Roberto Soldado has explained why he signed a new contract at Valencia and how it has felt trying to replace David Villa at the club.
The striker is into his third season with Los Che, after he and his club rejected an approach this summer from Tottenham Hotspur.
Instead, the striker signed on at Mestalla for another five years, which, as he told UEFA’s official website today, was an easy commitment to make.
“The two years until now at Valencia have been just fantastic. Valencia is my city, where I was born, and playing here is one of the greatest things that has happened in my life,” he explained.
“When the club gave me the opportunity of five more years I didn't think for more than a second. Valencia have ambition. We're a young team that intend to win important things and I'll be doing my best to make sure that happens.”
Soldado was signed in the summer of 2010 from Getafe, just as 129-goal David Villa was sold to Barcelona.
“When I came here I never expressed it openly, as in ‘replacing David Villa’. But I was really conscious that if things didn't go well that tag was going to weigh very heavily for a long time – not just in my own mind but for the Press and fans.
“Growing up I was fixated by all the centre-forwards who were around at the time, so now, to have my name on the shirt, to be the No 9 for the team where I grew up and to be captain is a source of pride.
“You're out on the street, you see kids with a Valencia shirt with your name – it's a massive motivation and reminds you of your responsibility. It's one of the greatest things that can happen to a player.”
However, it isn’t Villa who Soldado most identifies with.
“I favoured the finishers [when growing up], the goalscorers. [Ivan] Zamorano – I loved him when he was at Madrid. Jimmy [Floyd] Hasselbaink at Atletico, Ronaldo when he was at Barcelona. They really were the best of the best.
“If I look across the Champions League the guy I most look forward to watching is Wayne Rooney. Previously, he was more of a centre-forward – a goalscorer – but now he’s the type who defends a lot, whose game is growing.”
Soldado will be in action with his Valencia teammates this Tuesday evening at home to Lille.
“This is the optimum competition, the most beautiful you can play in. You feel the importance because every weekend in your domestic championship, it's what you strive for.
“You're defending the colours of your team against all of Europe. I just hope the ratio of goals I get in the Champions League stays the same and that they mean something important for the team.”