Spurs find themselves unlikely challengers for the Premier League title with Liverpool and champions Manchester City. Their chances of keeping themselves in the running were slimmed, though, as Harry Kane succumbed to a recurring ankle injury in January, yet they still remain very much in contention.
Kane’s goalscoring exploits have led to Spurs being wrongly labelled a one-man team and they have begun to prove that they are anything but during his absence, as Heung-min Son and Fernando Llorente deputise capably.
There was once another striker at White Hart Lane, though, who was billed as the man to fire Spurs to glory: Roberto Soldado. The Spaniard moved to north London from Valencia in 2013 for £26m as Spurs looked to reinvest the money received from the record sale of Gareth Bale, but flopped spectacularly – the striker, now plying his trade with Fenerbahce, scored just 16 goals in two seasons.
But what could have been if he had won the golden boot, or at the very least returned consistent double figures for Spurs? It’s fair to say that there could have been some huge consequences…
Perhaps the most important. Kane, having spent much of his Spurs career out on loan at various EFL clubs, was given his chance in the first team on 7th April 2014 as Tim Sherwood gave the then-20-year-old the nod over Soldado. Kane netted in his first game and scored again the week after, soon he had ousted the lacklustre senior striker from the lineup.
Sherwood has said this on his decision to give the young hitman a chance:
“It didn’t feel a gamble at all to give Harry that start. It was almost overdue to be honest,” says Sherwood.
“Roberto Soldado was in front of him in the team, and nobody wanted Roberto to do well more than me – but every single day in training Harry was outperforming him.
“After probably three weeks, I decided I had to make that change and I had to bring Harry into the team. He didn’t let me down.
Had Soldado been amongst the goals more often, Kane would likely have been loaned out season after season or, even worse, sold. But after breaking into the team under Sherwood, Kane ousted Soldado for a second time under Pochettino by scoring a last-minute winner against Aston Villa.
The rest is history.
The ‘Bale Seven’, as they became known, comprised current Spurs Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela, as well as Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and, of course, Soldado.
While Eriksen and Lamela remain key players for the White Hart Lane outfit, the others were pretty poor and didn’t survive in north London for too long.
Soldado, in particular, ensures any mention of the ‘Bale Seven’ puts a bad taste in the mouth of Tottenham fans who surely feel that the £85m received from offloading the Welsh star could have better used.
Had the not-shot been a hit, though, then the balance could well surely have swung, considering the impact Eriksen in particular has made in white. In any case, it’s likely the rest of the Bale Seven would have been given a bit more of a chance if Solado had lead the way from the off.
Andre Villas-Boas was at the helm when Soldado arrived at Spurs and, despite the Portuguese’s inability to fix up a defence, he may not have been sacked so soon if his star striker was putting the ball away more frequently.
He likely wouldn’t still be in charge today, but the appointment of Tim Sherwood may have been delayed by some time, potentially until a different club had snapped up Mauricio Pochettino, who was impressing in charge of Southampton.
The Argentine has done an incredible job with Spurs, signing and developing the likes of Dele Alli into top class talents, but may have been doing it in different surroundings had Villas-Boas been at the helm for a while longer.
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