The opportunity to start afresh under a new manager at Tottenham would appear to be on the table for Roberto Soldado, but if reports are to be believed, the club’s hierarchy have run out of patience with the Spanish striker and will look to offload him at some stage this summer.
The past 12 months has seen a mighty fall for the 29-year-old. Initially tipped to lead Tottenham into the Champions League, as he had done with Valencia on more than one occasion in the past, Soldado has done surprisingly little to repay the £26 million spent on him by the north London club.
The consensus was that Tottenham were not set up to get the best out of him. At Valencia, he was the team’s focal point. Soldado had hard workers flanking him and midfielders looking to release him through on goal. At Tottenham under Andre Villas-Boas, he cut an isolated figure in attack, seeing inverted wide players carve opportunities for themselves and little coming through the centre of the pitch.
What kept him going was the enormous fee spent on him, as well as the sporadic conversions from the penalty spot.
But Soldado’s time in the Premier League looks to be coming to an end. Atletico Madrid are said to be interested in bringing him back to Spain to replace the Chelsea-bound Diego Costa. Soldado had a forgettable, demoralising season in English football, but his recent history in Spain remains extremely good. He’s a twenty-plus goal scorer in La Liga and has experience in the Champions League.
This past season at Tottenham shouldn’t define him as a player. While he and Alvaro Negredo have had hugely contrasting seasons, there was often little to choose between them while both were in Spain. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were battling for La Liga and world supremacy, but on a smaller scale, a similar battle was being fought between two Spanish internationals.
Both Negredo and Soldado have had very similar careers: playing for Real Madrid Castilla, developing into good but unwanted assets and shipped off, landing at smaller Spanish sides – Almeria for Negredo, Getafe for Soldado – before then moving up to Sevilla and Valencia, where their league scoring records were very similar for three years.
So can we attribute the downfall of Soldado and the success of Negredo to their environments in England? It’s the most obvious explanation. They’re slightly different players in the way they operate, but as centre-forwards and goal scorers they’re as good as each other.
Manchester City have a manager who knew how to bring the best out of Negredo; Tottenham had a manager who couldn’t, for one reason or another, and a subsequent coach who was instructed to utilise the previously discarded Emmanuel Adebayor.
Soldado is no longer a young player, and at 29 it doesn’t suit either Spurs or the player to continue on down this path into next season. It would be a little careless to say he doesn’t suit English football at all, but he obviously couldn’t work in a Tottenham team that produced so few scoring chances during games.
Cutting their losses and moving on would be the sensible thing for Spurs. It simply hasn’t worked out, which is normal. But Soldado must now look to get his career back on track. Considering the injury doubts surrounding Diego Costa, the lack of goals this past season from David Villa and Fernando Torres, and the decline in production from Negredo towards the end of the season, Soldado would certainly have been in contention for a place in Spain’s World Cup squad had he had another Valencia-like season this past year.
Going back to Spain is best for a striker in need of a significant confidence boost, and there are few managers in Europe at the moment better than Diego Simeone at providing that lift.