It takes little for the pendulum to swing in modern football. From a style of play that has been cast aside for some time to an out of form player or largely unsuccessful manager that eventually begin to show their true talent in the sport, it takes little for forgotten aspects of football to transform a thought from yesterday to the hottest piece of gossip the next. Therefore in a week when Xabi Alonso announced he is to retire at the end of the current season, Sergio Busquets suffered suspected ankle ligament damage which could rule him out for the rest of the season (or at least a large part of Barcelona’s Champions League campaign) as well as Dani Parejo taking centre stage once again on the front of local newspapers through a rumoured January departure, you could plausibly suggest that the hot topic of this week is perhaps… what does the future hold for the next generation on Spanish midfielders?
In spite of a turbulent season both on and off the pitch for former club captain Parejo, one of his co-colleagues at Valencia however continues to provide a glimmer of hope for a struggling Valencia and widely speaking, for the future of the Spanish national team. As all good things eventually come to an end, with Koke stepping in for what seemed like an irreplaceable Xavi Hernandez and consequently excelling in the role, Valencia’s 20 year old midfield sensation Carlos Soler looks as good as anybody else his age to step into the big shoes vacated by an outgoing Andres Iniesta and could well form the future of a central midfield pairing alongside Atletico Madrid’s Koke for many years to come.
Although some Valencianistas will tell you that Soler’s potential has been clear for some time now, only in recent weeks has his potential been noted by a much wider audience. Born and raised in Valencia, Soler joined his hometown club back in 2005 at the mere age of eight and started life as a football playing as a striker before moving into attacking midfield. After progressing through the youth ranks of his boyhood club, Soler made his senior debut with the Valencia reserve team back in May 2015 before scoring his first senior goal in December 2015 in a 2-2 draw against Catalonian club CF Badalona. Alongside his potential which soon became clear for everybody at Valencia to see, his hard-work in the club’s youth ranks had certainly paid off after Soler was rewarded with a contract renewal in March 2016 with Valencia already viewing Soler as a future first-team star for the club with Soler committing his long-term future to the club.
Then it simply became a matter of when, rather than if Soler would feature for Valencia’s first-team and almost a year to the day since scoring his first senior goal, Soler made his first team debut and replaced veteran midfielder Mario Suarez in a 3-2 La Liga defeat against Real Sociedad. A long awaited and much deserved appearance in Valencia’s first-team, albeit as a substitute had finally been achieved, after often being included in Valencia’s first-team squad but regularly remaining as an unused substitute in a number of false dawns for Soler. His first taste of life on the Valencia first-team bench came against Athletic Bilbao during Valencia’s 2-1 victory in the Europa League in March 2016.
As Soler therefore settles into life as more and more of a regular first-team starter in a refreshed looking Valencia side under stand-in manager Voro, in his limited game time Soler has fit into Valencia’s central-midfield without any problems so far. Without any teething problems, Soler has featured comfortably in central midfield and has even been used a substitute to come off the bench and adapted a more attacking role as a central attacking midfielder. As well as being capable of performing well in both positions, not only is Soler an astute passer of the ball with 81.2% pass success achieved in his first six games in a Valencia shirt but his eye for goal should only get better after recently notching a vital goal for Valencia in their derby win against local rivals Villarreal. Soler will be looking for his first goal at international level as a regular name on the teamsheet for Spain’s U19 side and will hoping to build on his first top flight goal and his three goals scored since the early stages of 2015 at reserve level for Valencia’s ‘Mestalla’ B team.
When mixing the sale of Andre Gomes to FC Barcelona, a seemingly unsettled Daniel Parejo, a relatively injury prone Enzo Perez and summer central midfield signing Mario Suarez often filling at centre back most notably during the final days of Cesare Prandelli’s time at the club, Soler was consequently gifted the opportunity of first-team football. And whilst it may have come through force rather than an initial choice, there’s no doubting that Valencia won’t look back after comfortably introducing Soler to the first-team fold. However following suggestions that there is already high-profile interest from both Manchester clubs with local media reporting that City executive Txiki Begiristain even visited the club this month with a view to bringing the youngster to the Premier League, Valencia will inevitably have to stave off a growing number interested clubs if they wish to keep hold of Soler – especially given that he has a reported release clause set at €26m.
The future therefore may well be bright but only time will tell whether it’s in orange, sky blue or any other club’s colours for that matter – testament to the sheer amount of potential that Soler has shown at such a young age and the stature of the player that he could very easily become in the future.