The curious case of Paulo Rangel

Is he an asset or a liability?

GOALBY    I.F. WONG     Follow on Twitter

The heat of the moment just got too much for him to handle. In Terengganu's FA Cup semi-final exit against surprise eventual champions Lions XII, Brazilian goal-scoring sensation Paulo Rangel lost his cool and kicked the ball at the assistant referee and was duly brandished the red card. One could perhaps understand his frustration - having ousted Selangor earlier in the competition and with JDT also eliminated, Rangel and The Turtles must have thought this could be their year in the FA Cup. But there was no justification for such stupidity. Worse was to follow when FAM banned Rangel for six months (reduced to three months on good behaviour) effectively ending the Brazilian's involvement in this year's MSL.

It was a monumental blow for Terengganu to lose their their main source of goals for such a long period of time which one suspects would probably signal the end of any title hope for the east-coast team. Yes they can still call upon the talents of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha (assuming he does not join Korean side Incheon FC) and Manaf Mamat but Rangel has scored 14 of the team's 28 goals so far and the two aforementioned players have only two goals to show between them to date. Their two back to back losses to JDT recently, failing to notch a single goal in either game, serves only to highlight the point.

This is before we factor in the bank-breaking sums Terengganu have had to pay to lure the 2014 MSL top goalscorer away from Selangor, not to mention his substantial salary.

Such indiscretion is nothing new for the penalty box predator. At a crucial point last season, Rangel, then a Selangor player, was sent off for an elbow, ironically against Terengganu, and was suspended for two matches. Selangor lost both the games without him, also failing to score and that put paid to their title challenge.

Rangel's goal scoring record, supreme awareness in the penalty box as well as his ability to score with either foot and also with his head is beyond contestation. But is he "good" for the team?

Lets look at the facts. Rangel scored 30 goals in all competitions for Selangor last year which was 61.2% of all the Red Giants' goals. Pretty impressive but lets compare with what's happening with Selangor now that he is no longer with them. After 12 games in the MSL this year, the Red Giants have scored 25 goals. At the same point in 2014, Selangor have scored only 16 goals with the Brazilian getting all but a few of them. The class of 2015 also have their goals spread far more evenly with 6 players scoring two goals or more and have seen local players, such as Afiq Azmi and Hazwan Bakri, previously overshadowed by Rangel, rising to prominence.

Subjectively, Selangor have also played more expansive attacking football this term when last year they were seemingly lumping the balls to Rangel at any given opportunity. Whether Red Giants coach Mehmet Durakovic set them out to play in such way is doubtful. More likely the players themselves, subconsciously knowing the Brazilian is likely to score for them, will look for Rangel first whenever they have the ball. The result is overdependence on him and a right eye-sore for the fans. Thus when Rangel is not available for whatever reason, teams lose their way and don't know who to look to for inspiration. This happened to Selangor and the same pattern is re-emerging with Terengganu. Without Rangel, the Red Giants have become "liberalized" and responsibility for goals is now collective. 

While on the field of play teams tend to be dependent on the Brazilian, off the field Rangel knows it too. Sources from within Selangor say that he is generally well-received in the dressing room but there's no doubt in his mind that he is the main star. Hence when the Red Giants came into alleged financial difficulties towards the end of the 2014 season, particularly with Rangel's claimed unpaid fees, he started causing some mischief which destabilized the team. And the Red Giants fans in particular will remember how Selangor's 2014 Malaysia Cup campaign ended.    

So is Paulo Rangel a liability or an asset? Well, the truth is he is a bit of both. He will guarantee you goals - but at what cost?