The 19-year-old will be leaving Chelsea this summer after rejecting a new deal, with Celtic said to be interested in his services. Here’s everything you need to know about the English striker of Nigerian descent.
Liverpool are favourites to land him
It’s going to be tough to bring the player to Celtic Park as it’s being reported he’s keen to join Liverpool. There’s also competition from elsewhere in the English Premier League with Arsenal, Everton, West Ham United and newly-promoted Newcastle United credited as being interested in his talents.
Celtic’s one advantage is that they can offer something those other clubs can’t: regular first-team football on a winning team. If Solanke went to the likes of Liverpool, Everton or Arsenal, he’d likely be in a similar position to the one he is now. It wouldn’t quench his thirst for first-team football, which is supposed to be his motivation behind leaving Stamford Bridge. If he goes to one of the other sides, he might get more chance to play, but there’s a likelihood the team will struggle. Impatient fans and young strikers don’t mix all that well.
Comparisons with Moussa Dembele are obvious and may help Celtic get their man. It’s easy enough for clubs to say, “come here, be a star,” but it’s a stronger sell when there’s a recent example to back up those words.
He did not ask for £50k per week
Stories circulated earlier this year that Solanke had rejected the offer of a new contract because he was demanding £50,000 per week, which would immediately price him out of Celtic’s budget. However, these reports were wide of the mark, with the Telegraph going as far as to print a retraction.
What is true is that Celtic will only have to pay around £800,000 in compensation if Solanke chooses the Ladbrokes Premiership champions. It’s exactly the same situation as Dembele, where cross-border compensation rules mean the Parkhead club will only be required to fork over a fraction of the cost compared to English Premier League sides.
He’s the hero of two youth cup finals
Regardless of how Solanke’s career pans out, it’ll be a long time before he forgets the highs of the 2014-15 season. The striker was instrumental in winning Chelsea both the FA Youth Cup and the UEFA Youth League, scoring in both finals. It was the FA Cup, in particular, where he made headlines, netting twice in the last seven minutes to turn a 6-5 aggregate deficit into a 7-6 victory over a Fulham side that featured Parkhead favourite Patrick Roberts.
The following year he moved to Vitesse Arnhem in the Dutch top flight, netting seven times in 26 appearances for a side that started off brightly but faded in the second half of the campaign, finishing ninth.
He’s quick, skilful and has the build to be physically dominant
Solanke is a raw talent. He’s got some ways to go before realising his full potential, though it’s clear he’s got everything you could want in a striker. He’s quick, has a good touch, can produce a bit of skill, is strong in the air and has a solid build on him. If he puts it altogether he will be a dominating forward at the highest level for years to come.
The biggest knock on him at present is his ability to effectively dribble with the ball and hold up play. With the other talents at his disposal, you can envision him adding these attributes to his game, he just needs to learn.
He’s more of a drifter than Dembele
Highlighted by some of Scottish football’s analytical observers earlier this season was Moussa Dembele’s tendency to stay between the width of the posts. Quite simply, if you’re in these areas, then it becomes easier to score. Solanke, in contrast, is happier to drift into wide areas or even drop deep.
He started his career as Chelsea’s youth system as a No.10 and has played on the wings. Although he doesn’t have the vision to thrive in the roles down south, he should still be devastating from those areas in Scottish football. Therefore, don’t read too much into how Celtic’s interest relates to Dembele’s future. The two could just as easily play in the same team.