When he signed we couldn't contain our joy. Soldado was a top European striker, who had come from sunny Spain to play at White Hart Lane. Surely glory was just around the corner? Today though watching him toil away in our shirt is a sorry sight. He should have been great.
There is something undeniably sad about looking at Roberto Soldado. Every time I see him trudge away from the pitch or warm up with enthusiasm down the sideline, I cant help but feel a pang of guilt. Did I do this to him? Did we? Rather like those adverts for war torn parts of the world where the individual stares back at you, guilt grips my insides and tries to pull them out through my belly button. Soldado was a thing of beauty, a dangerous predator, a calculated assassin, now he is nothing.
In the summer of the Le Grand Depart when we lost our star, our concerns about selling 30+ points was eased as we were finally buying a striker. I remember the opening pod of Season 3 on The Fighting Cock, it was ecstasy.
“We have signed a striker.” “Finally Levy gave us what we always needed.” “A striker, oh yeah.”
Think back to those transfer windows where we urged Daniel Levy to sign a striker that wasn’t tall and Polish or old and French. We were desperate for a class striker, then flush with cash he delivered. He opened his wallet, went to Spain and signed an international class striker. A striker that had only been outscored in La Liga by Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. I remember his goal for Spain at The Confederations Cup, it was unerring. One touch then goal. It was something that Jermain Defoe had lost and Emmanuel Adebayor has never had.
It wasn’t instinctive, it was something far colder. Football is littered with fantastic instinctive strikers; Pippo Inzaghi, Gary Lineker, Paolo Rossi, but it was something else in Soldado that had me excited. It was the fact that it was a premeditated decision and action. Even in his one-touch goals you could see the workings of his mind. Those eyes, that face, even the hair, he had the characteristics of a cold bloodied executioner. He put the opposition to the sword with a flourish, then calmly wiped his blade on his cloak and slotted it back into his scabbard.
Even in his one-touch goals you could see the workings of his mind. Those eyes, that face, even the hair, he had the characteristics of a cold bloodied executioner
He had it all. Then he lost it. That danger, that ice cold viciousness has disappeared. I see sorrow where I saw danger. I see a man pleading for release.
Soldado hasn’t had an easy career. He has had to work to make it as a top European striker. Despite being nurtured at youth level by Real Madrid, he was never given the opportunity to make a name for himself. A handful of sub appearances and a successful loan spell at Osasuna were not enough save him, even being given the number 9 shirt for the 2007/08 season could not protect him. Soldado was sold to Getafe for 4 million Euros in the summer of 2008. He had failed at Madrid, but he wasn’t the first nor will he be the last to be cast from the Bernabeu.
This however proved to be a turning point for Soldado. He then allowed goals to guide him. At Getafe he scored 29 in 60 appearances, a goal to game ratio that El Gata could not keep hidden. After David Villa starred at the 2010 World Cup, Barcelona pounced, leaving Valencia devoid of a striker, the Mestalla club turned to Soldado to replace their legend. At first the Valencia fans were unsure, but once again his goals convinced them. In three seasons, playing 141 games he bagged 81 goals, a brilliant return for a striker not at one of La Liga’s top two.
At first the Valencia fans were unsure, but once again his goals convinced them
Once again though his goals were too big for Valencia, Soldado was destined to leave Los Che eventually, it was only a matter of time before someone triggered the £30 million Euro release clause. Surprisingly it was Spurs and history repeated itself, Soldado was once again replacing another fan favourite and idol, although this time he was greeted with enthusiasm and applause. He had “come from sunny Spain to play at White Hart Lane” there was a question on all our lips and it wasn’t:
“When would the goals come?”
A thirty goals a season striker has always been our dream. It is what we have always lacked, that consistent performer. At Spurs we have grown up with individuals with the ability to grace, thrill and amaze, but all too often its fleeting. It is in the end what set Gareth Bale apart and what has made him a club legend, despite not winning anything. Legends deliver when the club need it the most, towards the end of his career Bale delivered every time. Soldado was meant to fill that void, instead it has sucked him in and not let him go.
It had started reasonably well for Soldado. A few penalties here and there, a lovely finish away at Villa and some goals in the Europa League. He seemed to be settling, even if the team around him were starting to malfunction. We knew the system didn’t quite work for him, but we had faith that he, the manager and the players would sort it out. They didn’t.
There were occasional flashes of class such as his hat trick against Anzhi at White Hart Lane in December, but by 2014 the goals had dried up
When opportunities presented themselves they went untaken. A half chance that at Valencia would have been dispatched, at Spurs bobbled wide or hit the keeper. His coolness had been lost, but surprisingly we kept faith. We took into account his homesickness, his wife’s miscarriage and the tumultuous end to AVB’s reign. There were occasional flashes of class such as his hat trick against Anzhi at White Hart Lane in December, but by 2014 the goals had dried up.
I was in the Park Lane when he slotted home against Cardiff in March, the explosion of joy was unbelievable, we thought that would be the start of a goal flood, instead it was just a sole rain drop in a spring desert of disappointment. No further goals followed and the former Spanish international found himself not only behind the recalled Adebayor, but academy product Harry Kane.
I know it’s useless using the 2013/14 season as a barometer of success. That year we hardly saw Erik Lamela, Vlad Chiriches looked composed and classy and Paulinho scored goals. It’s a write off of a season, but the new campaign has started in a similar way for Soldado. Despite an encouraging preseason where he seemed to rediscover his love for the game and form an understanding with Lamela, it has tailed off. Whether this is a mental problem on his part, or the simple fact he isn’t good enough to lead our line, is a question we from outside the club can not answer.
Despite an encouraging preseason where he seemed to rediscover his love for the game and form an understanding with Lamela, it has tailed off
What we can see however is a man struggling. A man who despite failing at Madrid had the determination to become one of the top strikers on the continent.Today though he finds himself third choice at a club whose strikers have managed 6 goals in 17 appearances between them. Something has gone wrong here, something at Spurs doesn’t suit him, the more time that ebbs away the less faith I have that he will find the answer to his problems.
Watching Soldado toil away now brings nothing but sorrow. When he is on the bench I know he wont come on, when he starts I know he will withdrawn. He needs to leave as I have now come to terms he will not rediscover what made him great at White Hart Lane. It’s heartbreaking to see and it’s disappointing to know that even when we sign a 30+ goal a season, striker we don’t.
I am truly sorry it hasn’t worked for us, or for him. Good luck Roberto.