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Friday, April 3, 2020

mo4ch:> Dominic Solanke: Where did it go wrong? | Mo4ch News

The precocious former NxGn talent was tipped for greatness in his youth, but hasn’t come anywhere close to hitting the expected heights

Chelsea’s Dominic Solanke had the world at his feet in his teens.

This is evidenced by an impressive collection of trophies and individual accolades he acquired while coming through the youth teams at Cobham.

The striker won the Uefa Youth League, U-21 Premier League title and FA Youth Cup (twice) with Chelsea, while he fared really well on the international stage too; claiming the Uefa European U-17 Championship in 2017 as well as the big one in Tunisia, the Fifa U-20 World Cup, which was held in 2017.

Solanke wasn’t just a bystander in the aforementioned successes, either; he was top scorer in that UYL triumph with 14 goals, while he similarly topped the scoring charts in the European Championship in 2014, scoring four times. The jewel in the crown, however, was winning the Golden Ball at the finals in Tunisia, an award presented to the player of the tournament.

He achieved the aforementioned before his 20th birthday, which highlights the upward trajectory he seemed to be taking in 2017.

So how is Solanke, three years later, rotting away at Bournemouth having failed to score in over a thousand minutes of Premier League football, across 24 matches?

Dominic Solanke Italy England U20

For any Chelsea academy graduate that fails to make the cut, the club’s constant managerial upheaval is brought forward as the major contributory factor, and for obvious reason.

Roman Abramovich is said to demand instant success from every new employee, which accordingly leads them to favour veterans at the expense of the club’s really impressive collection of youth players.

After Jose Mourinho returned in 2013-14, he opted to sign Samuel Eto’o for a year, to compete with Fernando Torres and Demba Ba to lead the line. Having seen the Blues finish a staggering 14 points behind Manchester United, the Portuguese coach was desperate to close the gap at the top of the table.

Solanke, admittedly, wasn’t near the first-team picture at the time, yet that campaign could’ve seen him introduced as the third-choice frontman.

Mourinho was successful in bridging the chasm at the summit of the log (they still finished third, but ended four points behind Manchester City who had 86), leading some to suggest his plan was a success. Eto’o left at the end of the campaign with nine league goals, the second-highest in the side. Torres and Ba scored five each.

Samuel Eto'o v Fernando Torres v Jose Mourinho

At the start of 2014-15, months after the talented Anglo-Nigerian signed his first professional contract at the club, the signings of the world class Diego Costa, Loic Remy and the sentimental return of Didier Drogba meant he wasn’t going to get much of a look in throughout the campaign.

The Blues won the Premier League for the first time in five years and added a League Cup success, but Solanke’s path to the first-team wasn’t clear, and it was no surprise he left for Vitesse Arnhem on a season-long loan in 2015.

Upon his return from a spell in the Eredivisie, which produced seven goals in 25 appearances (the third club’s highest scorer), the 18-year-old found the club had brought in Michy Batshuayi rather than put faith in his ability to continue his development.

In the end, he didn’t make a single appearance for the first-team and having grown frustrated with a lack of opportunities, departed for Liverpool.

The transfer to the Reds seemed odd at the time as it seemed the teenager wouldn’t get game time at Anfield either as he’d have to battle Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino for a starting role.

Dom Solanke Liverpool 2018

Ultimately, so it proved and the frontman was to become frustrated again, leading to a Bournemouth transfer in January 2019.

With the benefit of hindsight, and having seen how Jurgen Klopp’s side have played in the attacking phase in the last two campaigns, Solanke's skillset might have actually made him a valuable addition to the German tactician's side.

Solanke’s ability to play with and combine well with teammates, something Firmino expertly thrives at, convinced the Merseyside giants to swoop in 2017 but he was far from ready; lacked the tactical maturity and well-rounded technical ability to play like the Brazilian nine-and-a-half.

Things haven’t improved at Bournemouth, with the once promising attacker thoroughly underperforming following a big-money transfer to the Vitality Stadium.

Dominic Solanke Bournemouth

Solanke is yet to open his Premier League account for the Cherries despite playing just over 1500 minutes of football, with a pair of assists serving as his only goal contributions since the transfer.

The Chelsea academy product was let down by his childhood club’s apparent lack of a career path, while the Reds’ move probably came too soon for a player Mourinho spoke really highly of in 2014.

“My conscience tells me that if, for example, [Lewis] Baker, [Izzy] Brown, and [Dominic] Solanke are not national team players in a few years, I should blame myself,’ the ex-Blues' boss acknowledged nearly six years ago. “They are part of a process the club started without me.

"In this moment, we have players who will be Chelsea players, and when they become Chelsea players, they will become England players, almost for sure.”

Unfortunately, the one-time precocious talent isn’t even close to the Three Lions’ setup as he continues to drift away into obscurity, although in this instance it would be hard for Mourinho to entirely blame himself.

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Dominic Solanke: Where did it go wrong?

Dominic Solanke: Where did it go wrong?