From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.39 :: Sep. 26, 2009

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FOOTBALL / WHO REIGNS IN SPAIN

Soldado’s time to shine

Former Real Madrid youth-team star seeks a new beginning at Getafe, writes Gary Toal.

After a summer of unprecedented spending by the powers that be at Real Madrid, many people may think that the Spanish giants have a point to prove.

And although players do not pick their price-tags, the onus of point-proving is always on the men wearing the football boots rather than the neckties. If La Liga’s early-season results are anything to go by, then no player has proved their worth more notably than former Real Madrid striker Roberto Soldado.

After netting an impressive hat-trick, as his Getafe side comfortably beat Racing Santander 4-1 on the opening weekend, Soldado looked every bit as impressive as his potential had always hinted. A player once hailed as the “new Raul”, Soldado showed early promise as he stormed his way through the youth ranks of Real Madrid and Spain in a prolific fashion. He was given his chance to make an impact on the first team during the 2005/06 season, but hardly set the world alight with just three goals.

After a successful loan spell at Osasuna the following year, he was afforded the chance to impress at the Bernabeu. But Soldado became disillusioned after making just five appearances during the 2007/08 campaign, and after a bid of 4 million euros was accepted, he moved to Getafe to reignite his career.

“I am very happy at having joined Getafe but I am also sad at having left Real Madrid after all those years there,” Soldado said at the time. “I learned so much at Real and the fans showed me so much affection. My family were also able to see me play for Real and it was dream come true. Now I am hoping to do well with Getafe and work hard in order to do so. I would like to thank Getafe for the faith and confidence they have showed in me and I am looking to pay them back with plenty of goals.”

So far he has done just that.

Los Azulones narrowly avoided relegation last season, with Soldado’s goals proving critical. Despite a campaign interrupted by suspension, the striker managed to score 13 league goals, establishing himself as Getafe’s main man.

Soldado’s performance against Racing on the opening day seemed to go someway in substantiating the claims that this season could be a very significant one for him.

In the past, Soldado’s sometimes inconsistent finishing has been criticised but there are plenty of people who would support the belief that he is capable of being a 20-plus goals-per-season striker.

And if the 24-year-old does indeed choose this season to finally fulfil his promise, then his timing could not be better. Although capped twice, the Getafe striker has not featured for Spain since 2007. Nevertheless, with the World Cup just around the corner, Valencia-born Soldado will be looking to catch the eye of Spain coach, and another former Real Madrid hand, Vicente Del Bosque.

“Although it seems distant now I want to be there and for that I need to score a lot of goals,” he said. “It’s the best Spain team in history and they’re favourites for the World Cup so everyone wants to be in the group.”

When Getafe hosted Real Madrid in April of last year, it was Soldado who opened the scoring. His reaction to the goal seemed poignant. His obvious delight in proving a point to his previous employers seemed to be subdued — maybe because of his respect for Los Blancos’ fans, or perhaps by the inevitable feeling of what might have been for his Madrid career.

But could it be Madrid feeling the twinge of regret come the end of the season?

If Benzema struggles to adapt to new surroundings, Ronaldo fails to deliver and Raul gets a knock, then goals may dry up — and envious glances could soon be cast in Soldado’s direction.

Stranger things have happened.

© PA Sport, 2009, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.



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