Even before a Brazil team painfully reliant on the individual brilliance of Neymar had been shorn of its star player thanks to a four game suspension for violent conduct, this edition of the Copa America appeared to represent the best chance for the host nation to emerge victorious in several decades.
Chile have already won their group, confirming their place in the knock-out rounds with a 5-0 victory over second-placed-qualifiers Bolivia. Their star players have shone; Alexis Sanchez was one of the goalscorers, and is the second highest rated player in the tournament so far, with an average rating of 7.96; behind only Lionel Messi.
Arturo Vidal is not far behind, featuring fifth on the same list. He is currently the tournament’s top scorer and was named ‘most influential player of the group stages’, to add to his inclusion in the official team of the group stages, despite making headlines worldwide for a late night crash that wrote off his £230,000 Ferrari 458.
Against Bolivia, however, the two superstars were collectively responsible for only one of five goals scored; Vidal started on the bench, eventually coming on to play the second half. Instead, it was some of the lesser-known lights that were most responsible for their emphatic victory; chief among them Charles Aranguiz.
Aranguiz scored the second and third of Chile’s goals, and is following up a strong performance in last summer’s World Cup with an even stronger one in the Copa America. As a result, he has suddenly found himself being touted for a move to Manchester City, and yet, many might find themselves asking; who is Charles Aranguiz?
A versatile, crafty midfielder who generally plays in the centre, Aranguiz has also demonstrated an impressive tactical awareness and range of passing, alongside an ability to find the back of the net fairly regularly.
At 26-years-old, the major question that arises: why has a player of his talent spent his entire career up to this point outside Europe?
It was mooted in some sections of the media that he would be the subject of a major transfer after his performances for Chile in the World Cup last summer, but nothing materialised.
In fact, Aranguiz was bought on a co-ownership deal in 2013 by the Pozzo family, owners of Udinese, with the intention of playing either for the Zebrette, or potentially another club in the Pozzo’s stable: Granada, in Spain. Thanks to restrictions on non-EU players, however, he was immediately sent on loan to Brazilian Serie A side Internacional.
His performances saw him become so important to the Porto Alegre team that they paid a fee reported to have been around five million pounds to take full possession of his rights, and so he never made an appearance for any of the Pozzos' clubs in Europe.
He has apparently been watched in the past by Arsenal, but it is now Manchester City that the player is being strongly linked with, and the diminutive midfielder could bring an intelligence, as well as the typical south american bite and drive that he possesses, to a midfield that desperately requires an injection of both youthful energy and guile.
Perhaps, rather than moving thousands of miles from home as a young man too early in his career, remaining in South America has allowed him to develop his game and flourish in a familiar environment, without the glare of an international spotlight; emerging a fully rounded player with the maturity to make his mark on one of Europe’s top leagues and take the surrounding pressures in his stride.
After helping his country advance to the Copa America semi-finals thanks to a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Uruguay, we will soon see how far Aranguiz and his team-mates can take Chile in the tournament. But, only time will tell how far next season will take Aranguiz, and whether or not his final destination will be the North West of England.
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