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Carlos Aranda - Two UCL titles, eight La Liga clubs, and unemployment

Sarthak Kumar narrates the story of ex-Villarreal striker Carlos Aranda, a player who won two Champions League titles and played for a record eight La Liga clubs

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
On November 5, 2016, a player who hadn't played for over a year joined his hometown club - a Tercera outfit called El Palo. Obviously, this was an ordinary signing.

But the player El Palo signed was no ordinary player.

The fight isn't on the pitch.

Carlos Aranda is known for his work ethic and his sheer determination. But that fight, that desire, that temperamental figure on the pitch is a result of the saddening circumstances off it.

Carlos was born in Málaga, Andalusia. His father abandoned him when he was little, and at the age of nine, his mother - a drug addict - died of cancer. Raised by his grandparents, his training at local club El Palo was overshadowed by the training of an early adulthood - he would fish octopuses to sell to restaurants in Málaga.

It was Vicente del Bosque who discovered the young forward at El Palo, and took him to Madrid - but he didn't fit in. The glamour didn't suit him, and he even tried fleeing the club - Real Madrid had to assign him a private tutor. "Mischievous", Vicente called him, many years later.

Somehow, despite all the odds, he graduated but never played in La Liga; however, he played a small part in two UEFA Champions League-winning squads, appearing against Molde FK (1999-00) and FC Lokomotiv Moscow (2001-02).

It was the time of the Galácticos, and Carlos was a casualty.

In January 2002, Aranda moved to Numancia, being instrumental in helping the Soria-based club retain its second division status - barely. This prompted a move at the end of the season to La Liga outfit Villarreal on a five-year deal but, as opportunities were scarce, he returned to Numancia in the Segunda in January 2003.

His first shot at top flight football had ended badly, but another six fruitful months at Numancia - helping them, once again, retain their Segunda status - earned him his second shot at top flight football. This time, it was newly promoted and Castilla-La Mancha based side Albacete who took the punt - and boy, did it pay off. Despite playing just over 1600 minutes, he scored eight goals - more than anyone else in the team. But more than the goals, it was his all round performances and his fighting spirit that won the affection of El Queso Mecánico, and a move to Sevilla in 2004.

Unfortunately, while he did score in his UEFA Cup debut, a 2–0 home win over Alemannia Aachen, he largely played second fiddle to Júlio Baptista. Furthermore, the following season he was forced out - for the second time from a big club - due to the arrivals of Luís Fabiano, Frédéric Kanouté and Javier Saviola. Sevilla sent him back to now-Segunda outfit Albacete on loan for the 2005-06 season, which finished with an accusation of unprofessional behavior by the club. He responded claiming he had been forced to appear at a press conference to show repentance for his actions.

The journeyman, once again looking for a club, ended up at Segunda outfit Real Murcia. The club was looking to return to its rightful place in La Liga - and Carlos Aranda's 1304 minutes spread over the 2006-07 season yielded a surprising 11 goals - second-best in the squad behind Iván Alonso - and a promotion. And once again, a wave of success was followed by an unassuming season - this time with "newly created" Segunda outfit Granada 74 which ended in relegation.

This time, however, there was no team to take a shot at him.

No team wanted him. No professional team, that is - many teams in the Segunda B were happy to have him train with them. For the first few months of the 2008-09 season, he was training with Catalan Segunda B outfit CF Gavà, desperately hoping that a club would give him one final shot to prove himself in professional football.

It was almost poetic, almost perfect, that the club that gave him his first opportunity gave him another one. In December 2008 Numancia signed him again, hoping that his time there would be "third time lucky".

This time, Carlos Aranda made sure there would be no dispute of his quality, scoring regularly and proving his mettle as a top tier striker. And while Numancia were relegated, this time every top tier club was somehow linked to him. It was Osasuna who won the bidding war, offering 1.2 million euros as well as Kike Sola on a year-long loan deal.

Unfortunately, this time the struggle was different - injuries kept him out for large stretches of what some would assume are the "prime" years of a striker's career, and in his second season Kike Sola returned and took his place as Carlos took his place on the physio table.

From then on, the story, like his career, undergoes a slow decline. In the summer of 2011 he signed for Levante but six months later joined Real Zaragoza, and a year after that joined Granada - all in La Liga - never really settling at any club.

He went on to play for Las Palmas and Numancia in the Segunda, but was released by the latter club in February 2015.

Over a year of unemployment later, Carlos Aranda is back where he started.

His local team, El Palo.

The unfortunate part of his story is this - history will remember him by a statistic. He is the player to have played for the most La Liga teams - the number being eight, nine if you count Real Madrid*. What that statistic shows is a journeyman - but it doesn't capture his story.

It doesn't capture the fact that many clubs tossed him aside. It doesn't capture his rise to the top despite the incredible hardships of his childhood. It doesn't capture the the impossible odds of being spotted by Vicente del Bosque in the small barrio of El Palo.

And it doesn't capture his work ethic, his determination, and his desire on the pitch.

*he didn't play in La Liga for Real Madrid, which is why counting it might be misleading. Nevertheless, he holds the record.

This article is reproduced from a series on the faces of Spanish football. You can read it here.