Jack Beresford takes an amusing look back at the goals that have come to define the Spaniard’s Spurs career since moving from Valencia for £26 million.
Say what you will about Roberto Soldado – to some he’s an overpriced, clumsy forward lacking confidence, while to others he’s just plain bad – but one thing even Tottenham fans can agree on is that, when it comes to Thursday nights in the Europa League, he’s a changed man.
Gone is the shy, lacklustre forward that arrived at White Hart Lane for an eye-watering £26 million last summer and in his place stands the same shy, lacklustre forward though with one key difference – he now sometimes scores goals.
With that in mind, it’s time to get misty-eyed as we look back on Soldado’s finest moments for Spurs – almost all of which have come in the Europa League, the ugly sister to Europe’s premier cup competition the Champions League.
Chapter One – This Spaniard really looks Dinamo-te
Though it seems funny to say it now, back in August 2013 the arrival of Soldado at White Hart Lane was regarded as something of a coup, after the Spaniard racked up a whopping 81 goals in 141 games for previous club Valencia. But no one was laughing when the 29-year-old hitman took aim against the mighty Dinamo Tbilisi in last season’s qualification play-off first-leg in Georgia.
Played in hostile conditions against a team featuring several players with surnames deemed too difficult to pronounce by those behind the scenes at ITV 4, who instead opted to shout shirt numbers instead of names, Soldado shone through as you would expect any big money new arrival to - unless that arrival was Erik Lamela, obviously.
While Andros Townsend scored the opener and set up two more, Soldado’s scoring instincts saw him bag a brace. Spurs fans should have celebrated those goals more at the time – they would be the last he would score from open play until Aston Villa visited White Hart Lane in October.
Chapter Two – A Christmas present from your Anzhi
It’s early December and a pyjama-clad Soldado is knelt praying beneath the Christmas tree in his new north London pad. "Dear Lord," he said, channelling the spirit of Mariah Carey, "I don’t want a lot for Christmas, there is just one thing I need… goals."
Little did the 29-year-old realise that someone was in fact listening that night – no not Santa Claus, he doesn’t exist – Gazhi Gadzhiev, then-manager of recently relegated and hard to pronounce Russian Premier League outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.
What other reason can explain the ramshackle performance put in by the visitors, who were duly sunk 4-1 by Spurs at White Hart Lane with Soldado scoring a shock hat-trick that amazingly only included one penalty.
Played in a team featuring such Tottenham ‘stars’ as Ezekiel Fryers and Gylfi Sigurdsson, Soldado shone and made sure to take the match-ball home – despite some competition from Anzhi goalscorer Ewerton, the Brazilian striker with a name like a Premier League club.
Chapter Three – I Soldado-n’t Believe It!
Like the world’s worst sporting comeback movie – Rocky V springs to mind – Soldado’s resurrection started where it all began, with a goal in a Europa League qualifying encounter against vastly inferior continental opposition.
On a rainy night in Cyprus, a year after his arrival, Tottenham’s big money signing finally looked on course to deliver for the Lilywhites. No, not Soldado, but Lamela who set up the Spaniard for a late equaliser to cancel out AEL Limassol’s surprise first-half opener and put in an impressive all-round display for Tottenham.
The 29-year-old was not to be outdone, however, and stunned the crowd with 10 minutes to go by setting up Harry Kane for the winner, despite having the opportunity to blast a shot high and wide or simply fall over on the ball in the way Tottenham fans had grown accustomed to.
With mouth-watering games home and away against Asteras Tripolis before a trip to Serbia to play Partizan Belgrade, one man sure to be relishing his Thursday nights over the next few months is Roberto Soldado.
That is, before he slinks off to the MLS in January. Swap deal for Jermain Defoe anyone? Tottenham haven't signed him for a while…