An ode to Soldado

It hurts. Of course it hurts. He was meant to be the one, the one to solve all our problems. He’s off now – and it’ll hurt for a while.

Tottenham Hotspur confirmed the departure of 2013 signing Roberto Soldado, which will see the Spaniard move to Villarreal in the hope of restoring former glory. Many had seen him play before he joined Spurs, YouTube was there to help the minority that hadn’t. Volleys, headers, acrobatic goals, penalties and tap-ins; he had the lot. Only Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and a superb Radamel Falcao bettered his record in Sunny Spain. And he was ours, for a fee of £13m + add-ons. It’s fair to say he’s failed to achieve any of those add-ons, he’s the Real Madrid Castilla product who failed at Tottenham.

The excitement across the fan base was insurmountable when his signing was confirmed on August 1st2013. He began with a penalty in a friendly against Espanyol and this was followed by two penalty winners versus Crystal Palace and Swansea, giving us six points from six to kick off 2013/14. It was a while before his next Premier League goal would come, despite a few confidence boosters in the Europa League. And when Paulinho played ‘Bobby’ in to finish past Brad Guzan at Villa Park, we thought we’d hit the jackpot – “This is it! He’s got his goal from open play and now the floodgates will open!” We could not have been more wrong.

Bobby put away a couple more penalties before André Villas-Boas left, but his cross to the recalled Emmanuel Adebayor at St Mary’s gave us hope again. He was dropped soon after. The goal at home to Cardiff was celebrated unreservedly by those inside White Hart Lane, with Soldado sinking his head in his hands and an expression of sheer accomplishment and relief written over his face. He ended 2013/14 with 11 goals.

2014/15 saw him begin with an excellent Europa League goal at AEL Limassol and a clever finish versus Nottingham Forest in the League Cup. It wasn’t until November when he finally ended the two-month barren run, with a very good finish to beat Everton at White Hart Lane, before ending 2014 with a tap in at home in a 4-0 demolition of Newcastle in the League Cup. By this time, he was second choice to the growing Harry Kane, who scored his 13th of the season in the same game, only due to the banishment of Adebayor to the state of obscurity.

Kane started every game from then on, until Soldado received his chance in the Europa League round of 32 at home to Fiorentina. He began the game by scoring a rasping volley into the bottom corner, before hitting the woodwork with an overhead kick and giving the ball away for Fiorentina’s equaliser. It was the away leg, however, that put the writing on the wall. 1-on-1 with Murara Neto, he attempted to square the ball to Nacer Chadli – who had an open goal to aim at. Instead, he fluffed it and Neto gathered simply. It was the end.

He featured sparingly for Pochettino afterwards, but his departure was inevitable. For some, it is joyous, but for others – mere heartbreak. The most exciting signing the club had made in years; gone in two years after failing and having his job done by a 21 year old ‘nobody’ from the impressive academy at Tottenham. He ended 2014/15 with a mere five goals, equalling 16 in two years at Spurs.

I’m sure he’ll find his feet in Spain; he’s too talented to not do so. His failure can be put down to many things; a lack of confidence, lack of suitability to the league, the miscarriage his wife endured during their early months in London or the tactics deployed by Villas-Boas, but it feels like putting down the family pet. He embraced the club, knew what it meant to the fans and never disgraced the badge. But we purchased him to score goals and score goal he didn’t do.

So here’s to you Bobby, it could have been ever so special. Good luck.