It is Spurs’ new striker Roberto Soldado who once said this of Real Madrid, “Madrid? They develop good players but then put their faith in foreign signings”. It was at Madrid where it all began for Soldado, though he was mostly restricted to the Castilla, the B team, making just four appearances for the senior side before leaving on loan for Osasuna.
Back at Madrid, he was limited to another five appearances, so he left for Getafe, then Valencia and now Spurs, where he becomes the last member of Spain’s recent Confederations Cup squad to be playing at Barcelona, Real Madrid or overseas.
So the hegemony of the La Liga big 2 shows no sign of slowing down and the solution to the players is clear; if you wish to challenge for trophies at the highest level, either join Barcelona or Madrid, or leave Spain. That is what Soldado has done, departing Valencia for Tottenham for a fee of £26 million, a sum that breaks Spurs’ previous transfer record by around £8 million.
Why Spurs have gone to such lengths to land him is evident. Not only do they need reinforcements to a striking line that boasts only Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor, but in Soldado they have one that has scored 81 goals in three seasons at Valencia and was La Liga’s top scoring Spaniard in 2012. That was a year which ended with Soldado being omitted from Spain’s European Championship squad, a decision that manager Vincent Del Bosque based on his irregular form and an overriding temptation to stick to the use of a false-9.
Accusations of the striker’s patchy form can be prevalent, he can experience goal-droughts such as the 8 games without a goal last season or the 14 game run of the season before in which he hit just 2 goals.
There are also accusations that he can often miss easy chances and that he relies too much on service, though he should have no problem addressing the latter problem at Spurs with Aaron Lennon, Nacer Chadli, Paulinho and maybe even Gareth Bale, should he resist the overtures of Real Madrid, supplying his armoury in the forthcoming season.
Any potential problems will instead fall at the hands of Premier League defences having to deal with his superb movement and excellent hold-up play that was so effective at Valencia in linking with Ever Benega behind him in the hole, and Sofiane Feghouli and Jonas on the wings.
Soldado can operate on the shoulder of the last defender in anticipation of the through ball, but his game is mostly drilled towards dropping off, holding-up the ball and moving it wide before getting in the box in deadly anticipation for a delivery.
Therefore, he should be a perfect fit for Andre-Villas Boas’s favoured 4-2-3-1 and with the standard of player in supply of him, he should be good value to have a successful inauguration to the Premier League.
There will be little issue over his determination and drive to succeed, mostly feeding on his predatory instinct to relentlessly pressurise defences until chances present themselves. Soldado himself calls it “the striker’s advantage”, how a defender can be on top for the majority of a match before a forward can strike, and he will be the one remembered for it.
His rugged desire and will to win can manifest itself in a less than admirable disciplinary record that reads 53 yellow cards from a total of 212 career appearances, including the ten he received last year. They are mostly down to confronting referees and clashing with defenders, suggesting a sharp competitive edge that should prime Soldado for the intense demands of Premier League football.
Mostly though, Soldado guarantees goals, a run of 25, 27 and 30 at Valencia following up his 33 goals from 66 games in his two year spell at Getafe is indication of his potency. With a new crowd and Vincent Del Bosque, who has never been overly-convinced with Soldado since overseeing his progression as a youngster whilst Real Madrid coach in the mid ’00s, to impress in a World Cup year, expect more goals and a sprinkle of attitude from Tottenham’s record signing.