Samu Castillejo 21 Midfielder Villarreal Spain
Direct and explosive free running winger that left home town club Málaga for Villarreal in 2015.
A junior player at Explanada and Mortadelo, Samuel "Samu" Castillejo Azuaga signed on schoolboy terms for Málaga in 2007. Debuting for the resrves in Spain’s Tercera División as a sixteen year old, Castillejo caught the eye of coach Javi Gracia ahead of the 2014-15 season and was rewarded with a debut against Valencia on the second weekend. Replacing fellow youth team graduate Juanmi in the second half, the talented but slight winger began to feature more regularly and made his full debut in a goalless draw against Barcelona in late September 2014.
As the season progressed Castillejo became a regular feature on the left wing for Los Boquerones and ended the campaign with one goal and five assists from 39 matches. Malaga’s ninth place finish in La Liga was viewed as a considerable success considering the financial meltdown the club had endured very recently. However this wouldn’t be enough to keep the wolves from the door at La Rosaleda and Castillejo, along with Samu Garcia,were sold to Villarreal in June 2015.
2016 has been…
So so. Capped at under 21 level by Spain at the end of the 2014-15 season, Castillejo was selected in the first team at Villarreal by coach Marcelino Toral as the new campaign got underway. Performing well, the winger made an immediate impact at his new club charged up the league with an excellent start to the season. The Yellow Submarine had hit top spot in La Liga by the first week of October but Castillejo gradually became more of a peripheral figure as the season went on. Scorer of a critical goal in the Europa League at Sparta Prague, a hamstring injury hampered the young winger's progress and he was an unused sub in his sides heartbreaking semi-final defeat to Liverpool at Anfield.
So far this season Castillejo has performed very well without ever absolutely quite nailing a performance and this is an area that he really has to work on. Very capable with both feet, the winger gets through an impressive amount of work each week and makes things a lot easier for his full backs. Very quick to identify space or a pass, there are times that Castillejo has operated at another level to some of his team mates but final shot selection can be infuriating as he does all of the hard work then fails to deliver a killer blow.
We won’t lie to you, Samu Castillejo really does have the look of a serious player but there are rough edges to work out first. A cursory glance through the relevant Opta stats highlights a midfielder that has created more chances this season than Lionel Messi or Antione Griezmann, but, as stated previously, that final ball is just never quite on the money.
In terms of next steps the second half of this season will tell us a lot. A regular starter for a team at the top end of the league, Castillejo’s game only requires some fine tuning rather than major surgery. The worrying aspect is his lack of goals and all the running, tracking back and hard work the winger gets through may count for nothing if Fran Escribá is able to find a replacement that can notch 10-15 times.
C- So close
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