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For 70 minutes of their 2-2 draw against Benfica on Thursday evening, Tottenham were awful. And then Roberto Soldado was substituted. It might be cruel to highlight the Spaniard's exit as the turning point in the match, but suddenly Spurs had belief in the final third as Nacer Chadli's brace made Benfica sweat while his £26m teammate could only watch from the bench.
Tim Sherwood chose to sit in the stand at the Stadium of Light, reportedly so that he could gain a better perspective on his team's performance (although avoiding a renewal of his feud with Jorge Jesus was also a suggestion). He won't have been impressed with Soldado's contribution. The striker volleyed an excellent first-half chance into the ground, sending the ball looping over the bar, and then, well, did very little else.
If he isn't going to gobble up such gilt-edged opportunities, you have to wonder what exactly it is that Soldado is going to do. His movement is poor - at times, terrible - and he repeatedly fails to find space and stretch the play in the wide areas. There have been plenty of slow-motion replays this season of a lifeless Soldado inexplicably standing outside the box as Spurs' wingers have surged forward to cross into dangerous areas. He is never going to be a target man in the role Emmanuel Adebayor usually performs, but it seems his penalty-box instincts have also gone AWOL.
Daniel Levy should be concerned, along with Sherwood - if we are to believe the manager's claim that he will remain in charge next season. "It's out of my hands but I believe I'll be here next year," he said on Thursday. "I'm planning for next season. The players are playing for their futures." Top of the list is a striker with only six goals from open play in 31 appearances.
It is clear that Sherwood isn't a fan of Soldado. The forward has started only four of Spurs' last ten fixtures (three of which came in the Europa League) and has been pushed to the margins of the first team while Adebayor's contribution has been championed. When he scored his first goal for nine matches against Cardiff, the celebration from his teammates was almost patronising - even the mediocre Andros Townsend could be seen pointing to Soldado, almost in disbelief at what had happened.
It has reached a stage of embarrassment in which the striker's future at the club is becoming increasingly untenable. Spurs have not had great fortune in the recruitment of number nines over recent years, and there is diminishing hope that Soldado can be a rare example of unexpected transformation. Just a year after the 28-year-old arrived as the club's record signing, it already seems a possibility that he could be flogged to the highest bidder.
If that proves to be the case, it will serve as further condemnation of Spurs' rip-it-up-and-start-again approach under Levy. But what choice will the chairman have if he appoints the club's third manager in 12 months? Different coaches favour different players - as Sherwood's replacement of Villas-Boas has proved - and, on the evidence of this season, it's difficult to see anyone backing Soldado to lead the line next year.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.