Before football ever existed in my personal timeline, I sat as a nine year old in an armchair. My Gameboy Colour rested on the armrest as my little fingers greedily rooted through a packet of Walkers (I think they were Salt and Vinegar flavoured). Much to my surprise, my greasy appendages came across a small 2002/2003 promotional Premier League sticker. Curiosity took over. After watching the 2002 World Cup, I'd been made aware that football clubs existed in other countries and my interest for the game was growing. I'd shown little affection for Aston Villa up until this decisive moment, having preferred Chelsea (because they had a lion on the badge) and Arsenal (because they had a big gun on theirs).
I still remember turning the sticker over and slowly reading it. I memorised the name of my first Aston Villa player and still remember his screaming face, hair flying behind a headband and sweat dripping from his forehead. His arms stood spread before the Holte End. Juan Pablo Angel.
I immediately turned to my dad and asked for a full Villa kit with Angel's number and name on the back. Months on, I wouldn't ask my dad how Villa did in their matches, but how Angel did. Did he score again? Did he get sent off again? Was he injured again? We didn't have cable or satellite television so I was limited to waiting for him to get home from the pub to tell me.
I'll never forget the first time I actually saw Angel play, because he did this.
He made everyone look foolish, he scored a stunning strike and he kissed the camera. To this day I haven't seen a player so amazed by his own talent than Juan Pablo.Villa paid £9.5 million and it took more than a while for the gifted Colombian to make that fee worthwhile and even though his form fell off a cliff at the end of his tenure with Villa, I certainly won't forget him and I'm sure many others won't either.
Juan Pablo Angel was perhaps one of the most talented footballers to ever grace Villa Park and whilst he never fulfilled the heights of his clear potential, he certainly did enough to be loved. I don't think I've ever loved someone as much as Angel at Villa and only Laursen, Barry and Mellberg have come close. It was a damn shame O'Neill let him go to the MLS, but Juan Pablo was a player who certainly deserved a lovely sunset to frame the end of his career, because certainly doused Birmingham with his flair and style.
Angel still remains a fan favourite at Villa Park and to this day his name is chanted whenever his highlights appear on the screen.
"There's only Juan Pablo Angel, Juan Pablo Angel. Juan Pablo Angel, there's only Juan Pablo Angel!"