Ever since Pep said this: "Because of the injury of Villa we're thinking about promoting Soriano. Problem is he then can't go back to the B-team" in his press conference today, I've been getting a lot of questions about Soriano and his possible promotion. I'm going to address hopefully everything here, adapted from the transfer piece I wrote last summer.
As Pep said, the club is considering promoting Soriano to the first team since Villa is injured. It would have to be a direct promotion and not just call-ups when needed, like for example the way Cuenca sometimes gets called up, because Soriano is 26 years old and players over 25 aren't allowed to get called up. It has to be a promotion or nothing.
If you don't know Soriano's story you may wonder why he is still on the B team at age 26, why he never got called up or promoted before. The thing is that he was not raised in Barca's academy like the rest of the B-team. He joined Barca B at age 24, and before that he was a first team player at first-division Liga club Espanyol. First team, as in he took a step back to join Barca B, who were then in the third division.
Soriano had a rough time of it with Espanyol. They dragged him out on loan after loan and never gave him a real shot, and in the end let him go without renewing his contract or caring to look into taking offers for him.
Barca, as Soriano puts it, ‘saved his footballing career.’ Not one to be daunted by his bad experience with Espanyol, he came to Barca B and started over. His first season with Barca B saw him score 36 goals (31 league goals), finishing among the top scorers in all four sections of the Segunda B and leading Barca B into promotion to the Segunda A, the second division. He scored another 36 the next season (32 league), claiming Pichichi, top scorer of the entire second division, and leading Barca B to finish third place in the league ranking. An incredible achievement for a B team in the second division.
His history with Espanyol and his performance with Barca B over the past two seasons invalidate any doubts based on his age. Last season, only the rule claiming that players over 25 can not be called up from the B team to the first team if they haven’t been called up from the start of the season prevented Pep from calling him up (he did try).
Pep included Soriano in his preseason squad prior to the start of this season, and Soriano played 2 or 3 matches with the first team in which he was very impressive. Then he received a massive blow in the form of a calf injury that would sideline him for two months. The injury meant that he was dropped from Barca's preseason squad and also stood in the way of a possible transfer to another club.
So Soriano would be stuck on the B team for another season. This season started with him still sidelined, recovering from the injury, and his absence was greatly felt by the B team as they started the season poorly. When Soriano returned to the playing field Barca B's form immediately picked up.
Recall that when Nolito, who is also a striker, decided he wanted to leave Barca B last season and join another club, he was offered a first team contract. He’s only one year younger than Soriano and Soriano’s performance has been more impressive, so if Nolito is/was first team material than Soriano most certainly is.
As for Soriano’s own willingness to join the first team – he doesn’t share Nolito’s stance. Nolito left because he saw no future for himself at Barca, insisting that he needs to go somewhere where he’ll get more playing time and make more money; seeing as he’s married with his own family as well as his parents to support, and no one can blame him.
Whereas Soriano… he did an interview for Sport last summer where he talks about his time at Barca and what the future may hold for him, saying how grateful he is to Barca and completely at peace with whatever may happen, if he leaves or if he stays. If he leaves he will miss Barca very much, but he will accept it, thought his hope is to stay and be promoted, in which case he would give it everything he’s got. “I’ll be grateful for any opportunity Guardiola gives me,” he says. As his soaring season with Barca B last season neared it’s end he said, “I’m fighting for the first team.” More than anything he just wants to play football, wherever that may be. He was close to quitting the sport before Barca ‘saved’ him; now he says he wouldn’t dream of leaving it.
That Soriano would be a viable and effective replacement for Villa, that he would work for it and give all his effort, and that he deserves the promotion, is undoubted. The question then becomes, if Barca promotes him then what happens once Villa returns?
Well, Villa is out until the end of the season. Soriano will be leaving Barca at the end of the season if he doesn't get promoted to the first team. At his age and talent, it is shame for him not to be playing first division football, and only injury stood between him and a transfer last summer.
So since Soriano would be leaving at the end of the season anyway, it makes sense to promote him now. Better he spend the remainder of the season with the first team than with the B team. Then at the end of the season when Villa returns, if the consensus is that Soriano is no longer needed, he will transfer to another club - as he would be doing anyway, if he hadn't got the promotion. That's why the way I see it, there is no reason at all not to promote him. And now that Pep has brought it up it seems probable, so fingers crossed.