David Datro Fofana emerged as one of European football’s brightest attacking prospects in 2022 and is set to embark on the next stage of his young career in west London after completing a move to Chelsea from recently crowned Norwegian champions Molde.
David Datro Fofana started his football career in the capital of his homeland the Ivory Coast, with Abidjan City, before catching the eye at the Amadou Diallo Football Academy, where he showed himself to be one of the African game’s most promising teenage talents and received attention from several European clubs.
The 18-year-old’s chosen destination when making the move abroad at the start of 2021 was the Norwegian first division and Molde, convinced into joining the same club where another teenage striker, Erling Haaland, had first impressed in the top flight by the prospect of first-team football in Europe.
Fofana made an instant impact in Norway, scoring an important and dramatic goal on his debut, just two weeks after completing his transfer to Molde at the start of February 2021. He was introduced as a substitute in the first leg of a Europa League knockout tie against Hoffenheim with his side trailing 3-1 and 25 minutes remaining, playing his part in an impressive comeback by scoring the equalizer 10 minutes after coming on, securing a 3-3 draw. That allowed Molde to progress to the last 16 with a victory in the second leg, Fofana then featuring in both legs of a narrow 3-2 aggregate defeat to Granada in the next round in March.
Due to the summer season in Norway, the young striker had to wait until May for his next chance to impress, again coming off the bench on the opening day of the league campaign, before being handed his first start in a home loss to Valerenga. That proved to be his only league start of the 2021 season for a Molde side which finished second in the Eliteserien, as the club eased the 18-year-old into his new surroundings, although he was a frequent substitute.
It was a different story in the 2021/22 Norwegian FA Cup, though, where Fofana’s potential was clearly on display in Molde’s victorious run. He registered two goals and two assists in three starts during the early rounds of the competition, most notably when providing one of each in another incredible comeback, this time against fellow top-flight side Odds in the last 16. Following a 1-1 draw , Molde found themselves trailing 2-1 with less than five minutes of extra time left, when Fofana made his mark on the tie in emphatic style. First the Ivorian slotted in from a cross to equalise, before, just two minutes later, his own cross produced a dramatic winner to grab what had seemed an unlikely victory.
Fofana had clearly done enough for a more prominent role in the team as he started both of their first two league games in 2022. Unfortunately, in the latter, he was forced off with an injury and would not return until the end of the following month . However, when he did get back into the action, he did so with a bang. After opening the scoring on his return from him in a cup win over Herd and a promising cameo from the bench in the league, he never looked back.
Fofana continued his penchant for the dramatic with his first league goal in Norway, netting the winner in a 2-1 victory less than two minutes after the home side had scored a second-half equaliser. It was the first of six he would score in as many league games, helping propel his side into title contention.
That form saw him become an increasingly important member of the team’s line-up, but it was his next appearance from the bench which underlined the explosive impact he can have on games. Fofana was called upon in the 86th minute away at Jerv, moments after the home side had scored two quick goals to level the game at 2-2. Unperturbed, the teenager promptly put Molde back in front in the last minute of normal time, before settling matters with his second goal of the match, and ninth of the season in the league, in injury time.
Fofana grew in confidence and finished 2022 with an impressive run of six goals in as many games as an increasingly dominant Molde secured the Eliteserien title by a comfortable margin. Overall he managed a healthy total of 15 goals in 24 league appearances for the season, making him Molde’s highest scorer, in addition to four Europa Conference League goals.
Fofana’s form for Molde also earned him full international recognition with the Ivory Coast, when he featured from the start of the country’s 4-0 friendly win over Burundi last month. His only previous senior international involvement had come at the age of just 16, when he received a solitary cap in September 2019 for a qualifying match against Niger in the African Nations Championship, a continental competition for which only those playing club football in their native domestic leagues are eligible.