Aston Villa midfielder Carlos Sanchez pays tribute to birthday boy Juan Pablo Angel

The ex-Villa striker, who turns 40 today, played a key role in convincing fellow Colombian Sanchez to join the claret and blues.

With former Aston Villa striker Juan Pablo Angel turning 40 this weekend, fellow Colombian Carlos Sanchez has taken the opportunity to pay tribute to the man who paved the way for him to make the move to the Midlands himself.

Angel originally joined Villa from Argentine giants River Plate in January 2001 for a then club-record £9.5 million fee and recovered from a slow start to score 62 goals in 205 total appearances for the club, before leaving for the New York Red Bulls in April 2007 as a firm fan favourite.

Sanchez grew up following his compatriot’s Premier League exploits back in Colombia and, prior to sealing a £4.7 million switch from Spanish side Elche in August 2014, even sought out the former Holt End hero’s advice about joining the claret and blues.

Speaking to Villa’s official website, Sanchez said: “Since I was a boy, I have always watched English football and I began to watch Villa games when he came in 2001. At the time in Colombia, Juan Pablo Angel was the player of the moment.

“I followed the club very closely when Juan Pablo played here. I was very interested. Juan Pablo brought Villa to South America's attention. He was inspirational.

“I spoke to Juan Pablo before I joined,” he added. “He said Villa is a really good club, it is well organised and that it is a good family club. He told me that I would be well looked after here.

“His words definitely helped my decision to come. He was popular with the fans here - and now I too want to make my own history.”

Sanchez,meanwhile, has made 41 total appearances for Villa since arriving from Elche on the back of an impressive 2014 World Cup campaign, while recording a goal and an assist in the process.

Nicknamed “The Rock” for his study defensive play, the 29-year-old holding midfielder had an up-and-down first season in England, as he proved one of the club’s most consistent performers for much of the winter but struggled for form both at the start and end of the campaign.

He has since been in and out of Tim Sherwood’s side this term, having been an unused substitute for the past three games, but the team have lacked some bite in the centre of the park in his absence.

The extraordinary man-marking job he performed on Neymar in Colombia’s 1-0 group win over Brazil at the Copa America in the summer showed just what he could offer Villa moving forward, although he has a long way to go to attain the same kind of cult status that Angel now enjoys with the claret and blue faithful.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for ASTON VILLA team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch