Soccer

Why You Can’t Trust A La Liga Goal Scorer

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I do not intend to rain on anyone’s parade, but any time the club you cheer for decides they need scoring power and looks towards La Liga, you should begin to worry immediately.

Spain‘s national squad features a myriad of superstars like Real Madrid‘s Sergio Ramos, Barcelona‘s Andres Iniesta, Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas, or Barcelona’s Xavi. Hopefully, you’re noticing the trend here. When 14 out of 23 players come from two teams, that means your domestic league really can’t be that good, especially when of those 23 come from another team (Atletico Madrid) and the rest play in other countries.

The league is a fan’s league, where usually only two teams with a lot of money have a real shot of winning the title, and every other squad is just fodder for them. When a foul is called on a superstar player from Barcelona or Real Madrid, it is usually one where the player who gets the foul called on them gets the most severe punishment possible.

If you step late on a player, it’s a yellow card. If you trip a player, it’s a yellow or a red, depending on who it’s committed on. If you touch the golden child, Lionel Messi in the box, it’s a automatic penalty. As much as MLS is an inferior league, at least the superstar players are held to the same rulebook as the last guy off of the bench.

Take Roberto Soldado. For those who don’t know, Soldado was a goal-scoring machine while he played in La Liga, hammering balls past keepers at a 1/3 clip (goals/games) while at Osasuna (11/30), increasing that as he went to Getafe (29/60), and stopping finally at Valencia where he bagged 59 goals in 101 games for Los Che.

That is mind boggling. He became my favorite player because he was a guy scoring goals not named Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. But after hearing about Tottenham Hotspurs signing him to a £26 million deal, I decided to look up some footage on him, and it was stunning.

Not his play, but the defense he played against. Defenders were letting him set up right in front of the net and just poach uninhibited and knock in goals. No resistance, no grabbing, just matador defense. Goalies were coming far out of the net and he just dribbled by them and slotted balls home. It was horrid defending, hence me not being so surprised that he has only six goals since he started play in the EPL, with all but two of them coming from penalty kicks or free kicks.

It’s not only the fact it’s just six goals, it’s the fact that he has had opportunities for many more and just missed horribly — like Fernando Torres horribly. “El Guerrillero”is playing a lot more like a melted army figurine.

Another forward in this mold is Alvaro Negredo of Manchester City. Negredo was a rock in La Liga, never scoring lower than 11 goals. But once he landed in Manchester, he quickly showed that he was just a big, slow, usually out of place forward who currently has just nine goals, and looks to possibly finish with that same number.

The difference between Soldado and Negredo is that Soldado clearly needs more help as Tottenham is the Jekyll and Hyde of the English League, with great performances in big games and dreadful ones in the others. Negredo actually has a great team in Man City and still manages to whiff … a lot. “The Beast of Vallecas” has been tamed by the more physical nature of the EPL.

It is worse with the bigger stars like Messi or Ronaldo as defenders just get out of the way, not wanting to be put on ESPN’s highlight reel, and keepers just give up as they shoot, seemingly not seeing a point in trying to stop them. To be fair, not every forward who comes from this video game-like league is a dud, but just because there is a chance you can hold a firecracker as it explodes and not lose your hand, doesn’t mean you should do it.