What happened to Red Bull Salzburg goal-machine Jonatan Soriano?

Jonatan Soriano

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have long dominated the upper end of Europe’s goal scoring charts, with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero all rivalling the famous duopoly. 

Jonatan Soriano, a lesser-known figure who has rivalled Messi and Ronaldo’s potency in the past, though, hasn’t received the same level of recognition. 

In fact, he’s a player that a lot of football fans won’t be familiar with. 

The 35-year-old striker signed for CD Castellon last week on March 7 – six months after being released by Girona in August 2020. 

It’s not the type of transfer that will generate major headline news but, with CD Castellon languishing in 21st in La Liga 2 and three points off safety, Soriano has an opportunity to make himself a cult hero in the final weeks of the campaign.

And there is ample evidence from his career to suggest that he’s a man worth punting on at this stage in the season. 

Soriano scored just one goal in 16 games for Girona in the 2019/20 season before he was released, but there was a time when he was on a level with Europe’s most potent goal scorers. 

The Spaniard spent his formative years in Catalonia with Espanyol and then Barcelona. 

A return of 32 goals in 37 outings in La Liga 2 for Barcelona B during the 2010/11 season suggested that he would get his chance to prove himself in the first-team squad, but he was released by the club in January 2012.

Red Bull Salzburg snapped him up and it was one of the finest decisions the controversial Austrian outfit have ever made. 

He wasn’t an instant hit at Salzburg but he rose to become one of the most clinical forwards on the continent once he found his feet. 

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During the 2012/13 season, Soriano scored 26 goals and provided seven assists in 33 Bundesliga outings, which included a hat-trick in a 6-2 demolition of Wolfsberger on a day in which his wife also gave birth to their daughter. 

But it was during the 2013/14 season when he truly mixed among Europe’s household names, boasting a return of 31 league goals – amid a grand total of 48 in all competitions – to put himself firmly in contention for the Golden Shoe award – on paper, at least.

He was tied on 31 with Luis Suarez and Ronaldo but the points system for the European award counted against Soriano.

Goals scored in Europe’s top five leagues give each player a score of two per goal, while clubs Austria’s top flight are only awarded 1.5 points. 

Consequently, Suarez left Soriano (47 points) behind and scooped the award with 62 points, edging out Ronaldo by virtue of his superior number of assists. 

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“I understand that the Austrian league is not at the level of that of Spain, England, Germany… but whoever understands football knows that it is not easy to score goals anywhere,” said Soriano on the subject of the European Golden Shoe award. 

However, he did win the Europa League golden boot award with a return of 11 in just nine games.

Though he may not have got the recognition he felt his return deserved, it proved to be Soriano’s most successful season at Salzburg as he also added 22 assists to amass a grand total of 70 goal contributions.

That was more than Messi (41 goals and 14 assists) managed at Barca, while Ronaldo was just shy in terms of goal contributions with 51 goals and 17 assists. 

After winning five league titles and five Austrian Cups, as well as scoring 174 goals in 204 games during a six-year spell with Salzburg, Soriano continued his rich vein of form in China.

He scored 31 in 36 games while playing for Beijing Sinobo Guoan, with whom he also won the Chinese FA Cup, before embarking on unsuccessful spells with Saudi Arabian outfit Hilal and Girona. 

Now he’s back in his home country with something to prove ahead of a fierce relegation scrap for CD Castellon.

The stage is set for one last hurrah in what has been a glowing if not unconventional career of goal scoring artistry. 

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