One of many recurring features on this site will be an attempt to keep track of all the notable Venezuelan players who are either in or have a realistic chance of playing for the national squad, affectionately known as La Vinotinto. There are several handy Venezuelan websites that also attempt to cover these disparate individuals – well over 30 players, at last count. Although I will keep a personal record of the progress of each player, I won’t be overloading you all with a comprehensive barrage of tedium, detailing minutes played and all the cross-field pass statistics you could ever hope for. Instead, I shall be more selective and instead pick out some of the highlights and most notable stories, adding some opinions from time to time. I will aim to update this at least once a week, if not twice (Midweek and after the Weekend).
To begin with and in this particular message there may be well be too information to process as I intend to give updates for players than span the last few weeks or more of action as well as introductions to certain individuals, but I hope I at least give you an idea of who to look out for and who is currently making the news around the world.
As you will see below, Venezuelans play in at least four different continents and so these continents shall provide the categories. In the absence of a universal football calendar, some leagues have already started and so below there will be an emphasis on actual competitive football, though friendlies will not be neglected altogether as plenty of Venezuelans have made big moves and are attempting to force their ways into their respective manager’s plans.
The Swiss Super League is the only European league that is currently underway and that began less than two weeks ago, with two Venezuelans having already been in action. Pedro Ramírez, a title-winner with Zamora FC back home last year and recipient of the Best Young Player of the Season, did not feature in the first game for FC Sion, but came on in the second and started the 1-0 victory over St. Gallen on Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll soon be seeing why this promising lad has been dubbed the ‘Venezuelan Messi’. Super League veteran of two years Alexander González has featured in all three games with his new club FC Thun, starting two, including the glorious 3-2 away win against Grasshoppers this past weekend. The two others affiliated with this league, the Feltscher brothers, have not yet seen action; Frank (of FC Aarau) due to injury and Rolf due to being unattached, though he did play for Grasshoppers in pre-season.
Elsewhere and in rather significant news, an all-out Venezuelan civil war may break out for the right to play in the Champions League. Indeed, AEL Limassol of Cyprus, having recruited two uncapped Venezuelans in the form of Jonathan España and Jaime Moreno have been drawn against Vinotinto colossus Salomón Rondón and his Russian side, the AVB-led Zenit St. Petersburg. The latter are undoubtedly the favourites and the first leg kicks off tomorrow, 30 July, with Limassol at home – the return leg will be on 6 August. The Russian top-flight begins this weekend, though Zenit will surely not be complacent and rest the likes of Rondón, who scored a corker against Karlsruhe in pre-season that blasted in at 123 km/h. On the other side, whether the Venezuelan pair get any match-time for the Cypriots remains to be seen, though if they were to cause an upset then defender Jonathan España will have played in the group stage of his second premier Continental club competition, having represented Zamora FC in the Copa Libertadores.
The Europa League Third Qualifying Round is also played this week and two Venezuelans may well play. Firstly, Josef Martínez, an import from the Swiss League (yes, that league knows an emerging footballing nation when it sees it) may well feature for Torino away to Brommapojkarna of Sweden. Having played regularly in pre-season, notching some goals and assists, he’s certainly one to keep an eye on and time will tell how often he features in a new-look Immobile-less Torino attack with new-boy Fabio Quagliarella. Over in Portugal, Rio Ave, home to another forward in the form of Yonathan Del Valle, will also start away to Swedish opposition, IFK Göteborg. Del Valle has featured in pre-season but whether he plays here is another matter. Regardless, both ties will be played on Thursday, with the return legs a week later. The winners will then go into the Play-off Round where they will be joined by the loser of the Zenit-Limassol tie (and all the other losers in the Champions League Third Qualifying Round) as well as the top-seeded teams which include C.D. Nacional of Portugal, where Mario Rondón plays. These ties will begin on 20 August and it will be curious to see whether Rondón is still there as, whilst representing his team in pre-season, he has also stated to the press that he thinks it is time to make the leap, claiming teams from England, Spain and France are interested.
Moving on to less competitive European news, the remaining Portugual-based player, 20-year old right-back Victor García, appears to be spending another year in the Porto B team, having trained with them and played in their pre-season 3-2 loss to Nottingham Forest.
Spain, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a fair few Venezuelans to keep an eye on and if there is one club that may get featured more than any other on this site, it will be Málaga CF, home to two players (quite possibly three, if certain rumours prove true). Firstly, the new signing Roberto Rosales, a right-back who at the tender age of 25 already has 7 years of European experience under his belt and comes from a successful spell at FC Twente in the Eredivisie. Secondly and less prominent, is the emerging prospect Juan Pablo Añor who has racked up an impressive ratio of one goal in every two games for the youth team and has been training with the first team this pre-season. Both men have featured in their Australian tour games and the club, acknowledging their Venezuelan links (it’s also the former club of Salomón Rondón), recorded a chat with the pair. There could well be another young Venezuelan forward in the Primera División as Darwin Machís appears to have been promoted to Granada’s first team squad, having played on loan in the Segunda B last year.
One league below, there’s at least four players of interest, two of whom are currently at Real Valladolid. Firstly, national team goalkeeper Dani Hernández, who has featured in a couple of pre-season games, though he has been strongly linked with a move away and is arguably only playing while the owners find a replacement. Secondly, Jeffrén Suárez, a winger who also plays as a forward, formerly of Barcelona (he scored against Real Madrid) and Sporting Lisbon. Now 26 and still eager to prove himself, he has made himself very much open to a call-up, having previously played at every level except senior for Spain. Elsewhere in the Segunda is Julio Álvarez of Numancia, a creative player who was responsible for half of his side’s 42 goals last season, assisting with 14 and scoring 7. He was born in Venezuela but moved to Spain at four and represented the latter at youth level but with no senior call-up forthcoming he accepted the Venezuelan offer and began playing for La Vinotinto three years ago, making his debut at the age of 30. He hasn’t played for nearly two years but with a new manager, who knows. The last player from this league that will be on my radar is Josmar Zambrano of Recreativo Huelva (the oldest team in Spain). He’s a 22 year-old midfielder with two caps from experimental squads three years ago, but despite some injury setbacks he appears to be in Huelva’s plans this season and has already played in friendlies against a Barcelona XI and Sunderland, amongst others.
Moving on to Italy where Josef Martínez will be playing, one transfer saga has recently been resolved, with national stalwart Tomás Rincón finally choosing his next destination having let his Hamburg contract run down, with Genoa receiving his services for the upcoming season. Franco Signorelli, a midfielder who helped Empoli achieve promotion, will be looking to make a name for himself in the big league, a place where no Venezuelan to date has really prospered. Indeed, the remaining player still registered in this league is Rafael Romo, goalkeeper at Udinese. However, his side is not short of goalies and the writing appears to be on the wall, with moves to either Venezuela or Spain having been rumoured.
Over in France, two key national team players, striker Fernando Aristeguieta and defender Oswaldo Vizcarrondo, have both been involved in Nantes’ pre-season, the latter more so as the former picked up a minor injury along the way. Elsewhere, at newly promoted FC Metz, Juan Falcón will be looking to make a name for himself on the European stage after his move from domestic champions Zamora FC, where he bagged a goal ratio of over one in two. In the league below, Grenddy Perozo will hopefully be able to plug the defence of recently relegated Ajaccio, a task made all the more difficult after the loss of the Mexican Jesus, Guillermo Ochoa.
Two remaining European-based players will be monitored. Firstly, the experienced former Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta, currently of Fulham, who has been the source of some transfer speculation, with a move to Málaga at one point seeming imminent. He has not featured in any Fulham friendlies thus far, though this may be more due to an alleged injury. Secondly and finally, is Ronald Vargas, a talented midfielder who has had a fair share of injury problems and was released from his contract at Anderlecht. He has recently joined the newly promoted Balıkesirspor in the Turkish top-flight. As their official Facebook page shows, they did hold a real mother of a blowout for him – almost Darius Vassell proportions.
Colombia is home to two talented Venezuelans and both have actually played competitive football this season. Alejandro Guerra, who joined giants Atlético Nacional on loan earlier this month from Mineros de Guayana in Venezuela, has featured once apiece in their league and cup campaigns without embarrassing himself. The somewhat more illustrious midfielder Luis Manuel Seijas has been in action all season for Santa Fe, playing regularly in both league and cup matches, helping his team to a 100% record in the latter. Just one week ago, he scored an absolute scorcher in a friendly against Deportivo de La Coruña.
Over in Chile, where the top-flight kicked off less than two weeks ago, there are also two players of note who have been performing for their respective clubs. Forward Emilio Rentería has looked a handful for newly promoted San Marcos, having several chances in his first game, scoring in a cup match last midweek and then netting a volley at the weekend in a 2-1 loss to Ñublense, the team of our other man, Javier González. He did not actually feature in that match – whether his team’s 3-0 opening day hiding at the hands of Huachipato had anything to do with that, one can only speculate.
The uncapped Bernardo Añor has been having a promising season at Columbus Crew in the United States and it is surely only a matter of time before Sanvicente gives him a try. He is well into the season and has shown his versatility by playing at both left-back, left-wing and in midfield. Ten days ago, he scored two match-winning goals as his side came from behind to defeat Montreal Impact – the second has shades of Bobby Charlton vs. Mexico in ’66. For trivia fans, he is in fact the brother of Juan Pablo Añor at Málaga and their father was also a professional football player, which seems to be abnormally common amongst the Venezuelans.
Mexico is now home to Venezuela’s two all-time joint top-scorers, Juan Arango and Giancarlo Maldonado. Arango left Europe after ten successful seasons to return to Mexico with Xolos de Tijuana. So far it has not quite been the dream return as his side went down unexpectedly at home to Puebla in his first match, with Arango receiving harsh criticism afterwards for his rather subdued performance. His second match got off to a good start as he converted a penalty against Club América, but his side could not hold on and were defeated 2-1 in the Azteca. One league below, Maldonado has returned to his old club, Atlante, and scored two goals in two league games. Despite his age, given the strength of Mexican football, a return to the national set-up does not seem out of the question.
Former Celta Vigo defender Andres Túñez has made a strong start to his spell in Thailand with Buriram United, even managing to get on the scoresheet side and help his side to the top of league – mostly whilst wearing a facemask which looks like it would not be out of place in the UFC.
Finally, former La Liga and Celtic striker Nicolás ‘Miku’ Fedor has recently started his pre-season with Qatari side Al-Gharafa, scoring both goals in a 2-0 win.
Thus ends the very first update of Venezuelans Abroad. The ones in the future won’t be so extensive and will not feature each players’ every move, but for now, these are the players that will be featured with varying regularity and I hope you will bookmark this page and keep track of their progress with me.