Analysis: Roberto Soldado - the penalty-box predator - will add first touch of class to Tottenham

From an early age it was not difficult to see he was going to be a top player

Madrid

Next month it will be eight years since David Beckham landed a cross on the head of 20-year-old Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado who, at the second attempt, nodded the ball past Olympiakos keeper Antonios Nikopolidis to score on his Champions League debut, His future was made. At least it should have been.

Tottenham's new striker had grown up watching Ronaldo score spectacular goals for Barcelona and Real Madrid and, after being spotted by then Real Madrid youth-team coach Vicente Del Bosque at regional boys side Don Bosco, he was signed aged 14 and eventually made it to the first team inspired by eye-opening training sessions alongside his Brazilian idol.

But Madrid had little time for nurturing young talent and Soldado, like Alvaro Negredo and Juan Mata after him, was discarded. The long road back – culminating this summer in becoming Tottenham's record signing at £26m – speaks volumes for the character of a player who has taken the longest path to reach the top.

"I remember my dad telling me that Del Bosque had watched me the previous Saturday to make the final decision," he says, recalling the culmination of Real Madrid's 18 months scouting him.

Del Bosque remembers it. "He already had the physical power at that age and it was not difficult to see that he was going to make it as a top player," he says.

The first year away from home was tough and when, aged 17, he left the players' residence to flat-share with a team-mate there were times when the bright lights of the capital were all the young striker could see. "I was dedicating myself to anything but football, but my parents moved to Madrid and got me back on track," he says.

He made it to the first team; and then on to the end of that Beckham cross, but was eventually packed off by Madrid first to Osasuna and then to Getafe where it would have been easy for his head to drop again. Getafe is just a half-hour drive from the Bernabeu but comfortably La Liga's least-populated and mournfully quiet stadium.

But he did well enough at Getafe to earn a move to Valencia where he bettered the scoring rate of his predecessor David Villa and put himself back in contention for a place in the Spain squad for Euro 2012.

He scored a hat-trick in a friendly against Venezuela and appeared to have booked his place, but it was Manchester City's new summer signing Alavaro Negredo who went instead – Negredo judged to be better at holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into play.

"I went on holiday that summer, cheered the team on like any patriotic Spaniard and set myself the target of scoring more goals than I had the previous season because the goals I had scored had not been enough," he says – a typical reaction for a penalty-box predator who sees he has little business outside the area.

The vast majority of his goals are scored with his first touch and Tottenham are buying a player who will not over-elaborate at the expense of seeing the ball nestled in the back of the net. "It's instinctive," he says. "Hugo Sanchez scored 38 goals one season and they were all with his first touch."

As well as the 30 goals Soldado scored last season, Del Bosque also saw an improvement in his link-up play and started him in Spain's first Confederations Cup game against Uruguay where he played his part in their most impressive performance.

He is now ahead of Negredo in the international pecking order; and alongside him in the Premier League.

Hot Spur: Soldado's CV

Born 27 May, 1985, Valencia

Club career

2002-06 Real Madrid B (63 goals in 120 games) 2004-08; Real Madrid (4/27)

2006-07 Osasuna (loan; 13/44)

2008-10 Getafe (33/66)

2010-13 Valencia (81/141)

International 11 caps for Spain, six goals

Honours La Liga 2007/08

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Sport
sport
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed