Benik Afobe has had a whirlwind 18 months. After bursting onto the scene in a prolific loan spell at MK Dons in the first half of last season, the striker then earned a move to Wolves and now a club-record move to AFC Bournemouth in the Premier League.
But it wasn’t always like that for the Cherries new man, who suffered two serious injuries, which provided him with plenty to overcome before he made it to the top.
Shoot takes a look at Afobe and his rise to the England’s elite division.
Where did it all start?
Benik Afobe came through the ranks at Arsenal. The striker joined the Gunners in 2001, aged six, after he was spotted playing for Sunday league team Eclipse FC in Dagenham by scout Gary Nott. In the 2007/08 season he scored 40 goals for the U16s and continued his fine goalscoring trend by netting 21 times in 24 appearances for the U18s in the 2009/10 campaign.
What happened next?
Afobe was subject to reported interest from Spanish giants Barcelona before he penned a professional contract with Arsenal in 2010. After uninspiring loan spells at Huddersfield Town, Reading, Bolton Wanderers, Millwall and Sheffield Wednesday he burst onto the scene at the beginning of the 2014/15 season with MK Dons after dropping down to League One.
He scored 10 goals in 22 appearances for the Dons before attracting interest from Wolves in the 2014 January transfer window. The forward finally left Arsenal permanently after 14 years at the club and continued his impressive goalscoring record at Molineux in the second half of the 2014/15 season.
His form attracted further interest from Premier League clubs over the course of the summer of 2015 but it wasn’t until January that he earned his move to the top flight with AFC Bournemouth.
On January 10, Afobe joined the Cherries in a reported £10m deal, he described it as a “life long dream” to finally be able to play in the Premier League in a recent twitter post.
What makes Afobe’s story so remarkable?
Whilst Afobe was at Millwall in 2013 he suffered cruciate knee ligament damage, which ended his subsequent loan spell and season. He also suffered a complicated groin injury, which he was out for over six months. Injuries on this scale can end a player’s career before it has even began, so his move to AFC Bournemouth appears to be even more impressive. But what it also shows is younger players to never give up on playing professionally despite suffering setbacks. As well as that he endured a number of difficult loan spells in the Championship where he scored 13 goals in 79 games which hardly show the potential and talent he has.
Afobe’s best attributes…
Afobe made his debut for AFC Bournemouth on Tuesday evening but failed to make the impact manager Eddie Howe was hoping. He also uncharacteristically missed a couple of decent opportunities. His own assessment of his performance was that he didn’t normally miss those type of chances and he will be thinking positively for the upcoming fixtures.
Although the Cherries fans didn’t see a performance that merited the £10m transfer fee they can expect their new striker to play his best football as a forward who likes to operate in a central position but can play on either wing and as a supporting striker. When he was at Wolves he had an overall shot accuracy percentage of 74% and tended to score the majority of his goals when he aimed low at the goal. Data suggests that he is not a selfish striker and his average pass accuracy is 78%.
He is a player who likes to play on the last man and utilises his pace and power to make defenders’ life a misery.
What does the future hold…
Afobe is arguably at the perfect club to thrive and develop his game further. Under manager Eddie Howe he will be aiming to develop the way Callum Wilson did when he joined from Coventry. With two U21 England caps to his name there’s still plenty to be done before Roy Hodgson will take an interest in him, but don’t be surprised to see him knocking on the door in the near future.
Super Stat: Benik Afobe scored 22 goals in 2015, finishing the calendar year as the sixth top goalscorer in England.