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


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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform