By Rodney Ballantine
Trying to replace a striker such as David Villa, sounds like a daunting task, and one that’s not going to be too easy to accomplish, for after five years playing for Valencia from 2005 – 2010, it was deemed necessary for a few reasons to get rid of their prize asset. One determining influence was the fact that the club has a crippling debt problem and needed to solve it, so money had to be found from somewhere. Taking this into account Villa was sold for a nice sum of 40 million Euros, and thus brought to an end, a successful time at the club, where he scored 108 goals in a total of 166 appearances, was top scorer for the club in the five seasons he played for them, and won the Copa del Rey in 2008.
It was now up to the club to replace a striker who was not only an integral player for them but also the Spanish national team, where he has won the European championship, World cup and is also the countries leading scorer, with someone who was up for the task, and who could try to emulate Villa, in all ways, but of course without the hefty price tag that comes with buying a player to match these characteristics. So if the funds don’t allow thirty or forty million euro players to be signed, its up to those involved, to scale down their efforts and look in and around the bargain buys, who normally play for the smaller clubs.
The one they went for, was one called Roberto Saldado, who although was born in Valencia, played his youth and early career football with Real Madrid, where he had an impressive goal every two games ratio for the B side. There he stayed for four seasons, and made the progression to the first team, where things were to prove a little bit more difficult for him, and after just sixteen appearances and two goals over a period of three seasons, he was loaned to Osasuna, and then subsequently sold after one season to Getafe for a price of four million Euros, after impressing highly during the one season in Osasuna where he scored eleven goals in thirty appearances.
His time at Getafe would prove fruitful, and although in what was a Getafe team that would constantly be fighting against relegation during his time there, he still managed to bang in twenty nine goals in sixty appearances. This type of constant scoring, brought about the attention of the so called big boys, and it would be one of those, who was looking to replace a striker who had been hitting the target for them on a constant basis before with one who they thought would do an equally as good job or if not better. This club, being of course Valencia, as already has been mentioned, spent in the region of ten million Euros to take him to the Mestalla.
As it is only the first season, and as is normal in football, its difficult to judge on this, with the usual clichés popping up, new club, transition period etc, but Saldado, has definitely had his moments, with his record in the Champions league being impressive, and some good performances as well in the league, most notably against his old team Getafe, where he scored all Valencia’s goals in a 4 – 2 away win. The problem seems to be consistency, but there is no doubt that he has talent and if this can be nurtured and improved upon, as he is only twenty five years old, then he could turn out to be a great signing. Time will tell, but to give an accolade such as the new David Villa, I think it is a bit too premature for that. If Valencia can keep their manager Urai Emery for a few more seasons, and the team continues to improve, as has been the case under this manager then big things could be on the way for Saldado and Valencia. Let’s see what happens!