In German, his position is known as a 'Sechser', in Spanish a 'Volante', and in English, the holding midfielder is what it has come to be called. Regardless of which language you use to define the role, 1. FSV Mainz 05’s Elkin Soto is a prime exponent of it.
The Colombian midfielder has become part of the furniture at Mainz since joining from Ecuadorean outfit SC Barcelona in January 2007. Indeed, for Soto, Mainz is like a home from home. The 33-year-old was born in Colombia’s carnival city, Manizales in the centre of the country, but now plies his trade in Germany’s carnival capital.
Soto played his youth football for Atlético Nacional Medellín, before joining hometown side Once Caldas in 1999 at the age of 19. He made 194 appearances for the club, and after a controversial 2005-06 season with the Barcelona of Ecuador, he made Mainz his new home. He took a while to settle, only making eight appearances at the end of the 2006/07 campaign in which Mainz were relegated from the Bundesliga, but showed hints of promise during an otherwise less-than-festival atmosphere, supplying three assists in those eight games.
It was in the Bundesliga 2 when Soto really pushed on. The South American had his ‘breakthrough season’ as Mainz got promoted in 2008/09, contributing two goals and two assists in 24 appearances from midfield. Indeed, Soto became a mainstay as the 'Karnevalklub' went from strength to strength in Germany’s top-flight, he scored four times in a remarkable fifth-place finish for the club in 2010/11.
The perfect finish?
For someone so experienced at a high level, and with a 2004 Copa Libertadores de América title under his belt, it is perhaps surprising that Soto has a mere 13 caps for his country. He was, however, banned from the national side due to a contractual dispute, and it was only in 2010 (on the back of his regularly-excellent performances in Mainz’s fantastic surge up the Bundesliga) that he returned to the Selección, after a two-year hiatus.
Recently, Soto has been the wise old midfield head in a Colombia side chock-full of young attacking talent, and on the verge of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup on his home continent. For many observers, Colombia would be a dark horse for the tournament, and for the quiet Soto, displaying his skills on the world stage would be a fitting way to crown his career.