I admit, I am extremely excited about watching Nery Castillo playing in MLS, and as excited as I am, I am also very afraid that this kid will disappoint greatly. I do not doubt his talent and skill, but at the same time, he also has shown in the past that he can ruin a good thing.
Three years ago, this kid was killing it on the world stage, with remarkable performances during the Gold Cup and Copa America, including one of the best goals ever scored versus Brazil by a player wearing the TriColor, or any other colors for that matter.
His performance during these tournaments drew so much attention that Ukrainian side, Shakhtar Donetsk, came knocking on the door and paid what was then a record transfer fee for a Ukrainian Club of 20 million Euros!
20 million Euros! For a kid that was an unknown to even some of the most die-hard fans, writers, and sports analyst in Mexico!
You see, Nery was born in Mexico but his father, a former futboler for San Luis in the Mexican First Division, was from Uruguay. And at an early age, he relocated the family back to his homeland. It was there where at the age of 16 he was discovered by scouts from Manchester United and given a trial with the team, but unfortunately, the move stalled when work permits were denied by the UK.
So when that plan went out the window, his father, who is not only his manager but his agent, negotiated a deal with Greek club Olympiacos, where he spent the next seven years. Where he flourished into one of the brightest young talents in the world.
Yeah. Well, not so fast, actually. If anything, this kid is lucky to still be playing ball after his antics.
Granted, he did score 30 goals in 101 matches. It took him a little over two years before he got a crack at the first team, but when he finally did, he remained in that spot for nearly three years before new management, along with aging Brazilian superstar Rivaldo, relegated him to the bench.
During the last match of the 2005-2006 season, Nery sent himself to reserve purgatory by doing something incredibly stupid. As one of his teammates was preparing to take a free kick, Nery ran in front of him and proceeded to take the kick himself, lucky for him he scored the goal. But he topped it all off by running across the field, and launching his jersey into the stands.
This is after his teammates made complains that he was immature and unfit to be a professional futbol player.
But that’s not all! Two years later, he pulled a similar stunt for his new club, Shakhtar Donetsk. After only his eigth match with the club, he earned a penalty kick, but refused to hand over the ball to the assigned PK taker. Castillo proceeded to take it himself. The keeper went on to stop his shot and seconds later he was subbed out of the match. He never went back on the pitch that season.
During that winter transfer period, the club made efforts to loan him out to the highest bidder. Only, there wasn’t anyone really interested in paying the requested transfer fee. When Manchester City came knocking, his club turned the offer down, because it wasn’t enough money. Nery wanted a chance to prove himself in the Premier League so badly that he paid more than half of his own transfer fee.
After making the move to Manchester City, things went terribly south for the kid. After only 32 minutes of making his first home appearance for the Club, he was carried off the pitch with a broken shoulder. At the end of it all, he only played in seven matches in the Premier League.
But it doesn’t end there, some argue that it is his attitude and maturity (or lack thereof) was what kept him from being selected to represent the Mexican team in the World Cup.
During a press conference on one of his last call ups, he got into what will be remembered as a legendary verbal exchange with the Mexican press. He said many things that were true, many things that were exaggerated, and many things that were wrong.
After being challenged and questioned over his commitment to the team, he replied to a member of the press with, “Yo estoy en Europa y tú en México” (I am in Europe and you are here in Mexico), a statement that not only the Mexican press took offense to but the devoted Mexican following as well.
In the last two years, Nery has scored but one goal in eight matches. While on loan to FC Dnipro during the 2009-2010 season, he played a combined total of 69 minutes.
With the history and track record for Nery Castillo, why should anyone be excited to see this kid play in MLS when many in his own National team and National following think of him as a bust?
Well, I don’t know.
Here is what I know about Nery Alberto Castillo. At the age of 16, Manchester United thought he was good enough to train with the club to the point where they made him an offer.
In 2007 he had the choice of “taking his talent” to one of four different countries: Uruguay because of his father, Italy because of his mother, Greece because of his dual citizenship, or Mexico, his country of birth. As we all know he chose he chose to remain loyal to his country of birth.
Unlike Carlos Vela or Giovanni Dos Santos, Nery did not come up through the national youth development system. Yet, when he came on scene for the National team he made the best of the opportunity.
When he agreed to pay half of his transfer fee in order to join Manchester City, he did it not only hoping that he could get back at Manchester United for not making enough of an effort to bring him along 7 years before that, but more importantly, with the intent to make a name for himself internationally.
During the showdown with the Mexican press last year, whether right or wrong, he said a lot of things that many before him always thought but were always afraid to say.
Add to that the fact that he has a great first touch, excellent one-on-one ability, and the striker instinct necessary to be one of the best in the league.
So is this a good deal for MLS and the Chicago Fire?
In my opinion, absolutely.