Dominic Solanke joined Premier League outfit Bournemouth on a permanent basis for a fee reported to be in the region of £19 million plus add-ons last week, as the Anglo-Nigerian wonderkid looks to get his career back on track.
The former Chelsea starlet failed to make a single appearance for Liverpool during the ongoing season, as he appeared to suffer the consequences of an underwhelming campaign under Jurgen Klopp last term.
Even though his career might be stalling, it’s worth remembering just what a prospect Solanke is.
He scored an impressive 20 goals in 25 appearances for Chelsea’s U-18s in the 2013-2014 season, and the season after, became the club’s youngest Champions League debutant.
On loan at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, he got experience of first-team football, but Chelsea were never to reap the rewards of Solanke’s development, as he moved to Liverpool on a free transfer upon the expiry of his contract.
The striker made his first Premier League start in the 3-0 win over Stoke City in November 2017, but took till May—the final day of the season—to open his account.
It was his only goal in 21 PL outings, and while he consistently found himself in good scoring positions and impressed with his movement and build-up play, his return was always going to make his position vulnerable.
Now 21, Solanke still only has one sole Prem goal to his name, and he remains worryingly unproven at this level.
He may have already been capped by England—albeit in a friendly against Brazil—but must use this move to Bournemouth to demonstrate that he can transition from promising youngster to bona fide Premier League hitman.
His potential is certainly immense, with Solanke able to offer the Cherries an option as a leading man, support striker or in wide areas.
It will be intriguing to see how Eddie Howe opts to use the forward’s touch and pace, and how Solanke adapts to Bournemouth’s style.
They’re one of the fastest teams in the division—at times almost frenetic—with their forwards experts at spotting and exploiting space, and thriving in front of midfielders boasting the technical class to pick them out quickly.
Solanke has the quality to fit in, and has the potential to fare better than Jordon Ibe, who’s struggled to live up to his transfer fee after swapping Anfield for Bournemouth.
However, while Ibe was arguably one-dimensional upon his arrival from Merseyside, and doesn’t always look like he has the technical quality to thrive at Bournemouth, Solanke could be a genuine asset for the southerners.
“He adds a slightly different dynamic to our front line," Howe told journalists. "He can hold the ball up in play, he’s technically gifted, has a good physical presence and all-round he’s a very good player.”
Fitting him into the current system halfway through the season represents a challenge for both player and manager alike, and it will be interesting to see how he fares amidst considerable competition at the club.
Veteran Jermain Defoe may have departed for Glasgow Rangers, but the likes of Callum Wilson, Josh King and Ibe still represent significant competition for places.
It also remains to be seen what Solanke’s confidence and fitness will be like following his inactivity at Liverpool to date this term, particularly as he recovers from a hamstring problem.
Unlike earlier in his career, it feels like there’s a lot standing in the youngster’s path to success these days.
Fortunately, Howe has demonstrated an ability to make effective Premier League operators out of discarded, underachieving or unheralded players in the past.
Can he repeat his magic with the immensely talented Solanke?