By 90Min
January 05, 2019

The next Didier Drogba. That was the level of comparison being made when a 17-year-old Dominic Solanke became Chelsea's youngest ever Champions League player when the Blues faced Maribor back in October 2014. 

Club captain John Terry proudly remarked, "Believe me, it's the first of many in a Chelsea shirt." As fate would have it, that would be Solanke's one and only senior appearance for the club.

Chelsea FC v NK Maribor - UEFA Champions League

At both Chelsea and Liverpool, Solanke played under managers like Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp; both with an unbelievable amount of pedigree in the European game, but with an insistence on playing their way. No more, no less. For a natural talent like Solanke, his progress was ultimately stifled. 

A striker, with so much more to his game than his predatory instinct inside the area, was forced to run the hard yards in the channels, hustle opposition centre-backs. Press, press, press. To say the forward was unsuited to both managers' style of play would be an understatement.

But in Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe, Solanke will relish the opportunity to not only play more regularly, but also reconnect with his natural game. For all of Bournemouth's dynamic work off the ball, Howe gives his attack the licence to interchange and support the link-up play. Indeed, former Chelsea youth-team coach Adil Viveash who oversaw Solanke's development at Stamford Bridge is clear in the qualities the young forward could potentially bring.

He said (as quoted by Sky Sports News): "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."

So whilst on the face of it Solanke's decision to join Bournemouth in a £19m deal might be strange, given the competition he will face in Callum Wilson and Josh King, the England international's ability to play as a lone striker or as part of a partnership bodes well for his chances at regular football. 

He has the quality to drop off into midfield and thread balls through, but equally have the strength and cuteness to run defenders ragged all by himself. Indeed, if Solanke needed any inspiration that he could still carve out a successful career, then he should no look further than England teammate Jadon Sancho.

Italy U21 v England U21 - International Friendly

As has been the case with Sancho at Borussia Dortmund, trust and freedom go a long way in getting the best out of a young prodigy. Manchester City weren't willing to take a chance amidst the pressures of titles and instant success; Dortmund were, and are now reaping rich rewards. Bournemouth will hope that playing in an environment where the spotlight shines a little less brighter, can take the pressure off the 21-year-old's shoulders and allow him to flourish. 

In Howe, Solanke has a manager unafraid of taking risks with younger players and an understanding of how to coach players. Upon confirmation of the signing, Howe said (as quoted by the club's official website): "Dominic is technically gifted, very athletic and has the physical profile that will give us something different in our front line."

For Solanke, the job is clear. Make the 'something different' become the norm. Make the manager trust you as the side's number one striker. And ultimately, make both Liverpool and Chelsea regret the day they decided you weren't good enough.

Premier League Asia Trophy - Day 1 

The next Didier Drogba or Teddy Sheringham? Maybe not. But Dominic Solanke becoming the player Dominic Solanke promised to be? Well, that's one hell of a striker

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