As we continue to prepare for the 2014/15 season, we’re highlighting the players we think can have a massive say for their clubs in the upcoming campaign. Working alongside our Like a New Signing feature, in which we select players we expect to recover from underwhelming 2013/14 seasons to ultimately make a splash this year, we’re also picking out genuine Wild Cards, players who aren’t so much coming off the back of bad seasons as disastrous ones. We’re breaking down the Wild Card players whose careers sit on a perfect knife-edge, for whom the future is entirely unclear, but could still have that spark, that magic to make an impact this season.
With Gareth Bale’s record fee departure to Real Madrid last year, Tottenham Hotspur had the unenviable task of replacing the Welshman’s goals and assists that had proved vital in competing for a coveted top four spot the previous two seasons.
Spurs splurged over a hundred million pounds that summer, with a quarter of that sum spent on Spanish poacher, Roberto Soldado, whose exploits in Spain suggested the club had finally plugged the troublesome issue of adding a prolific striker to their ranks.
But as is now infamous, Tottenham’s record outlay did not result in a top four finish, with Soldado epitomising an underachieving squad with just six goals in the Premiere League. He struggled to adapt to the physical rigours of the league, and his reputation as a ‘fox in the box’ was not fulfilled.
It has led many in England to write Soldado off as a flop. And he certainly has not matched that ridiculous price tag. But considering Spurs’ tumultuous season – yet another managerial mess – a focused and rejuvenated Soldado could prove doubters and naysayers wrong, if he rediscovers the form and goals he thrived on in Spain.
A product of the Real Madrid youth system, Roberto Soldado’s career with Los Blancos wasn’t to be. Shipped off to Getafe in 2008, he earned a reputation as a keen poacher of chances in the box. In the 2009/10 season, Soldado led Getafe to a Europa League spot, netting 16 goals, which convinced Valencia to part with ten million Euros to replace the outgoing David Villa.
Back in his hometown, Soldado’s form at Valencia did not drop. His eye for goal and sixth sense for positioning himself in the box to sniff out chances proved hugely successful for Valencia, and in his final season he scored 24 league goals – a personal record.
Tottenham’s purchase of Soldado, in the wake of his frankly terrible first season in English football, has been laughed off. £26million for a striker who scores just six goals in the league? But as evidenced above, Soldado is a natural goal scorer who has just clearly struggled to adapt.
He was signed by Andreas Villas-Boas, only for Spurs to sever all ties with the Portuguese coach in December. His replacement, Tim Sherwood, preferred a more physical approach up top, with Emmanuel Adebayor picked over the Spaniard. The entire Spurs team underachieved last season, and Soldado’s strengths – attacking crosses and capitalising on chances in the box – were not played to.
Here at JD Football, we expect Spurs to push on this year and finally deliver on the promise of their squad from last season. With a new manager at the helm and the likes of Erik Lamela looking lively in pre-season, you’d imagine Roberto Soldado is eying his chance to recapture the sort of form that eluded him last year
So often we see a new import in the Premier League succeed in their first season only to struggle in their next. With Soldado, we anticipate the opposite. He has all the qualities to live up to that price tag; it’s just up to him to show it.
Words by Julius Pepperwood