The 5-foot-2 Venezuela international swaps Brazil for Canada after signing a contract with Toronto that runs through 2025, and his new club gains a player able to operate across the attacking line but who is at his best on the left wing.
Soteldo is right-footed but more than adequate on his left. With his low centre of gravity and his acceleration, it means that he can put huge doubts into the mind of the opposing right-back. He can cut inside and look to shoot at goal or, like a classic winger, he can go outside and dink in a well-flighted cross. Either way he is a threat, and Santos fans will be sorry to see him go after two excellent years representing Pele’s old club.
The winger on the other flank for Santos, Marinho, was recently chosen as the best player in the Americas in the annual poll organised by Uruguayan newspaper El Pais. He, though, is essentially a one-trick pony. It is a good trick, cutting inside on to his left foot and unleashing what have become known as his “mini missiles,” but often it was the work of Soteldo on the left that created the space for Marinho on the right.
The Venezuelan hit the ground running in 2019, becoming part of the adventurous team built by Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli that finished second in the Brazilian Championship. The next campaign brought another creditable second place, with Santos remarkably fighting their way through to the final of the Copa Libertadores where they lost 1-0 to local rivals Palmeiras.
His performance that day, though, leaves a question mark hanging. Soteldo had a very disappointing game. A doubt about him is whether he has the strength of personality to perform on the big occasions — one reason, apart from his height, that may have put off European buyers. It also will be interesting to see how he copes with the comparisons, in both performance and stature, to former Toronto star Sebastian Giovinco.
And if that was not enough, he is also one of the players carrying the expectation of the Venezuelan footballing public that they might finally see their team play in a World Cup. Soteldo is a key member of their breakthrough generation, the side that reached the final of the 2017 Under-20 World Cup. Despite a disappointing start on the road to Qatar, a win over Chile in the last round has rekindled hopes of making the cut. With the amount of international football scheduled in the next few months, Toronto supporters are going to have to grow accustomed to sharing him with La Vinotinto.
Santos fans are sad to lose Soteldo. The club’s directors, though, may well have mixed feelings, for a motive that is not the fault of the player. Santos recruited him from Chile. The relatively modest Huachipato signed Soteldo from Zamora in his native Venezuela, used him for a while and then sent him on loan to Santiago giants Universidad de Chile in order to put him in the shop window. The player, then, was signed from Huachipato. But, diving ever deeper into financial turmoil, Santos were unable to pay the fee. Understandably, Huachipato complained, and FIFA ended up banning Santos from signing any new players. Moving him on means that the famous Brazilian club may have lost a fine player, but they should regain the right to sign others.
This backdrop makes it nothing less than extraordinary that Santos battled through to reach the final of the last Copa Libertadores. Living with the aftermath, though, was never going to be easy. Finishing as runners-up in South America’s premier club competition set the expectations for this season at a level that the club have little hope of meeting. The youth work at Santos is excellent, and they can call on some highly promising youngsters. But they do not have the resources to deal successfully with the current fixture pile-up, while fans and media find it hard to cut them any slack.
In little more than two years with Santos, Soteldo worked with four coaches. The last of those, the Argentine Ariel Holan, resigned after just 12 games in charge. Fresh from winning the Chilean title with Universidad Catolica, Holan had signed a three-year contract, but he was losing Soteldo, finding Marinho hard to manage and was apparently perturbed by having disgruntled fans set off fireworks outside his house. Santos now need a new coach, and without Soteldo, they need a new No. 10. Their loss is Toronto’s gain.