Every Hammer will surely remember the charismatic Peruvian Nolberto Solano and his memorable spell during the otherwise easily forgotten 2007/2008 season.
But, how did he become such a popular figure with The Claret & Blue Army? How did his journeyman career see him arrive for a twilight spell in East London? And where is he now?
“Nobby” Solano was born in the Peruvian Province of Callao in 1974, starting his career with the little-known Peru First Division Side Sporting Cristal. But, it wouldn’t be long before one of Peru’s most recognizable clubs in the form of Deportivo Municipal came calling.
However, things didn’t work out with La Academia and Solano would quickly return to his roots with Sporting, where he would stay until a huge move in 1997.
Boca Juniors, commonly known as “The Barcelona of South America”, had been scouting the youngster for some time and decided to move for him in 2002.
The club has come to be a player channel to Europe and more specifically the Premier League, making it hardly surprising when Kenny Dalglish’s Newcastle United signed the star for around £2 Million just months later.
Nevertheless, Solano left Argentina with a very handy reputation, after being described by Diego Maradona is “The Little Maestro”.
Successful spells with The Toon and Aston Villa would follow as he became not only the first Peruvian to play in the Premier League, but also the first to appear in an FA Cup Final.
Upon his return to The Magpies in 2005, the then 29-year-old announced that he would be quitting his national team after a dispute with manager Freddy Ternero. He would return a year later but eventually retired in 2009 after Peru failed to reach the 2010 World Cup.
Having once again lit up the North East with his flair and versatile, the dead ball specialist expressed his desire to move South in 2007, citing family reasons as the main contributing factor to the decision.
Our then boss Alan Curbishley was in luck and he got his man during that summer on a free transfer.
Although his powers were inevitably fading, “Nobby” still managed to conjure up his fair share of magic in East London, none better than his first Hammers goal, however.
In an incredible 0-5 rout at Pride Park against a soon to be relegated Derby County side, the winger curled in an outstanding 69th-minute free-kick to round off our victory and open his Claret & Blue account.
Three more notches in a West Ham shirt would follow for Solano before the end of the season, including a contentious late winner at Craven Cottage.
In his final game at Upton Park, the paceman waved goodbye to the Premier League in some style as he placed yet another trademark free-kick into the top corner against his former club, Martin O’Neill’s Aston Villa.
Following the conclusion of that campaign in May 2008, Solano’s contract was not renewed in E13 and he made the bizarre move AE Larissa in the Greek League. In 2009, the attacking winger returned to Peru for a brief but significant tenure with Universitario De Deportes.
Return spells with Nigel Pearson at both Leicester City and Hull City saw the flare player through to his final club, Hartlepool United.
Scoring two League One goals in his final professional season deep into his 30’s, Solano jumped straight into management after being told he was no longer needed at Victoria Park.
His first assignment was with North East based Non-League side Newcastle Benfield, which was prior to a double spell back in his native land of Peru as a coach.
Having left his role of first-team coach with Canada’s Internacional De Toronto, Solano’s career took a very different and unexpected turn.
The once highly decorated player took a break from the game to focus on other business ventures, including his accomplished trumpet career and setting up his own salsa band.
However, nowadays after a return to the Peru football set-up, Solano is proudly the assistant manager of his birth nation and one step closer to his promise of guiding Peru to a World Cup as a manager.
So, with the Coaching Career of one of the most popular figures in not just the Premier League, world football, finally taking off. Will we ever see Nolberto Solano back in familiar Claret & Blue as manager at The London Stadium?