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On this day in 2000: Aston Villa sign Juan Pablo Angel for club-record fee

Soccer – FA Barclays Premiership – Aston Villa v Reading – Villa Park
(Image credit: Nick Potts)

Aston Villa splashed out a club-record transfer fee to bring Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel to the Premier League on December 22, 2000.

Villa, under the management of John Gregory, paid £9.5million to River Plate for the services of the then 25-year-old, beating the £7million they spent on Stan Collymore three and a half years previously.

Expectations were high, with Angel having been prolific for River Plate, and he made his debut in a 2-0 defeat by Manchester United on January 20, 2001.

But Angel initially struggled to adapt to life in England and the Premier League and did not score his first goal until May 2001.

Writing on The Coaches’ Voice website, Angel said: “Things weren’t easy. There is always a normal adaptation process that every player must face but I went through a difficult personal situation away from the game.

“My wife became ill when we came to England and she spent almost six months in hospital when we had our first child.

“But the league itself had its own difficulties. The language, the weather, the physicality and speed of the competition.

Juan Pablo Angel celebrates a goal for Villa

Juan Pablo Angel celebrates a goal for Villa (Rui Vieira/PA)

“And, in terms of organisation, the club wasn’t really prepared when it came to bringing in overseas players from our region.”

Angel’s stay in the midlands coincided with frequent managerial changes, with Gregory succeeded by Graham Taylor, David O’Leary and Martin O’Neill.

But the Colombian settled at the club and went on to score more than 60 goals in his six and a half seasons.

The highlight was a brilliant campaign under O’Leary in 2003-04, when Villa finished sixth in the Premier League and reached the semi-finals of the League Cup.

Angel said: “That season, I scored 23 goals in all competitions. The truth is that I didn’t really understand the scale of what that meant in a league like the Premier League. It was probably one of the best things that happened to me.”

Angel left Villa Park in April 2007 and went on to play for New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA before returning to his first club, Atletico Nacional, in his home city of Medellin. He retired in December 2014.