Pitchside Europe

In Praise of the Bundesliga’s Venezuelan magician


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Last Sunday Juan Arango of Borussia Moenchengladbach scored the goal of the season in the Bundesliga and yet nobody outside of Germany has been talking about it.

Had it been Messi or Ronaldo in the Spanish Liga, Rooney in England's Premier League or Robinho in Serie A, it would have gone viral and made headlines around the sporting world.

The 32 year old Venezuelan scored his outrageous goal from fifty yards after reacting to a clearance by Mainz goalkeeper Heinz Muller who was stranded after rushing off his line to clear the danger.

His normally reserved Swiss coach Lucien Favre rushed onto the pitch to join in the wild celebrations and praise .

"His goal at the weekend was the goal of the year. I was wondering for ages whether the ball would go in and it did. He has been scoring some incredible goals this season, against Frankfurt and Wolfsburg."

Favre is right. This is not a one off. The attacking midfielder can't stop scoring dream goals. He's scored five goals this season, four of which have won the goal of the weekend on Eurosport 2. And even the goal that didn't win, a free kick on the opening day of the season against Hoffenheim, came a close second!

Arango joined Monchengladbach at the start of the 2009/10 season on a three year deal after five seasons in the Spanish Liga at Real Mallorca.

The South American made an impressive start, scoring on his debut and creating a goal in an exciting 3-3 draw at Bochum.

He blew hot and cold in that first season and only scored once more as the Foals finished a respectable 12th in mid-table.

It was only when Swiss coach Lucien Favre took over in February 2011 that Arango and Monchengladbach really began to flourish. After surviving relegation that season by winning the play off, Favre guided the Foals to a fourth place finish last season and the Champions League.

However Monchengladbach sold three of their key players - Marco Reus, Dante and Roman Neustadter - and didn' t even get through the qualifying rounds of Europe's elite competition.

Those transfers also explained the Foals' spluttering start to this season's Bundesliga. Luckily, the one key player they managed to keep hold of was Arango, who has extended his contract by two seasons to 2014.

Despite the club's slow start this season, the South American has repaid their faith in him. They've only lost one of their last eight games and are through to the last 32 of the Europa League.

His best goal tally so far of six goals came last season, but he's now just one behind that total and on track for his best ever season at the club.

Arango is not known as a prolific goalscorer. With him it's more quality than quantity. That great football cliche "A scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer" could have been written for the Venezuelan.

Dutch teammate Luk de Jong is an admirer .

"Juan is capable of scoring these kind of goals and shows that all the time in training. He strikes the ball in such a way that they bend in different directions in flight."

Arango's coach Favre went even further.

"Juan is one of the best left footed players in the world."

On current form it's hard to argue. Lionel Messi is out on his own but who in the Bundesliga can rival the Venezuelan? Probably only Bayern Munich's Arjen Robben - when he's fit!

What makes Arango popular with teammates is his down to earth character and modesty. He's an intelligent man who gets annoyed by lazy stereotypes about South Americans such as bad timekeeping.

Born in Venezuela to Colombian parents, Arango is captain of the "Vinotinto" (the Burgundy) and earned his 100th cap as they finished fourth in last year's Copa America tournament.

Venezuela are currently fourth in the nine-nation South American World Cup qualifying group. They have 12 points along with Uruguay and Chile with only the top four guaranteed of advancing.

Arango is one of the few Venezuelans to ever play in one of the top European football leagues and is considered the country's best ever player.

Venezuela have never reached the World Cup finals but it would be fitting if Arango, who would then be 34, were finally able to grace a World Cup finals - especially one being held on South American soil.

It would also give English speaking fans the chance to discover and admire his genius and chant "There's only one/Juan Arango."


This weekend Arango's Borussia Monchengladbach face a tough final test away at Bayern Munich, the "Herbstmeister" (Winter Champions), before their winter break.

The Foals have moved up into 8th position and victory at Bayern could yet see them finish the year in the European positions.

Elsewhere this weekend second place Bayer Leverkusen host Hamburg.

Champions Borussia Dortmund are at Hoffenheim.

Eintracht Frankfurt are also on the road at Wolfsburg, who will be high on confidence after stunning Dortmund last weekend.

All eyes will be on struggling Schalke who host Freiburg.

Tony Jeffers, Eurosport 2

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