Not that he did, but Spurs new striker Roberto Soldado would have been forgiven for smiling when David Villa took to Twitter to announce he would not be fit in time for Euro 2012. With Fernando Torres having a wishy washy time at Chelsea, it looked like Soldado might get his chance and that Vicente Del Bosque may listen to fans and bring him to the Euros but even though he was the top Spanish goal scorer, El Guerrillero or The Soldier was left watching a tournament at home as Álvaro Negredo was picked instead. It was a bitter blow to the Valencia forward but he bounced back more determined to prove his doubters wrong and answer his critics and this summer he finally made it into a Spanish squad for a tournament.
Soldado was born in Valencia but the 28 year old was snapped up at the age of 14 by Real Madrid when Vicente Del Bosque personally convinced him to pack his bags and move to the capital. He made his senior debut against Valencia in 2005 and was used as a bit part player. They sent him out to Osasuna where he earned his nickname, The Soldier, for his hard working and non-surrendering attitude. He returned to Real Madrid and won a league under Fabio Capello despite the fact that he hardly played (In Spain players that are listed as part of the squad get medals even if they don’t play any games) and when Bernd Schuster arrived he shipped the forward out to Getafe. He did quite well at Getafe and when Barca bought Villa, Valencia turned to Soldado and he enjoyed three very successful years but he has always had a cloud hanging over him.
One of the main reasons for Real Madrid letting Soldado go is the same reason people still don’t rate him. Critics claim that he lacks sharpness in the box and that his conversion rate is poor. It is an incredible thing to say about a striker that has scored 197 goals in under 400 games but at the start of his career there was a shred of truth to this. Soldado often hesitated in big matches and even last season looked nervy when he came face to face with Víctor Valdés or Iker Casillas but taking them out of the picture, apart from Messi, in the list of players that scored over 20 goals last season, nobody had a better conversion rate. He also has a great record of goals in Europe. Soldado really knuckled down last summer and worked out his issues. Once seen as the type of player that could only score tap ins, he developed the other aspects of his game, including his movement and his passing. He got 22 goals last season and averaged 2.1 shots a game and there is another interesting stat when it comes to those shots.
Soldado is no Messi or Falcao. Although now and again you may have seen him do it, he traditionally doesn’t shoot from 30 metres out, he won’t dance around defenders with the ball and despite the fact many nominated him for Goal of the Season last year, traditionally he doesn’t score fancy or spectacular goals. Spurs fans may not like this next part but Kevin Keegan once said that Arsenal’s Ian Wright was a player that could be completely invisible for 85 minutes and then out of nowhere score the winner. Soldado is very similar to Wright in that aspect. He can remain anonymous in games and then suddenly appear out of nowhere and nick a goal. All of his shots last season came from inside the box and he does have a great eye for goal, as the stats prove. He is a gritty, hard working forward who isn’t afraid of getting dirty. When the chips are down, he can be counted on. He was once laughed at for his inability to read a game but that has all changed. He knows how to give defenders the slip, has this amazing ability to be in the right place at the right time and he also knows how to play the offside trap. But does he have any negative aspects?
Unfortunately he has quite a few. Apart from the ones already mentioned. Soldado can go on a run of scoring in five or six straight games and then disappear for a month. This inconsistency is one of the things that has hinder his international career, although in 11 games for Spain he has scored 6. He stills needs to work on his performances during big games and he does have a bit of a temper. Soldado gets wound up very easily and picks up a lot of cards. Last season he picked up 15 yellow cards, the year before that 16 and so he needs to learn how to hold his tongue. He isn’t the bulkiest of players and although he isn’t bullied off the ball easily, in the air he needs to improve.
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