After leaving his home country of Spain for the bright lights of the Premier League for a fee around £26m, not many would’ve predicted that the once-goal machine of Roberto Soldado would’ve ended up back in Iberia just two years later.
Plundering 81 goals in 141 appearances for a Valencia side having to sell the furniture to keep the financial wolves from the door, Spurs fans heralded the signing of the Spanish international, only for him to be a figure of fun not even a year later.
Flop. Failure. Not cut out for the Premier League.
But what Soldado said after joining Villarreal last week, for £19m less than what it took to prise him from the Mestalla in 2013, is the most telling part of the story.
“I’ve been away for two years in which I haven’t been able to give my best. I’ve spent two very difficult years in England where I lost my confidence.?I want to return to play at a good level and score lots of goals. I want to go back to being the player I used to be.”
Think about for a second. This is a man who came over to England unable to speak English, in a completely different culture both on and off the pitch, with a family who may not have been able to speak English themselves. That’s before you even get to the reported miscarriage his wife suffered.
Is it any wonder that he didn’t set the Premier League alight, when off the pitch he went through a horrendous time?
The same could be said for Angel Di Maria too; putting aside all the normal acclimatisation that comes with football transfers, this is a guy who was in a similar boat to Soldado, and had the trauma of a break-in in a house that couldn’t have felt like home.
You could argue that he gave off the impression he didn’t want to be at Manchester United with all the quotes about him preferring PSG, but the fact remains that he was unhappy off the pitch and performances dropped with it.
But the sad part is that he nor Soldado will get any sympathy for their sadness. Why? Because they have earned, and will earn, a lot of money by being footballers.
Fans are common to stress how the gap between the supporters and the players they support has widened so much, but it surely cannot be a surprise when footballers are expected to behave like robots; they will have good games every time they step on the pitch. They will live up to the price tag.
It simply doesn’t work like that, because they are human.
The absurdity that comes from constant expectation is crazy, especially in transfers. We’re living in a generation where football is constantly available 24/7, but that comes with it a hell of a lot of perils.
A player is hyped up on opinions solely based on Youtube clips and fleeting glimpses; the second they play, they are watched like hawks, and the second they don’t live up to those expectations they are ridiculed and tantrums occur because those fans don’t get exactly what they were looking for.
An ex-footballer I had met recently told me he wasn’t jealous at all of the sums of money that players nowadays were earning, because he was able to live in a time where he could walk down the pub and have a drink with supporters.
Forward that a few generations, and you get instances like the story about David Moyes last year. A man who had lost his job recently, being barracked by people who didn’t know him, in the hope of winding him up, and being surprised when a scuffle broke out because of it, before being splashed all over the front pages in hours.
Is that right?
Just because footballers at the top level earn money beyond what many who watch them earn does not mean that people should be abused. Many players are branded money-grabbers nowadays without any context at all.
Take Luke Shaw. A starlet at Southampton who rose to the limelight very quickly, who attracts attention from Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United, with the latter buying him for around £30m, on a wage upwards of £100k a week.
A 19 year old has a contract placed in front of him that, even after tax, has an extortionate salary attached to it that would not only set him up for life if managed carefully, but most likely his family too.
If you put yourself in those shoes, would you say no?
Not at all. Of course you hear stories about players being arrogant or unfriendly, but you get that with people earning a fraction of that anyway, because they have personalities themselves.
It just seems to me that football matches, once something that people used to go to so that they could have a laugh with friends and family, are now a lot of the time almost arenas so that frustrations over work and home life can be expelled, because those on the receiving end can’t react back.
It was summed up when Kevin De Bruyne said after a fine received for swearing at a ball boy last season, that ‘they can call me a son of a b***h, and I have to pay €20,000”. That is a rare case of a footballer being allowed to say what he truly thinks, which is another case altogether.
But footballers will be continued to be viewed as robots, who must perform to our every whim and command, because they are paid to do it. Football may have changed for the good in many respects, but the fact they’re no longer seen as human isn’t good at all. Just ask Soldado.
Featured image: All rights reserved by chao1989
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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