Fariñez to RC Lens – Why It’s Exciting

With the beautiful game in a constant state of change, writing about football has been an interesting pass time over the course of 2020. While I usually aim for larger articles looking to investigate a story, I’ve also decided post the occasional blog post while I seek out other projects. The following is one of those blog posts.

Recent news has revealed a very exciting move for la Vinotinto’s top goalkeeper, Wuilker Fariñez. The Caracas-born keeper joined Millonarios in 2018, following his heroics throughout the 2017 U20 World Cup and a series of senior team appearances, immediately announcing himself to the Colombian game. He made his debut in a pair of appearances against Atlético Nacional in the Superliga Colombiana, which he won. 

Since then, he’s been a constant face in the Millonarios lineup, in addition to Venezuela’s. The 22 year old’s roots in Caracas should not be forgotten. He played with Caracas FC at the youth and senior levels, making his name early in FutVe as a shot stopper. Further details on his skills can be seen in the Solovenex montage below.

Now, however, Fariñez is set to finally show his skills in Europe with the announcement of a move to RC Lens, who were promoted to Ligue 1 in the 2019-20 season. Lens were in second place with 53 points in Ligue 2 when French football chose to end their seasons early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They return to the top tier of France after being relegated down to Ligue 2 in the 2014-15 season. The club had the least losses in Ligue 2 after 28 games with five, three less than first place Lorient.

Fariñez move marks yet another key figure from the 2017 U20 World Cup run being rewarded for their efforts, as he joins the likes of Yangel Herrera, Samuel Sosa, Sergio Córdova, and Adalberto Peñaranda in the ranks of Europe. Fariñez has been rumored for quite some time with connections to Europe, with many wondering why he was still in Colombia despite already being one of la Vinotinto’s most important players.

Lens supporters showing their passion. Photo courtesy of RC Lens.

All of this being said, I’d like to look through the potentials of this move and give my thoughts on what it could mean for Fariñez.

For better or for worse, there is a certain status given to playing in certain parts of the world. Colombia, and certainly Venezuela, do not fit into that view of the great leagues of the world. These days even Brazil and Argentina struggle to stay high on that list for some, especially those unfamiliar with South America.

Wuilker Fariñez is, and has been for some time, one of Venezuela’s biggest talents. We have good forwards. We have good midfielders. We have good defenders. We have a supernatural goalkeeper. You cannot train reflexes like those shown in Fariñez’ various famous triple saves, like the one against Atlético Nacional in the above highlight reel. There is rarely game where la Vinotinto are not saved and improved by his presence and it’s easy to understand how the 22 year old is an automatic addition to the starting eleven.

The stats are not unkind either. In his 22 appearances for la Vinotinto, he’s kept eleven clean sheets. His defensive record expands to the Copa Liberatdores and Copa Sudamericana, where he’s shined for both Millonarios and Caracas. All in all, Fariñez has almost 200 professional club appearances between his two homes, impressing at both.

Despite the obvious talent, Fariñez’ lack of European adventures has left his career seeming less eventful in comparison to his many compatriots. How do outfield players still finding their footing manage to find homes in Germany, Spain, and England while an obvious star waits in the wings?

Now he’s finally off to France, seemingly with first team Ligue 1 football in his grasp. It’s a major jump for the Venezuelan spider and likely to prove a challenge. He’ll have to contend with the top clubs of France for points, and likely survival. PSG, Lyon, and Marseille are, to be frank, an utterly different animal compared to most of what Fariñez has faced at the club level. As part of a newly promoted club, the Venezuelan keeper will be asked to take on a huge task. That said, I think there’s no better challenge for a player who has been underestimated and undervalued for so long.

Improved quality of opposition and a vast new world of coaches, teammates, and influences would have a major impact on any player. For someone like Fariñez, who is already a starlet at 22, they could be the key to greatness.

With the remainder of their offseason work still unclear, it’d be fair to say Lens shouldn’t be expected to finish especially high on the Ligue 1 table, though given their strong Ligue 2 season and their apparent intelligence in finding strong hidden gems in the offseason, I’m beginning to feel they’re set to avoid relegation back to Ligue 2. One decent season with Lens could do wonders for Fariñez’ stock in the transfer market. I believe that “decent” season is very much in the cards. I expect Fariñez to impress, especially in the context of a young keeper making his European debut, and I expect that Lens will manage to lock in Ligue 1 football for the 2021-22 season.

This move, one which almost happened a year ago, will prove a vital step in the career of one of the most important active Venezuelan footballers today. It will be the year that Wuilker Fariñez man stops existing only in the bubble of South American football writers and fans. It will be the year he joins the likes of Herrera, Rincón, Chancellor, Osorio, and Machís as ambassadors of Venezuelan quality in Europe. Folks, it’s going to be quite the year.

I might be wrong, but probably not.