A palpable sense of fear loomed over Angel Rangel. 11 years in paradise at Swansea City was set to draw to an unceremonious end. Relegation was a full gone conclusion as was his future at the Liberty Stadium.
He was embarking on life as a free agent, the dreaded situation no footballer wants to find themselves in. But what was most concerning was that, despite making over 150 Premier League appearances for the Swans, his phone was deathly silent.
“I knew it was coming to an end,” Rangel recalls as his effervescent smile descended into a gloomy frown. “I had already received a letter from the club telling me they wouldn’t be giving me a new contract. It was tough but I understood. It’s business at the end of the day.
“No one would take me. No teams in the Premier League and Championship nor anyone in Spain, not even in the lower divisions.”
Rangel understands the merciless business of professional football better than most. He was working as a part-time accountant until his breakthrough at Swansea at the age of 24 and the Spaniard accepts that it’s a necessity to take the rough with the smooth.Embed from Getty Images
Yet the next few months would be treacherously tumultuous and empty promises became all too hard to tackle.
“The owners offered me a place at DC United, the other club they own, in the MLS,” Rangel reveals. “I was initially very excited because I’d still be able to maintain a connection with Swansea and perhaps return in a couple of years to be a part of the club in some capacity.
“I left Swansea to look for houses and schools for the kids in Washington and I was talking regularly with them. Then it never happened!”
Days later, former England and Manchester United forward Wayne Rooney was holding a DC United shirt aloft. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Rangel although he was able to see the lighter side of it.Embed from Getty Images
“Rooney went there, and they still made the play-offs, so they didn’t need a defender after all,” he jokes.
“All joking aside it wasn’t the right way to deal with the situation. I was quite angry and disappointed. The whole experience with the family would’ve been amazing.”
While Rooney wowed his American audience to propel DC United into the play-offs, Rangel’s summer of uncertainty rumbled on. He was still a free agent heading into the start of the new season and another move abroad presented itself, this time to the relatively unexplored market of the Indian Super League.
An old friend, Carlos Cuadrat, had taken the reins at Bengaluru FC and set about injecting an Iberian flair to his side. Former Swansea midfielder Albert Serran joined as a free agent along with fellow Spanish compatriots Xisco Hernandez, Luisma and Alex Barrera.
Rangel joined their training camp in Spain and was on the verge of signing on the dotted line until a call from London changed everything. He answered to find Steve McClaren on the other end of the line.Embed from Getty Images
“The day I was going to make my decision, Steve McClaren called me. He said, ‘you’ve played more than 200 games over the last six or seven seasons and we’ve got a very young team at Queens Park Rangers. We need some experienced defenders and I think it’ll be good for you.’
“But that was a Tuesday night and he wanted to play on Saturday. I was honest with him and told him that I’ve been off for two or three months without a club and my fitness levels were not great.
“Then he changed his mind. He asked me to come on a trial and I joined permanently after just one day. He played an important role in what was a very difficult moment for me.
“In football, you probably get two or three people that are very influential, and Steve gave me the chance when no one else did. I was 34 or 35 at the time but he gave me that chance and I made sure that I grabbed it with both hands.”