Solanke’s (last) big chance?

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Bournemouth pulled off the surprise of the Transfer Window on Friday with the capture of Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke.

The England Under 21 was signed for £19 million just 18 months on from arriving at Anfield. Solanke moving on isn’t a surprise having not made a senior appearance this season, but most expected a loan move to a goal-shy side in the Premier League’s bottom third.

Instead he’s signed a permanent deal with a mid table side looking towards Europe and under the management of England’s brightest young coach. So why did it turn sower at Liverpool and where can Solanke go from here?

Changing times at Liverpool

Solanke arrived at Liverpool fresh from his Player of the Tournament award at the Under 20 World Cup. Jurgen Klopp was excited by Solanke’s potential, the player having opted to cut his losses at Chelsea. Initially Solanke seemed to be on the right track at Liverpool as a near ever-present in Klopp’s match day squads having pushed ahead of the injury prone Daniel Sturridge and young Welsh international Ben Woodburn.

But with Liverpool’s front three immovable Solanke’s best chance of a run in the team would come in the domestic cups, but Liverpool suffered early exits in both. Solanke made 27 Liverpool appearances last season but only 5 starts.

Solanke’s final appearance for Liverpool came on the last day of the Premier League season as Liverpool secured their Champions League place and Solanke bagged his first senior goal. But when Mo Salah was forced off in the Champions League Final, Klopp ignored Solanke and turned instead to a half fit Adam Lallana.

With their place in the Champions League secure and the need to push for the Premier League title, Klopp made big moves in the summer transfer market pushing the likes of Woodburn and Solanke back to the fringes. Notably Solanke’s place as the go to frontman on the bench was taken by Swiss International Xherdan Shaqiri, whilst Divock Origi returned from loan and a fitter, leaner Daniel Sturridge pushed Solanke further down the pecking order. Solanke has continued to impress with England’s Under 21s, notching 8 goals from just 15 caps but the need for first team football was paramount to his development and a move simply had to happen this month.

A Career at the Crossroads

At 21 Solanke couldn’t wait any longer to gain first team football, that was his reason for leaving Chelsea in the first place where a string of hugely promising youngsters simply failed to turn potential into a top flight career, indeed the Championship is flush with former Chelsea academy products trying to course correct their careers.

The path to the Bournemouth first team is easier than Liverpool’s, but Bournemouth’s own holy trinity of Ryan Fraser, Josh King and Callum Wilson won’t be easily moved from their first team starts. It should create an interesting contest at international level too with Solanke and Wilson potentially battling for the same place in Gareth Southgate’s squad.

Solanke will be reunited with his Under 20 World Cup winning captain, Lewis Cook. Cook is currently out with an ACL injury but did win his first senior call up with Bournemouth. However another former Liverpool prospect, Jordan Ibe provides a more cautionary tale. After arriving for £15million the young winger has struggled to make an impact at the Vitality Stadium.

Like so many of England’s promising youngsters, Solanke has potential but needs to play if he’s to realise it. He’s showed great promise at the Under 20 World Cup, flashed his talent occasionally at Liverpool and has been prolific for the Under 21s. However it’s worth remembering England’s joint record goalscorers at Under 21 level are Alan Shearer and Francis Jeffers, their contrasting careers sum up the crossroads at which Solanke currently finds himself, let’s hope that his future is more Alan and less Franny ‘fox in the box!’

 

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