LESS than a decade ago, he was preparing for a Champions League tie with Newcastle in Barcelona.
Now, having returned to the North-East with Hartlepool, Nolberto Solano harbours somewhat less lofty ambitions when it comes to knock-out competitions.
But, speaking ahead of tonight’s Carling Cup first round tie with Sheffield United, the former Peru international revealed his enthusiasm for the game remains undiminished.
Indeed Solano, who was withdrawn after an hour of Saturday’s 2-2 draw with MK Dons, hopes moving to Victoria Park marks the next rather than final stage of a glittering career.
“Management is, of course, something that I’m thinking about,” he said.
“In fact, after playing for so long, it’s the only thing I am thinking about because I love football.
“A big reason for me moving here is because Mick (Wadsworth) is helping me with the coaching badges and things like that.
“It’s nice to be involved in that side of things but I’m not ready yet to be properly involved.”
Solano’s arrival, following a brief spell with Hull City in the Championship, has captured the imagination of folk in a town hit hard by the decline of heavy industry.
A season ticket offer, promising passes for £100 if 4,000 supporters signed-up, was rewarded with over 5,500 subscriptions. No mean feat considering Hartlepool, who beat United at the same stage of the tournament 12 months ago, averaged attendances of just 2,933 last term.
Solano’s presence in Wadsworth’s squad serves to remind why Danny Wilson, himself a former Hartlepool manager, has warned the visitors they will pay a high price for under-estimating the threat their League One rivals pose.
He might not move with quite the same speed or grace which once enabled him to tear top-flight defences apart but Solano will be the only player on display this evening boasting Copa America and World Cup appearances on his CV. “If you’d have told me this time last year that we’d be signing him then I’d have thought you were mad,” Wadsworth, who coached Solano at St James Park, said.
Preventing Solano peppering their back-four with a series of precision crosses could prove crucial to United’s chances of avenging last August’s defeat should the veteran winger start. But in James Poole - who was on target at stadium:mk - and Nathan Luscombe, Wadsworth has unearthed two youngsters also capable of causing opponents problems.
James Brown, whose goal laid the foundations for Hartlepool’s triumph over United last year, is set to miss out with injury as Wilson’s charges look to build on their 2-0 success at Oldham Athletic.
Wadsworth said: “It will be a bitter disappointment for United to be in League One.
“They’’ll be wanting to establish themselves in this league.
“Danny is a very experienced manager and I’ve got a lot of respect for him. But we beat them last time and we’re very much hoping to do the same again.”