Daniel Levy took some convincing on Roberto Soldado. The Tottenham
chairman looks for re-sale value on his investments, which made a
£26-million deal for a 28-year-old an uncharacteristic leap of faith.
Seven months and two more glaring misses later, Soldado is being written off
as an expensive mistake and was last week labelled a “donkey” by former
Spurs chairman Lord Sugar.
Soldado is working hard on and off the pitch to try to repay some of his
transfer fee. Other than putting in extra hours on the training pitch, the
striker is now taking three English lessons a week with a personal tutor.
In reality, Levy has little choice but to hope ex-boss Andre Villas-Boas is
proved right on Soldado. The Spaniard turns 29 in May and Tottenham would
have to take a heavy hit to offload him in the summer.
Head coach Tim Sherwood must also rely on Soldado finding some form over the
final weeks of the season, with Jermain Defoe officially becoming a Toronto
FC player on Feb 28 and Emmanuel Adebayor managing leg and hamstring
Villas-Boas argued with Levy that Spurs needed to spend money on experienced
players, who could make a key difference in their push for a Champions
League place, and insisted Soldado would be vital to his plans.
Age was most certainly an issue for Levy, but he eventually relented and
ditched interest in Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke.
Given the fight he put up to land his top target, the subsequent handling of
Soldado by Villas-Boas proved to be ill-conceived and contributed to the
36-year-old losing his job and being replaced by Sherwood.
Soldado understood English when he arrived at White Hart Lane and could speak
enough to communicate. The gaps were filled in by Villas-Boas speaking
Spanish with the player.
That approach proved to be counter-productive, as Soldado’s grasp of anything
other than basic English did not develop quickly enough. He can converse
with team-mates and staff, but cannot fully express himself. The difference
has been decisive.
Soldado was Valencia’s captain, the leader of the side, the man responsible
for conveying messages from the manager and telling team-mates what was
expected. He relished the responsibility and the expectation on him to
The striker misfiring against Bilbao while at Valencia:
While Soldado did not expect to be given the Tottenham armband, he arrived
hoping to take up a senior role within the London club’s squad. He wanted to
be one of the biggest voices in the dressing-room and on the pitch.
But with only laboured English, Soldado has not been able to express himself
and take up a leadership position. It is understood the player believes he
has only been able to get across 50 per cent of his personality and has
frequently become frustrated at having to take a back seat.
Soldado’s miss against Dnipro:
Soldado is happy with training, he and his family have settled in London, but
he realises his English must improve. It is hoped that visits to a tutor
three times a week will considerably speed up the process.
It is to the player’s credit that he has not looked for excuses, even though
his wife, Rocio Millan, sadly suffered a miscarriage.
Soldado’s 33 per cent shot accuracy includes the four penalties he has taken
and scored. He has netted only once from open play in the Premier League and
squandered two wonderful chances in the defeat at Norwich.
Used as a sole striker by Villas-Boas, Soldado cut an isolated figure. He
would no doubt have found it easier to acclimatise to the English game with
a partner, but the Portuguese had fallen out with Adebayor and left Defoe on
the substitutes’ bench.
It was clear Soldado may have benefitted from being taken out of the firing
line or rested for the odd game during the early days, but Villas-Boas had
backed himself into a corner over his team selection.
Soldado’s miss against Barcelona:
Soldado has largely been deployed next to Adebayor under Sherwood and his
general performances have been more encouraging, but his goalscoring record
is yet to improve.
Lord Sugar reacted to a miss against Dnipro in the Europa League last week by
Tweeting: “Is Soldado a donkey or what.”
That message annoyed Tottenham officials, who fear Soldado took the criticism
to heart and responded with a promise to do better on his Instagram account.
It appeared to still be fresh in his mind, when Soldado headed and shot wide
at Carrow Road.
Soldado is likely to be handed another opportunity to start on the road to
recovery in the second leg against Dnipro at White Hart Lane on Thursday
night, as Spurs try to overturn a one-goal deficit. He will most likely
Tottenham point to the fact Luis Suarez scored four goals in his first half
season at Liverpool and Olivier Giroud started slowly at Arsenal. Even so,
Soldado has a lot of catching up to do.
Here are the former Valencia captain’s 31 goals last season in Spain:
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