When I first started researching for this particular article, the first thing that shocked me was Cuellar’s age; he’s only 31! In my head, he was 35 or 36, reaching the twilight of his career. But no, he’s still very much in his prime, and has been a regular at every club he’s played for.
Born on August 23rd, 1981 in Madrid, Cuellar started his career at semi professional side Calahorra, before signing for Numancia in 2001. He had two good seasons in Soria, earning himself a move to La Liga with Osasuna in 2003. And it was in Pamplona where he really came to prominence, most notably in 2005-06, when he helped them reach the final of the Copa Del Rey and, incredibly, finish fourth in La Liga, thus qualifying for the Champions League. He spent four seasons at Osasuna, playing 85 games and scoring four goals. In June 2007, after two earlier failed bids, Scottish giants Rangers finally landed their man, signing Cuellar for £2.3million on a four year deal.
He had a brilliant first, and in the end only, season at Ibrox. He won both the SPL Player of the Year and Scottish Writers’ Player of the Year awards, and made a club record sixty five appearances. During the season, he helped Rangers win the Scottish League Cup and the Scottish FA Cup, and they also reached the final of the UEFA Cup, which they lost to Zenit St Petersburg. They finished second in the SPL, with Celtic winning the title. He famously stated that he wanted to stay at Rangers for life, and then moved to Aston Villa just days later!
The transfer to Villa Park represented great business for Rangers; they sold him for £7.8million (the full value of the release clause in his contract), a profit of five and a half million pounds in twelve months. Although normally a central defender, Cuellar had to settle for a right back slot at the start of his Villa career, due to the successful partnership of Curtis Davies and Martin Laursen. He played more than a hundred games for Aston Villa, and almost moved back to Rangers in 2011. Unfortunately, he was injured and the move broke down. He saw out his four year deal in the Midlands, before moving to Sunderland on a free transfer in 2012, where he joined up once more with manager Martin O’Neill.
He has been pretty much an ever present at Stadium Of Light, playing nineteen times so far and scoring once. He is a very calming influence in defence, with a mountain of experience of top flight football. He is a model professional, in more ways than one; he recently took part as a model in a charity fashion show just after scoring his first goal for Sunderland. He has never represented Spain at any age group, but don’t rule out a return to La Liga before his career ends.