Rewind a couple of years and Dominic Solanke was on loan at Vitesse Arnhem in his first tangible foray into senior football. He’d been scoring for fun at every youth level and on the international stage with England as well; great things were to come from Dom.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all rosy in Arnhem as Solanke managed only 7 goals all season, though he had learned a great deal about life in senior professional football and was ready to kick on with perhaps another loan, to the Championship.
But this is where things began to go truly haywire. The youngster became embroiled in a contract dispute, reportedly demanding first-team playing time assurances and unreasonable wages via his agent. He later refuted some of those stories, but the end result was that he practically wasted last season in the reserves and ran his contract down before moving to Liverpool in the summer.
Wait, Liverpool? The same club that’s challenging for a Champions League place and doesn’t have that much better a record of integrating youth than Chelsea? That’s right, Solanke was never really moving to much greener pastures in Merseyside, although he has seen far greater first-team involvement than he might’ve had here. Of his 17 appearances in the league, most have been off the bench but he’s still often looked lacking at the top level. Solanke is still a rough diamond and if he’d have stayed, would’ve probably followed a similar development path as Tammy Abraham back at Chelsea, who enjoyed an excellent goal-scoring season with Bristol City in the Championship before cutting his teeth in the Premier League with Swansea.
Nevertheless, here’s Dom’s take on his situation on the fringes at Liverpool.
“It’s always frustrating when not playing but I’m enjoying it at Liverpool. You can say it’s different (to Chelsea).
“Being at Liverpool there’s a lot of competition and there are going to be tough times but coming to England (Under-21s) is always another time to express yourself. There are crazy players at Liverpool, especially in my position, and I’ve definitely learned a lot. You always have to take the positives and we are doing so well at the moment. The front players have been phenomenal, its a good lesson.
- Dominic Solanke; source: Mail
Oh, but is it really that different from Chelsea? All said and done, Solanke still needs a regular season of football and goals under his belt at a respectable level. He was kept around in the squad this season upon the departure of Divock Origi on loan, who was at the stage in his development when he simply couldn’t afford another season as an impact substitute. That may well be Solanke come next summer, especially given Liverpool’s wealth of attacking options. Gradual integration is simply not the name of the game for top 4 Premier League sides, at least when it comes to attacking players.
As a long-term admirer of Solanke as an elite prospect, I’d love nothing more than for him to prove me wrong and have a Marcus Rashford-esque emergence at Liverpool but I suspect he’ll end up following the trodden path of going out on loan and proving himself first... like he would’ve done at Chelsea, destroyers of youth.