David Ginola, who is apparently surplus to requirements at Aston Villa, now also has a rival for the title of club glamour boy.
But there is much more to Juan Pablo Angel’s game than looking pretty and scoring goals. Villa’s new signing from River Plate of Argentina thrives on combination play.
While most Colombian strikers are speed merchants, at their best running towards goal, there is much more in the Angel mix. “I told him to pay plenty of attention to Marco Van Basten,” recalls Juan Jose Pelaez, one of his first coaches, “and lent him a tape of Fiorentina versus Milan from 1989, which he still has.” Angel learnt his lesson well. According to Leopoldo Luque, one of his illustrious predecessors as River Plate centre-forward, “to play for such a club you need to be able to drop deep and combine with the midfield, learn to move with your back to goal and play the ball first time. Angel does this very well. He’s the most complete striker in Argentina.”
Now he seeks similar accolades in England. But, as in Argentina, it could take time for him to make his mark.
Angel came into the River Plate side as his idol Enzo Francescoli retired and Marcelo Salas prepared to leave for Lazio. “The strikers who replaced them had to pay the price,” says Angel. “We weren’t given time to adapt. It’s not easy to wear the shirt of River.”
Angel, growing up in a middle-class family in Medellin, dreamed of playing for the Buenos Aires club from boyhood. His father wanted him to become an engineer; instead, the forward’s ability to construct goals caught the eye of Cesar Maturana, brother of the former Colombia coach Francisco.
“He insisted I should have a trial with Atletico Nacional,” said Angel. “I passed, but stopped going after two months. At 14, all those demands aren’t much fun. Then my father made me understand you don’t get anything in life without working for it.”
He went back, made his name with Nacional, and earned the dream move to River Plate. After a tricky baptism, the goals began to flow as he formed a potent attacking trio with young lions Pablo Aimar and Javier Saviola. Angel has been less successful at international level. He has contributed just one goal to Colombia’s World Cup qualifying campaign so far. A short stride leaves him lacking pace over distance, and, played in isolation up front, he has struggled.
With the team languishing sixth in the group, getting the best out of Angel should be a priority when the campaign resumes at the end of March.
Club Aston Villa (Eng)
Born October 24, 1975, in Medellin
Previous clubs Atletico Nacional, River Plate (Arg)
International debut November 1996, v Bolivia
International caps 12 (1 goal)
Honours Colombian championship 1994; Argentinian closing championship 1998, 2000; opening championship 1999