax.
"We were on our holidays. I was eight at the time, I think. Seven or eight," said Traore.
"We went to Mali to see my family for the first time. My mum didn't take her phone, because people from work would have been calling her all the time.
"So when we came back to Barcelona, we noticed a lot of missed calls from the same number.
"Then they called back and my mum said: 'You're joking.'
"They called her again and said: 'We're serious, we want Adama to go to Barcelona. We aren't lying.'"
So what made Barcelona take notice of Traore at such a young age?
He says it's down to the fact him and his brother Mohamed Traore Diarra, who now plays for Spanish side UD Melilla, were always competing against each other.
"I was playing in my town L'Hospitalet. I was playing for fun with my friends but I had my uncle Sekou who played for the Mali international team take me (under his wing) when I was six years old, and my brother too," said Traore.
"He told us: 'You need to work hard.' He told us all the time. When I was eight he took us both training in the afternoons. We were running, jumping and fighting against each other to be the best. Most of the time he (Mohamed) was better than me.
"Sekou showed me kicking the ball with the left and the right. He showed me how hard you had to work to reach the top level. It's why I work all the time after training."
And Mohamed, now 24, ended up getting picked up by a big club too.
"It was funny because my brother, Mohamed, was playing for Espanyol. There's a massive rivalry," said Traore.
"So, my when my mum Fatoumata went to see him play, she put on her Espanyol jacket. Then she would come and see me play and she would take that off and there would be a Barcelona one underneath it.
"I played against my brother once when I was 17... and he was still at Espanyol."
At Barca, Traore grew up with the stars.
Lionel Messi, Xavi and Andreas Iniesta are just a few of the Camp Nou legends he was able to pick the brains of.
And Traore insists Xavi offered him a lot of advice – but more so about how to handle things off the pitch, how to cope with being famous.
"It was amazing because when I was with the likes of Xavi, Carles Puyol, Messi, Neymar, Alexis (Sanchez)... but Xavi was a very good captain," he said.
"He used to speak about his life. He had been in the same position as us, so he knew.
"He would help with advice on girlfriends and women because it's a difficult life. If you go to eat or go to some places – people don't understand you need time with your wife, family or children and people will jump on you.
"People will say 'Please can I have a photo,' or 'I want a photo.'
"And you have to know how to treat them. He used to spend a lot of time with us. We were at such a young age and we had money. He would say: 'Don't be stupid, these are the people you need to speak to.'
"He used to teach us what the profession was like.
"You see the difference between the second and third team is massive. The ground is massive, there are so many cameras, whatever you do, the whole world will know."
It was that leap from the second team to the first which resulted in Traore leaving.
His agent had promised him an opportunity to train regularly with the first team would come – claiming it was in his contract.
As it turned out, the agent had lied, so after making four first-team appearances for Barcelona, Traore left at the age of 19, signing for Villa on a five-year deal.
"In that time, it was difficult, I left Barcelona because there were problems with the agent," he said.
"That’s the truth about why I left.
"He told me I had a contract, but apparently, I didn’t have a contract. So I left Barcelona,
"I didn’t do the pre-season with the first team, apparently I didn’t have that in my contract. When I finished with the second team, in my contract I needed to do pre-season with the first team, so I didn’t do it in that time.
"I was angry because they told me one thing, so I said I wanted to prove myself after two years in the second team.
"At the time, I changed my agent. They promised one thing, I didn’t have it in the contract so I left for Villa to improve myself.
"I started well against Crystal Palace, but then I got injured. It was a learning process for me at Villa and Middlesbrough. Because I saw the difference between the top level and a different level. I got an insight into football and learned a lot."
Many players would have been happy to just stay at Barcelona for as long as they could, even if it meant staying in the second team.
But Traore is not wired that way. He is driven and has learned a lot in his time in England – at Villa, Middlesbrough and now Wolves.
He is fluent in English and three other languages; Spanish, French and Bambara, the official language of Mali.
"My first year in Barcelona when I was in the second team, we got third place I think. In that time I was speaking to Barcelona because I said I want to leave," said Traore.
They said: ‘No, we give you the contract, you stay one year more and after you come to the first team or you go on loan.’ I say, ‘Okay, I agree with that.’
"But there are a lot of players, different people. Some want to stay comfortable, stay there for many years, and sit on the bench, or maybe waiting for an opportunity.
"It is different things because Xavi, Iniesta, these players, they waited a long time before playing. But I think maybe then it was a different time.
"It was a different moment. It is about the moment. At that time in Barcelona maybe if you wait you have your chance. I think now maybe if you wait I don’t think you will have this chance.
"Because now in Barcelona there are players coming up but now they are in the position of 8, 6, or 10, they are young and ready to play.
"I don’t know if the manager will push some young players, and wait one year, two years, three years, until he improves himself. I think it was different times. Now I think they want the players ready. If in Barcelona or Real Madrid, it is difficult. They want to win things."
That leap of faith Traore made led him to where he is now, with Wolves, in the last 16 of the FA Cup.
He is ready to take on Bristol City – and says him and his team-mates will do all they can to go all the way.
"I say the same as what Nuno (Espirito Santo) says, it's game by game," added Traore.
"But I think we are winning a lot of games and we have big confidence.
"We have a lot of things to improve as well, individually and as a team.
"But we can achieve a lot of things if we want, and why not?
"Anything is possible in football. I can't tell you we will win the FA Cup, but I can tell you we will fight for it."