Nobody wants to be a striker in a team struggling to score goals, but Roberto Soldado tells FFT's Andrew Murray he's confident Tottenham Hotspur will come good...
Tell us about the start to your Spurs career...
Everyone has a period of adaptation at a new club. I hope to find my best form as soon as possible, not just for my own performances, but so I can help the team too. I want to help the team as much as possible.
Which of your new team-mates has impressed you most?
The player who’s impressed me most is Mousa Dembele. I hadn’t seen that much of him before I arrived, but training with him every day and playing matches with him you see he’s a tremendous player. He’s got great quality, is very powerful and day-to-day is the guy I’ve been most surprised by in the squad. The work he gets through in a game is huge.
It’s been said that Spurs have lost Gareth Bale, but gained a team. Would you agree?
Mate, I wouldn’t say that. Last season Gareth was spectacular - I was watching him from Spain, influencing games and scoring great goals - but you could tell there was always a collective spirit in the squad. We’ve obviously got a lot of new players this season, and there will be something of an adaptation, but we’re winning games and improving every time we play. We want that to go on for an indefinite period of time.
What are Tottenham’s main objectives this season?
The objective should always be to get in the top four and have Champions League football next season. That’s foremost in our minds. We have a very dynamic squad, with an increasingly winning mentality and once that’s established, it becomes difficult to stop you. We have to be ambitious and not give ourselves a ceiling of achievement with only fourth place. I hope that if the team carries on in this dynamic we can go beyond that and fight even further up the table.
“Dobbiamo essere più ambiziosi e non prefiggerci come meta il raggiungimento di un semplice quarto posto”
What has been your best moment in the last 12 months?
It would have to be defending my country’s colours at the Confederations Cup in June. That was a special moment because it was a recognition of all the hard work I’d put in for the season at Valencia. To score some goals there was fantastic. I’d love to go to the World Cup, there’s no tournament more beautiful than that. I’ve never been to one, and if I’m being realistic, this is my last chance. I’m 28 years old so I want to do well for Tottenham, score plenty of goals and ensure my personal performances are as good as they can be so I can get back in Spain squad in time for Brazil.
Del Bosque played a big part in your early career, scouting you for Real Madrid when you were 14. Does it surprise you that haven’t always been a regular for Spain under him?
Not at all. The competition for places is so strong. Spain have great strikers: Villa, Torres, Negredo, Llorente. I always knew it’d be difficult to play for the national team, where everyone has to be at a high level to be selected. When your moment arrives, you have to take it. No-one will gift you anything, you have to work for your success.
So, is it a blessing or curse to be born Spanish?
Oh god, it’s a blessing. To defend a country like Spain is a source of great pride, especially when we’re going through such a rise. To be part of a team that the whole world admires is fantastic.
You were born in Valencia and it’s the club of your heart. Why did you leave?
Any period in life has its time limit. In my last year at Valencia there were a lot of changes with the presidency and those who were in charge of the club. In my opinion they were never clear, we were often in the dark about the weaknesses with the finances. I also wanted to open my borders and have a new experience. Personally, for me and my family, leaving Spain and coming to a country like England, and a city like London, is great. They can learn the language, which will be a big help in their futures. My thoughts weren’t just sporting ones.
Did you speak to Juan Mata or Santi Cazorla before coming here?
Of course. They know London very well so they told me a lot about what to expect. It’s a fantastic city and since the first moment I arrived there I had no doubts I’d made the right decision.
Have you met up with them since arriving?
Yeah, a couple of times. It’s important to feel comfortable in a group of people that you get along well with, so it’s been good to have them here and speak a bit of Spanish, especially when the new language isn’t your best skill in the world during your first few weeks and months. Hanging out with people who make you feel comfortable makes you relax, which can be a massive help on the pitch.
How’s the English coming along?
There isn't much Spanish spoken in the dressing room, so to give me more freedom in general life and confidence with the squad I want to study hard to get up to speed with the English.
“A volte si dicono cose sul campo che non si direbbero per strada”
Do you shout and swear at defenders?
[Smiling] Mate, not always, but sometimes you say things on the pitch that you wouldn't on the street. That's football.
Santi Cazorla told FFT he struggled to begin with, so used to just smile at everyone and say ‘yes’ to any request...
[Laughs] Yeah, I'm not surprised about that, Santi's smile is legendary! It's funny, because after spending so many years in Spain with foreign players, especially at Valencia, I'm now seeing what it's like to be the new guy in dressing room who doesn't speak much of the language and sits around smiling but not really knowing what people are going on about. The shoe's on the other foot, now. You've got to walk tall and be switched on with what's going on around you because you don't understand everything that's happening...
How would you sum up your spell at Madrid?
After the first year I was there, it was definitely very positive. That's where I grew up, got my education and set me up for life. I started very young, and with the huge stars they had in the squad, perhaps I don't get the opportunities to play that I would've liked. But I enjoyed every moment to the maximum, right up until the point I knew I had to move on the get the minutes I needed to become a professional. It was a change of mentality going to Getafe and Osasuna and not winning every game, but I loved playing. Madrid was worth it and I wouldn't be the player I am now without them.
You were at Madrid at the same time as your hero Ronaldo. Training must have been great...
It was a joy. In 2005, I went to the US for a pre-season tour with Ronaldo, Roberto Carlos, Beckham, Zidane, and there I was, just a kid, sharing a pitch with them. It was normal for 50,000 people to watch us train! I wouldn't swap those moments for anything, learning from the best striker in the world as a kid is unforgettable. Day by day, you could the definition in his game and the speed and strength he had. It was a shame to leave, but I had to, to play more minutes.
You were part of a Liga-winning squad at the Bernabeu, but featured little. What would it mean to you to win another trophy, to go with all the goals you've scored over the last five years?
Oof, winning a trophy in any team that you feel an integral part of, and have worked yourself into the ground for, would be beautiful because it would be payback for the work I've put in over the years. I hope that's something I can do with Tottenham, because the fans deserve the success too, as they're always behind us.
Read more of our interview with Roberto Soldado in the January 2014 issue of FourFourTwo, out now.