- Aranguiz chasing successful Copa America defence with Chile.
- Missed the bulk of the season at new club Leverkusen through injury.
- Looking forward to playing in the Champions League for first time.
It had been a very long time coming but, in the 88th minute of Bayer 04 Leverkusen's home game against VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 28, Charles Aranguiz finally got his first brief taste of Bundesliga action. A week after signing up with the Werkself on a five-year deal last August, the Chilean midfield star tore the Achilles tendon in his left foot in training. Before it had even begun, his debut season in German football was as good as over.
Not quite, however. "I really enjoyed that," Aranguiz admitted after his cameo against the Wolves. "It's been a tough period. I had a bad injury, but my teammates and the coaching staff really helped me through it." Further enhancing the enjoyment of his long-awaited return to the competitive fray, the 3-0 victory over a side at that point still one of their direct rivals for Europe had maintained a nascent revival on the back of Bayer's stickiest patch of the entire campaign.
Evidently eager to make up for lost time, Aranguiz played through the final five matchdays from start to finish. Leverkusen won four of them and, from deep midfield, he chipped in with two goals and an assist to supplement some typically industrious and intelligent performances – playing his part in a late surge that secured Roger Schmidt's men a third-place finish and the accompanying ticket to the group phase of next season's UEFA Champions League.
His mini-season's work done at club level, a fit-again Aranguiz promptly headed Stateside to represent his country at the Copa America Centenario. Along with fellow Bundesliga recruits Arturo Vidal and Eduardo Vargas, the 27-year-old Puente Alto native hopes to help Chile emulate last year's historic triumph on home turf in this special centennial edition of football's oldest continental football tournament.
After losing 2-1 to Argentina in their opening group game, the holders need to bounce back against Bolivia on Friday. That, for the ever-focused Aranguiz, is the sole priority for the moment but his thoughts will turn again to Leverkusen soon enough. "The Copa comes first," he explained, "then we can talk about the Champions League and all the rest of it." Talk, and play – this time right from the off.