Having failed to get the chances many expected him to at Chelsea, Dominic Solanke was always destined for a move to pastures new this summer. A host of clubs were interested in bringing the youngster in but it was Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool that ultimately won the race.
With one eye on the future, Solanke joins an array of youth quality already at the club who will be looking to compete for a first-team spot ahead of the 2017/18 season.
A fee in the region of £3million is expected after the clubs seek confirmation from a Premier League tribunal, with wages of £20,000 a week for the striker.
Hardly a huge outlay for a club of Liverpool’s size and stature, such a move for Solanke comes with very little risk factor but a potentially high payout.
Joining Chelsea at the Under-8 level, Solanke worked his way through the academy. From an early age, his raw talent was evident, resulting in him earning a call-up to the Under-18 team in 2013.
It was there that he truly established himself as a regular member of the squad, providing a consistent source of goals. Naturally, that caught the attention of the manager at the time, Jose Mourinho, who tipped the youngster to become a senior England international under his tutelage.
Promoted to the first-team, Solanke made his debut for Chelsea against Maribor in the Champions League as a second-half substitute in 2014. From there on it seemed as though he would only continue to go from strength to strength and head onto bigger things within the club.
That was confounded by an impressive campaign for the Under-18s and Under-21s in which he scored 41 goals to steer the team towards the Youth Cup and UEFA Youth League. With his stock rising and Mourinho full of praise for the 19-year-old, you’d have bet your house on him becoming part of the first-team picture.
However, that proved not to be the case. Like numerous Academy graduates before him, Solanke found himself shipped out on loan to Vitesse for the 2015-16 season. A string of pleasing performances marked another good season for the Englishman in which he registered seven goals in 26 appearances.
But such a loan move proved to be the end of his Chelsea career with the 2016-17 term delivering similar fortunes. Unable to make the jump into the first-team under Antonio Conte, a move away from London was always on the cards this summer and who can blame Liverpool for swooping in?
Raw talent with plenty of potential
While his progress has stalled recently, there is no question that Solanke has raw talent in his boots. His performance in England’s Under-20s World Cup conquest is a testament to that, having earned the Player of the tournament award as well as the Golden Boot.
It wasn’t just his goals that proved so instrumental in England’s successes, however. Solanke’s ability to hold up the play and bring his teammates into the game was arguably more pleasing to see as a Liverpool fan.
“He is an outstanding footballer. He’s intelligent and has great movement. He plays like a No.9 and a No.10 put together. He reminds me of Teddy Sheringham but quicker.” – Adi Viveash, former Chelsea youth coach
Just as Jurgen Klopp demands from his forward players, the youngster provides the first line of defence. Dogged in his pressing, working hard both on and off the ball, the Englishman’s capability to do the ugly side of the game will see him fit seamlessly into Klopp’s setup.
James Milner is certainly excited by the prospect of seeing him in Liverpool red next season, having heaped praise on the striker after he completed the move.
“He’s had a great summer and he’s a good young player coming through and we’ve got a young squad anyway.”
“It’s good to keep that going and maybe as one of the older guys I can help him come along, but I think he’s shown already with what he’s done with the England team.”
“Winning the World Cup is a great achievement and to come out of that as the best player, you look at some of the names who have come out of that tournament, he’s up there with some of the best.”
Where will he fit in?
Now the big question, just where does Solanke fit in at Liverpool?
Klopp already has a plethora of options in attack, with Roberto Firmino number one in the pecking order ahead of Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings.
Consequently, Bobby will lead the line for the majority of Premier League and Champions League games, with Sturridge providing a high-quality alternative should Klopp need it.
But given his injury concerns along with Ings and Origi’s, Solanke could well have a more prominent role this season than many would think – particularly with such a busy fixture list.
Klopp has proven he’s willing to give youth a chance, having deployed both Ben Woodburn and Trent Alexander-Arnold (to name a couple) in the Premier League last season and that should give the 19-year-old plenty of confidence of what lies ahead.
Most of his chances will likely come in the domestic cup competitions, particularly the EFL Cup. What will be crucial is that he seizes every opportunity that comes his way.
There will be rife competition for places at Liverpool but Solanke’s deadly eye for goal will stand him in good stead and if his appearances for England are anything to go by, he’s got serious potential. Who better than Klopp to unleash it.