In seven years with Queens Park Rangers, Alejandro Faurlín lived the successes and setbacks with the club while facing his own struggles more blatantly than most ever come close to. Returning from three long-term injuries to play throughout this season, the music-devoted midfielder had a melody beside him on his way back, and it is stirring strongly again as the eternally-popular Argentinian prepares for a new verse.
Recent years have seen the picture alter often at QPR, as the West Londoners have had two promotions to the Premier League, two subsequent relegations, and many widely-recognised players and personalities pulling on the blue and white hoops. Few could rival ‘Ale’ Faurlín in that time for the strength of feeling struck up between him and the Rs faithful, with the silky South American securing his place in supporters’ affections as much for the heart he showed for the club and community as for the sprinkles of quality that frequently came via his left foot.
The club’s Player of the Year as they ended a 15-year absence from the top flight in 2011, Ale then had to endure three anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in three years, only to ultimately battle his way back on each occasion. Suffering the most recent of those in August 2014, he returned to first-team action at the start of the current campaign and featured 30 times before his seven-year spell with the club came to an end with the news he would be one of seven out-of-contract players departing this summer.
It could hardly be further from an easy farewell, although the 29-year-old approaches the next step with a season of regular football behind him, as well as lasting support and memories from his time in W12. A huge element of the vibrant personality he so often shared with fans surrounds a love of riffs and rhythm, and his melodic connection was also a little part of his injury comebacks, alongside fundamental family support.
Whether it’s to spend time away from frustration, be reminded of favourite times and people, or to relight his motivational spark, being lost in a song has always been something for Ale to bask in, as he describes.
“Music is massive; since (I was) little, I’m very close to music. My family as well has a few musicians and singers so I grew up surrounded by this.
“It’s massively important because it takes me away from everything else and it’s a good way to spend time and to enjoy myself. I play a bit of the guitar and the harmonica, and everything that makes noise as well!”
Spending time with Atlético de Rafaela back home before a spell with Portugal’s Marítimo B team, Ale came to QPR from Argentina’s Instituto de Córdoba in July 2009, a few weeks before he turned 23. He arrived with his wife and their infant son, Tiziano, and although they also speak Spanish to him, Tizi has grown up speaking English and as immersed in the culture as his dad.
The music and football aspects have been passed on to Tizi, who plays the game and is also learning the guitar. Ale likes to share videos of him playing instruments, and a recent one was of him performing ‘River’ by the soul singer Leon Bridges, in the park with Tizi.
Another favourite of his to play is ‘Vine Hasta Aquí’ (I Came Up Here) by the Argentinian rock band Los Piojos, with Ale on the guitar and Faurlín Junior playing the harmonica. As he weighed up his options ahead of his move to QPR, Ale had offers from Spain, Italy and Greece, although seven years on, he knows the path he took was the right one.
The late blues singer Sonny Boy Williamson II is an artist with a repertoire Ale enjoys taking a tune from to play on his harmonica, while from a separate side of the spectrum, it is an English band at the head of the pantheon of greats in his eyes.
“Artists: I love Rolling Stones, I’m a massive fan of them, but I’m very expansive in terms of music and I’m open to anything.”
The city of Rosario has produced a number of footballing luminaries, including Lionel Messi and Ángel di María, with both spending early years in the game at one of the city’s major club teams. For Messi, it was Newell’s Old Boys, while di María came through the ranks at Rosario Central, where Ale also started out.
Ale made his debut for Central at 17, with his time at the club also sparking his instrumental foundations, and he explains how he often chooses to raise the noise rather than keeping it low-key.
“My start to playing music was influenced by a teammate during the academy at 14 years old. I started to play the guitar and since then I’ve been playing.
“I can play the harmonica a little bit, keyboard a little bit, but mainly the guitar, and I try to scream; I scream a lot, not sing!”
Back in 2003, Ale was in Argentina’s side for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Finland alongside Lazio midfielder Lucas Biglia and former Real Madrid duo Fernando Gago and Ezequiel Garay. He came up with the solitary goal to beat Nigeria in the group before the team went on to reach the semi-final, where they were defeated 3-2 in extra-time by a Cesc Fabregas-inspired Spain.
Playing under Hugo Tocalli, Argentina faced Colombia on penalties in the third place game, and despite Ale being unsuccessful with his kick they still edged out their continental rivals. Although not part of the same youth national team, ex-Real Madrid striker and current Napoli man Gonzalo Higuaín was with Ale at River Plate. Another former Real player, Esteban Granero, was a teammate of Ale’s at QPR during the 2012/13 season and he has a similar band appreciation, as beIN Sports presenter Kay Murray made reference to on here last year.
Together with the Spanish midfielder, Ale enjoyed some time at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, the renowned Soho venue which has hosted sets from legendary figures such as Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, and Jimi Hendrix, who gave his final public appearance there just before his passing in 1970.
Music is a faithful companion to Ale when in his own company, but it is also something he takes in with family and friends. Nevertheless, the loss of certain jewels in his collection was all down to a teammate early on in his career!
“My earliest stages, I was kind of salsa, tropical kind of music, which in South America is very popular. I can remember my first few albums; I always bought the original albums but back then it was expensive for me.
“It was the (Sony) Discman I had at the time, which was also expensive. I remember on one trip, one of the lads asked for my CDs – I never used to lend my CDs but this was a close friend – and he forgot them on the coach and I lost my collection.”
In his debut campaign at QPR, Ale played 44 times and struck his first goal for the club in front of his home supporters in the April 2010 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. He had been the choice of supporters and teammates for Player of the Year, and as the Rs stormed to the Championship title in the following season under Neil Warnock, Ale came up with goals against Sheffield United, Bristol City and Reading.
The wave of delirium that comes with achieving promotion is one of football’s treasures and Ale had those highs of course. He also shared so many other experiences with players of various backgrounds while at Loftus Road, sampling their preferred artists along the way, if only to a limited extent!
“In the dressing room, (I’m) not really (the DJ), but in the gym I can put mine on and play some Rolling Stones, Oasis, Coldplay. In England, I got to like the r&b and rap and all this kind of music that the players listen to.
“I don’t really get into it but I know Drake, Jay-Z, this kind of stuff, and I like it at times. I can listen to it a maximum of 40 minutes!”
Having reached the Premier League in 2011, Ale got his first top-flight goal a month into the season in a 3-0 win at Wolves, expertly controlling a cleared header on his chest and finding the bottom corner from outside the box. He had played 21 times but his campaign went no further than a January 2012 FA Cup game with MK Dons as he suffered the first of his ACL injuries.
He would return the next season with the club still in the Premier League, although he spent half of it with QPR and half with Serie A’s Palermo on loan. During his spell with the Sicilians he played against some of the Italian game’s biggest clubs, including Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina, and as he names one of his all-time favourite songs he also outlines what gets his pulse racing on a match day.
“‘Miss You’ from Rolling Stones. I like Creedence (Clearwater) Revival as well; influence of my dad and my uncle.
“I listen to any kind of music but I will go for this kind of rock and roll before the games to give me a massive buzz.”
Regardless of where you were born or grew up, when a place and its people fall in line with who you are and how you want to live it becomes home. Ale became a vital personality at QPR and whether it was the way he spoke about representing the club, or even how he enjoyed sharing his liking for coffee in the local area, it was all part of fully embracing life in the capital.
As mentioned, Ale had close family with him when he came to England, and he was eventually joined in English football by another of Rosario’s gems. That was forward Fernando Forestieri, who came to Watford (initially on loan) via Udinese in 2012 and soon showed the Championship flashes of his considerable quality.
The former Italian Under-21 international moved on to Sheffield Wednesday last August and the 26-year-old has enjoyed the best season of his career as his 15 goals helped push The Owls into the Championship play-off places. Ale has developed a great friendship with the talented attacker and he recalls how they came to know one another.
“Fernando, it’s funny because we are from the same city and from the same neighbourhood, but he left Argentina very early. We lived very close but we never met each other in the area.
“I knew him when he came here (in England) and we get along very, very well. He’s going to get married in the summer so I will go to the wedding.
“We are very close friends now and we enjoy it when we see each other.”
Earlier this season, Forestieri said he hopes to play alongside Ale one day, while former QPR teammates Charlie Austin and Joey Barton are two examples of those who consider him one of the best midfielders they have ever played with. Starting the 2013/14 season with an appearance in the Loftus Road win over Sheffield Wednesday, he played nine times before ACL heartbreak struck again, this time in his left knee.
His on-field part in the club’s return to the Premier League at the first attempt, via the play-offs under Harry Redknapp, was ended in November, but he returned, signing a new one-year deal in July 2014. Playing against Hull City and Tottenham Hotspur in the league, he would suffer the incredibly cruel fate of a recurrence of the injury to his left knee in a Capital One Cup tie at Burton Albion, ruling him out of the remainder of 2014/15 while still in August.
Ale had felt frustration and anger after his first two injuries, although his third left him with an emptiness to contend with, which was particularly present when he could only look on at his teammates training and playing. He has spoken of how he considered giving up on his career at that point, but before the season was up he had fought his way back into participation at Rangers’ Harlington training ground.
As a new contract was signed last summer, he earned a glowing endorsement from the club’s notable former striker and current Director of Football, Les Ferdinand, and he came on for Karl Henry in the 2015/16 season opener at Charlton. A few months ago, Ale said he just wanted to finish a season without having it cut short, and he did that with his 30th game of the campaign coming last weekend as QPR beat Bristol City 1-0 at home to finish 12th in the Championship.
Jim Magilton had been the first Rs boss he worked with before the likes of Neil Warnock, Mark Hughes, Harry Redknapp, Chris Ramsey and latterly, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. Last week he was announced as one of seven departures from the club, alongside another immensely popular player in defender Clint Hill, who, at 37, Ale says gives him hope of playing on for a while and getting some of his career’s lost time back.
Ex-England midfielder Kieron Dyer recalled how he and Ale pushed each other through their injury recoveries during the summer of 2012 and Ale wants to help people who go through similar struggles at some point in the future. Despite all the anguish he endured, he feels happy whenever he walks on the pitch now and still loves the game as much as he ever did, with a sense of assured satisfaction at how he approached what was put his way over recent years, on and off the pitch.
“I have no regrets. I always give my best, my everything, and I always try to bounce back whatever it takes and whatever the situation.”
During a sidelined spell for Ale, his QPR teammates wore t-shirts with his name and number as a show of support for their friend; a marker of the impact he had beyond simply impressing people with his playing style. The sound of Rs fans’ support for him will play on in his memories, as permanent a reminder as his tattoo of compatriot Diego Maradona, who would have been handy to bring in as part of his response to this last question.
The concluding piece of the puzzle in these conversations on here over the last few years has been for the interviewee to turn 5-a-side player/manager. Selecting from any of their career teammates, they are asked to pick out four of those they’d want alongside them for a small-sided showdown against another team.
Although he asked to make it an all-QPR side, Ale ended up sneaking his friend from earlier in there up front, to go with peers from Rangers days now gone by, but forever in his affections.
“It’s tough, man. Let’s make it from since I’ve been here.
“Radek Černý was good with his feet when he was here, so I will go with him for goalkeeper. Adel Taarabt (midfield) will have to be there, Forestieri (forward) as well.
“Defender…I would put Kaspars Gorkšs. He can destroy everything and can take care of the heading, the stitches on the head, the blood and all that!”
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