Carlos Cuellar, Rangers and Aston Villa: What's Going On With Villa's Spaniard?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 01: Shaun Wright-Phillips of Manchester City goes past the tackle from Carlos Cuellar of Aston Villa during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at the City of Manchester Stadium on May 1, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)


Carlos Cuellar has been having quite a day in the social media, posting Rangers songs on Facebook and tweeting about how Glasgow has been painted blue today. In case you missed it, Celtic fell to Rangers 1-3 in the Old Firm derby, putting the visitors at the top of the Scottish Premier League. And Cuellar is ecstatic.

Cuellar played for Rangers before Martin O'Neill came in and stole him away. Now, I didn't follow every team in every league like back then, like I'm apparently attempting to do now, so I did a little research to determine the extent of Cuellar's involvement at Rangers. He spent but one season there, 2007-2008, before signing with Aston Villa in August 2008.

But that one season cemented the Spaniard's forever fandom. He made 65 (!) appearances for Rangers in a single season--which seems utterly exhausting--and scored five goals. After that impressive season, Cuellar was named the SPL Player of the Year, and when given the award said, "I want to stay at Rangers for life." 

Enter Martin O'Neill. O'Neill was likely tired of seeing Cuellar's face standing in the way of Celtic goals, and decided to bring him to England. Cuellar didn't even get a start in his second season at Rangers, getting injured before the first game and then moving to Villa, where he was promptly moved from center-back to right-back. Cuellar made 37 appearances for Villa in his first season, and 46 in his second, with all his appearances last year being starts. I'm relying solely on memory here, as I can't find a database that keeps track of this information, but I'm almost positive all those starts were at right-back. If not all, then a vast majority. Now that I think about it, he could have been in the center in the few games before Richard Dunne came over from Manchester City.

So MON poached the SPL's best player, even though he had a perfectly satisfactory defensive pairing in Martin Laursen and Curtis Davies. Naturally, the best idea in this case would be to just shove Cuellar out to the side. After Laursen's retirement and Curtis Davies' injury, rather than move Cuellar back to the center, Villa went out and picked up Dunne and James Collins--two players who will never, ever be full backs. Yet Cuellar was still around, so what happens? Luke Young is given compassionate leave and Cuellar takes his position at right-back. Despite the fact that Cuellar has never looked good going forward, Young was never able to reclaim his position on the right under O'Neill.

I tell you all this not to bring up yet more questions about Martin O'Neill's reign. While the Villa were at least able to put the ball in the freaking net under MON, it's obvious that the man had some stubborn notions about his set of players. What I'm worried about is this: Why on earth is Cuellar on the bench? Is he really a worse right-back than Habib Beye? And why on earth did Ciaran Clark come on in place of Richard Dunne last week--and more to the point, why is Dunne even playing, considering he is clearly injured?

Carlos Cuellar is the one Villa player that uses his twitter. The last reference he made to Villa was when he retweeted the official team photo. Before that, he shared an entry on his official website, which included this quote:

Carlos Cuellar is ready to return to the center of the defense and assist in a victory that would allow his team to be back in the European places.

Since then, there's been utter silence on the Cueller front. He played in a reserves win, but didn't mention it. Nothing about the Villa losses. All this from a player who was formerly nothing but positive when mentioning his club.

Cuellar's games this season--Bolton, Blackburn (Carling Cup) and Wolves--certainly didn't mark him out as being in poor form (I'm not including the Europa League start because no one came off well in that match). Something's going on with Cuellar, and I doubt it's injury.

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