Following a fantastic week for the England youth sides, I have decided to do a weekly edition of English talent, which will highlight the promise of one player each week. On the back of a memorable World Cup victory for England Under-20s, there is no one better to kick off with than player of the tournament, Dominic Solanke.
Solanke has moved through the youth ranks at Chelsea and with England largely under the public radar, but following his fantastic contribution towards England winning the Under-20s World Cup, people now can’t help but take notice. The young striker netted four times in the competition, bagging two crucial goals in the semi-finals against Italy. Solanke has recently agreed on a deal with Liverpool, following the expiration of his contract at Chelsea. Let’s take a look at his career so far, his style of play, and discuss just how good this young man could be.
Chelsea spotted the potential of Solanke 13 years ago, at just the age of 6. In his time progressing through the youth ranks, goals have certainly not been hard to come by. During the 2013-14 season, the youngster bagged 20 times in 25 games for the Under-18s side. The following season, Solanke’s fantastic youth record continued as he scored an incredible 41 goals. That same season, at just 17, Solanke became Chelsea’s youngest ever player to feature in the Champions League, coming off the bench against NK Maribor. On the back of that game, captain John Terry said, “Believe me, this is just the first of many games in a Chelsea shirt for him.” Unfortunately, that would be his only ever competitive appearance for the senior team.
During pre-season of the 2015-16 campaign, the youngster notched his first senior goal, all be it in a friendly match against Thailand All-Stars. With the reality of Solanke’s first team chances being slim, he headed out on loan to Dutch outfit, Vitesse; where he would go on to score 7 goals in 25 matches. Since returning from his loan, the last year has been a frustrating one for Solanke. Despite Chelsea only having two senior strikers at the club, the young man wasn’t given a chance in the first team. Solanke has also been embroiled in a contract row, with the two parties failing to agree upon terms. Chelsea boss Antonio Conte admitted that the youngster’s future may lie away elsewhere, and that is now the case, as Solanke has agreed upon a pre-contract with Liverpool.
The striker has represented England at all youth team levels, scoring 28 goals in 55 matches. In 2014, Solanke was part of the England Under-17s side that won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, in which Solanke was the joint top goalscorer, with four goals in as many appearances. Solanke’s performances were shown due recognition as he claimed the award for being England’s Youth Player of the Year for 2014. His potential was then rewarded by Roy Hodgson in 2015 when he was given an opportunity to train with the England senior squad.
As previously mentioned, Solanke played an integral part in the England Under-20s World Cup 2017 win in South Korea. Many believe that the 19-year-old has the credentials to play a big part in the senior team over the coming years, but with Solanke also being eligible to represent Nigeria, hopefully, his first cap is not too far away.
Style of play
Solanke is predominantly a striker, but he can operate in other attacking positions, either just behind a centre-forward or in a wide position. But he is definitely at his most dangerous in a forward position. Believe me, this young boy has it all. Whether it’s holding the ball up and bringing teammates into play, facing up and beating defenders, or hitting long-range efforts at goal, Solanke can do it all. He also seems to understand the importance of defending from the front as he constantly chases down lost causes.
There has been a few comparisons made to former and current Premier League stars. Solanke’s former youth team coach at Chelsea, Adrian Viveash, said, “I have been very lucky as I have worked with some very talented players, but Dominic is right up there at the top of that list. He is an outstanding footballer. He’s intelligent and has great movement. He plays like a No 9 and a No 10 put together. Without being disrespectful, he reminds me of Teddy Sheringham but quicker.”
Personally, I can see flashes of Harry Kane in Solanke. This is due to his direct play, fearless attitude, and confidence to shoot from anywhere with the goal in sight. Another comparison to be made is Nicolas Anelka, given the pace and power he possesses with the ball at his feet. One area to work on is creativity and awareness, but he is still a raw talent and this will hopefully come with experience.
If you want to check out more of Solanke for yourself, here is a short video:
Solanke was the Chelsea graduate who was regarded as being destined for big things. Back in 2014, then Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said, “If, in a few years, Solanke is not a national team player, I should blame myself.” Quotes like that, from one of the world’s best managers, shows just how much talent the frontman has. He really needs to start getting games at first-team level, though, in order for his development to not be stalled further. But, now that he has left Chelsea, his chances have grown massively. Although Solanke won’t be the first choice immediately at Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp is known for putting faith in youngsters, so he will surely be featuring in the first team sooner or later.
As Solanke has shown so much promise throughout his youth career, there is nothing stopping him carrying that forward into first-team football. With the qualities the striker possesses, don’t be surprised to see him performing on the international stage, and attracting big transfer fees in the future.
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