When Willy Caballero was playing for Elche, down in the Segunda Division in 2011, it seemed his career away from the shores of Argentina was destined to start and end in the lower leagues of Spanish football.
That’s because he was already 29 years old. And having played for the club for seven years since moving to Europe, it was difficult to see how a rise to the top of European football would materialise.
For one reason, at 29, most players are winding down their careers with their best years already behind them. But by a stroke of good fortune, the goalkeeper was picked up by Manuel Pellegrini who was carrying out an ambitious project at Malaga after taking over in November 2010.
The Chilean led the club to their first-ever qualification for the Champions League in his very first season in charge.
To bolster the squad for the challenges ahead, Caballero was one of the new faces brought into the side. The shot-stopper took his opportunity to star in the big leagues with both hands.
His manager was impressed with his performance. And when Manchester City rewarded him with a bigger project in 2013 after taking Malaga to the quarter-final stage, he came back for Caballero the next year.
Little did the goalkeeper know when leaving Elche that he was going to make a name for himself in the game both in Spain and England.
He won the League Cup with Manchester City and added the FA Cup, Europa League and the mother of them all, the Champions League while donning the colours of Chelsea.
And the best part? He achieved all these in his thirties, at a time when most of his peers had retired from the game. Unfortunately, he got his biggest medal in the game against City, but it’s not his fault. Pep Guardiola deemed him surplus to requirements in 2017.
Chelsea believed he still had a lot to offer and have kept him for the last four years. At this point, City faithful should bear no grudge concerning his success in the colours of the London side.
The Pensioners have now released him at the ripe age of 39. He will now be looking at the next chapter in his career, whether to continue playing or hang up his gloves for good. Looking back though, he will have to be grateful for his rise from obscurity to become a European champion.
Yes, he was not a first-choice goalkeeper throughout his time in England, but someone has to play the backup role too and be ready to step in whenever the need arises. This is something Caballero has done with excellence and deserves all the praise he can get.
Pellegrini definitely played a key role in wrestling his career from the iron grip of obscurity and should receive a load of gratitude from the goalie. But Willy can be proud of himself too for being able to step up to the plate and deliver the goods whenever he was required to do so.
Having called the Etihad Stadium home for three years, the Argentine is now a Cityzen forever and we wish him the best in his future endeavours.