They might be at contrasting stages of their careers and competing for a place in the Borussia Mönchengladbach starting line-up, but there is far more that unites the Foals’ Paraguayan pair Raul Bobadilla and Julio Villalba than divides them.
Bobadilla, 30, left Augsburg to join Gladbach this summer, returning to the club he spent three years at between 2009 and 2012. Villalba, 19, checked into the Borussia Park at the same time, arriving from Cerro Porteno after a deal was agreed in January.
bundesliga.com sat down with both recently to talk about their initial experiences of life at Gladbach, idolising Robert Lewandowski, competing for places with Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain and the influence of South Americans on Germany’s top flight…
bundesliga.com: Señor Villalba, what did you know about Raul Bobadilla before you heard he was rejoining Borussia Mönchengladbach?
Julio Villalba: Raul is an idol for the Paraguayan national side. When I found out that he’d played for Gladbach in the past, I was very impressed, and then when the message came through that he’d be coming back, I was delighted. Raul has been a real help for me in these first few weeks.
bundesliga.com: Señor Bobadilla, what did you know about Julio Villalba?
Raul Bobadilla: The news came out last winter that Julio would be joining Borussia, but at that point nobody could have guessed that I’d be coming back to Gladbach as well. I’m proud to be a role model and to be able to help him settle in.
bundesliga.com: Although you’re team-mates, you’re also both competing for a position up front…
Bobadilla: That may be true, but our rivalry will always remain professional and healthy. Perhaps one of us will play one day and the other the next, or sometimes we’ll play up front together; it doesn’t really matter who, whether it’s Julio or me, because we’ll be pleased for each other.
Villalba: Agreed. We’ve got on excellently from the very first day we met, although it’s not quite true that we first met in Gladbach. At the Copa America  in Chile some Paraguayan youth-team players (myself included) were sort of sparring partners for the national team. Raul and I had a few chats back then, but he can’t really remember it!
Watch: check out Bobadilla’s top five Bundesliga goals!
bundesliga.com: Raul, your mum is said to have cried when she learned about the transfer…
Bobadilla: That’s true. When you hear your mum is crying, usually it’s anything but good news – unless they’re happy tears! Hearing that made me even happier.
bundesliga.com: How does it feel to be a Borussia Mönchengladbach player after four years away?
Bobadilla: I’m very proud to be back at the club at which I took my first steps in the Bundesliga. I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that Borussia is my second home, and now I feel like I’ve come back home. The club is a Bundesliga institution and the current team is – I’m convinced of this – Champions League quality.
bundesliga.com: You talk a lot about being at home, but you spent more time in Augsburg than you did in Gladbach. What makes Borussia unique?
Bobadilla: I was at Augsburg for four years, the best four years of my career. Once again, I’d like to thank the Augsburg directors, because I had such fantastic experiences there, like in the Europa League [2015/16 season]. The first time I was at Gladbach I was still very young and lacked a little bit of experience; I probably wasn’t able to fulfil my potential. That’s different now and I’m convinced that I’ll make a better fist of things this time around.
Watch: Bobadilla scored a stunner against local rivals Cologne in his first spell at Gladbach!
bundesliga.com: Before you left Augsburg you got to spend some time with Sergio Cordova. What impression did you get of the young Venezuelan?
Bobadilla: I think he’s got a big future. He’s a very fine player, very interesting and – most of all – very hard-working. If he’s ready to learn and if his career continues as it’s started, I think we’ll be hearing plenty about him.
bundesliga.com: One Venezuelan who left quite a mark on the Bundesliga was Juan Arango. How do you remember your time together at Borussia?
Bobadilla: Juan is an outstanding footballer. Back then he was a real help to me, fulfilling the role I’m trying to fulfil for Julio now. Juan gave a lot to Borussia and I remember some of his spectacular goals really well. What an extraordinary player. We arrived at the same time and instantly hit it off. I even lived with him; he was a mentor to me and his advice was always very important.
bundesliga.com: What sort of mistakes did you perhaps make back then that Julio should avoid today?
Bobadilla: We’re all human, and humans make mistakes. That’s fine as long as you’re prepared to learn from your mistakes. I learnt a lot in Augsburg. Maturing and having a family really changes things. I’m not so hot-blooded now and I control myself much better than I perhaps did a few years ago.
bundesliga.com: And what advice would you give to Julio?
Bobadilla: Learn the language! That’s absolutely essential. Some players will say: “Why should I learn the language? I’m here to play football. Football’s international and so you don’t have to speak German.” That’s a real mistake, although I got caught up in it too. Understanding and speaking the local language is absolutely key to settling in well and also shows respect for the country you’re living in. It might not be easy, but the difficulties are outweighed by the quality of the Bundesliga, a league in which anyone can beat anyone. With regards to the football itself, Julio doesn’t need much advice. If he works hard, he’ll be fine.
bundesliga.com: Julio, what do you want to learn from Raul?
Villalba: It’s a real honour that he’s taken me under his wing. We spend a lot of time together and chat regularly. From a football point of view he really impresses me, particularly in the way he always manages to hold the ball up, in large part because of his physical strength.
bundesliga.com: Have you come to Germany on your own, or is your family here with you?
Villalba: I live on my own. At first my dad was here, but he’s now back in Paraguay. I now have to learn to look after myself – that’s a new experience! Going out isn’t really for me; Raul and I would prefer to play cards or on the Playstation. We also really enjoy drinking Tereré, a typical Paraguayan Maté tea.
bundesliga.com: You’ve only just turned 19. Isn’t it tough trying to settle into a country whose language and culture you don’t really know?
Villalba: German is such a hard language! I’ve managed to learn a bit, but the main challenge at the moment is the intensity of the training sessions. I’m not used to that from my time in Paraguay. The first couple of months weren’t easy for me, although I’m starting to get used to things now.
bundesliga.com: The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world. How does it differ from the Paraguayan top flight?
Villalba: The Bundesliga is much more intense and therefore more demanding. You can’t really compare it to Paraguay.
bundesliga.com: Footballers from Paraguay are well known here, though. Nelson Valdez, for example, who played for Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Dortmund, played with you at Cerro Porteno…
Villalba: Nelson and I got on really well. It always impressed me how hard he worked in training, despite his age. He often ran a lot more than the younger players. I learned a lot from him, particularly about giving it your all in training and working hard on your own game.
bundesliga.com: Is Valdez a good example of the “garra guaraní”, the fighting spirit that marks out Paraguayans?
Villalba: That aggression, that fighting spirit and never-say-die attitude is typically Paraguayan. It’s in our blood. Players like Nelson Valdez and Roque Santa Cruz have always shown that. I hope I can, too.
bundesliga.com: You played against Roque Santa Cruz, formerly of Bayern Munich, who is now at Olimpia. What did you make for him?
Villalba: His composure on the ball is incredible. When he’s got the ball, there’s always the chance of something special happening.
bundesliga.com: That you speak in such gushing tones of Santa Cruz makes it even more surprising that your idol isn’t a Latin American player, but is actually Lewandowski. Why him, and why not Lionel Messi, Neymar or Falcao?
Villalba: In Paraguay I always watched European football, particularly the Bundesliga. Robert Lewandowski is one of the stars of world football. He’s outstanding, a complete striker. He’s always in the right place at the right time. That’s a gift I’d like to have.
Watch: as Villalba says, Lewandowski is the complete striker
bundesliga.com: Raul, as well as the Bundesliga you’ve played in Argentina, Switzerland and Greece. For an experienced player like you, what makes the Bundesliga so attractive? You’re said to have turned down the chance to go to China, for example…
Bobadilla: I did indeed have the chance to go to China, and I’ll admit that I was tempted. In the end, though, it was more important for me to play in a league at the highest level. I also had the chance to go to Argentina, but when I heard of Gladbach’s interest, it was an easy decision. Even at 30, I’ve still got plenty to offer. My dream is to play in the Champions League with Borussia.
bundesliga.com: When you were younger you played for River Plate, one of Argentina’s biggest clubs. What influence did that have on your career?
Bobadilla: That was a very important time for me. It was actually Boca Juniors – River’s long-time city rivals – who I’d always dreamed of playing for, but I had no chance getting in there. Even at River, it was really, really hard. I was fighting for a place with Radamel Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain, two world-class players. When I first heard of Basel’s interest I was really keen on it, but then I realised it wasn’t FC Basel – who are always playing in the Champions League – but Concordia Basel, in the Swiss second division! Still, that was my chance to go to Europe and after a season there I moved to Grasshoppers Zurich.
bundesliga.com: You were born in Argentina, but you play for Paraguay…
Bobadilla: Correct. I was born and grew up in Argentina and my family still lives in Buenos Aires. I had the opportunity through my mother’s heritage to gain dual-nationality and when the Paraguayan federation approached me, I knew I wanted to play for them. I’m really thankful to the federation and I’ve never regretted my decision. We’re not in touch much any more, but if I get another chance then I’ll pull on the shirt with pride and give it my all.
bundesliga.com: Julio, what would a call-up mean to you?
Villalba: Not everybody gets the chance to play for their country. It would mean even more to get the call-up given that I’ve waited for it. So far, I’ve only played for the U-20 team but I’m still young and – as well as being successful with Borussia – playing for Paraguay remains one of my aims.
bundesliga.com: And what are your aims personally for this season?
Villalba: I want to make it into the starting line-up. That’s what I’m working towards.
Bobadilla: I want to show that I’m here when I’m needed. I know it’s going to be really tough to carve out a place in the starting line-up, though, because this team has a lot of quality.
bundesliga.com: And how far do you think this Gladbach team can go this season?
Bobadilla: Competing with sides like Bayern, Dortmund or Leipzig for the title might be a step too far, but I’m certain that we’re capable of mounting a challenge for a Champions League place.
Villalba: I agree. We’re definitely capable of that.
Bobadilla and Villalba were speaking to Andreas Kötter