Luc Castaignos 20 StrikerFC Twente
We hate to say we told you so but…
To sum up last year’s report from the 100 on Castaignos we pretty much said the following – good player, lot of rough edges but definite potential there, move to Inter (from his original club Feyenoord) has come far too soon, must take any opportunity that presents itself as they are likely to be few and far between, pray for patience from the coach’s bench and the terraces.
Like we said, we hate to say we told you so, but we sort of did. To sum up his season with Inter, if we were being kind, we would say it was a year of harsh lessons to be learnt, if we were being cruel we’d say it was an utter waste of time.
A year in Italy resulted in 1 start in which he was subbed off at half-time, 5 more appearances from the substitute’s bench making a hair over 180 minutes of first-team football actually played, one goal – a scuffed last minute winner against Siena as it goes, a couple of niggly injuries, and little else beyond sitting in the dugout in a tracksuit that never came off.
It goes without saying that the move came too soon. A central striker like Castaignos needs time on the pitch to adjust to a new league’s pace and form some partnerships with those charged with supplying him. It was never going to happen and inevitably, rumours started a long time before the season’s end.
He was linked with moves to QPR, Liverpool (was there a striker they weren’t mentioned in passing with?), Everton, Newcastle, West Ham and Arsenal. The player himself wouldn’t move to another Serie A club when several presented him with long-term loan options, so a full transfer was agreed and a return home with FC Twente negotiated.
Blame for his misstep with Inter falls squarely on to both parties shoulders. The player himself should have never agreed to the move and his agent or whoever was charged with handling his affairs should have looked past the pound notes to the potential career ahead. To be fair to Castaignos though it must also be pointed out that Inter never used him properly, not even giving him 2 or 3 games to put something together when Giampaolo Pazzini was at the peak of his frustrations in front of goal. It was a bad time to be at the club as they suffered a rollercoaster of a season, Castaignos was not the only casualty to get caught up in circumstances beyond his control and emerged with reputation scuffed but not permanently damaged.
So onwards and upwards then and FC Twente used €6m of the reported €15m they received for Luuk de Jong from Gladbach to sign his direct replacement. Despite the year that had gone by Inter had doubled the €3m they had paid Feyenoord for his services in 2011, an indicator of just how high his stock still was back in Holland.
And with good reason. When he broke onto the scene in the 2011 he looked every inch the real deal. 16 goals in 34 appearances in what had been a struggling side had marked him out as a man for right now. Strong, quick, good in the air and a man who played with no fear, the early comparisons with Thierry Henry were almost impossible to live up to, but completely understandable.
Twente were delighted to have picked him up and manager Steve McClaren spoke of just how pleased he was that the side he had been trying to build to play to de Jong’s strengths were just as blessed to have Castaignos there. The player himself returned fired up and with a point to prove, tentatively good things were forecast for the season ahead.
So far it hasn’t been plain sailing as he’s taken time to adjust back to the Eredivisie and to be frank, playing on a weekly basis again. He has been a good fit and clicked with the system quickly, but he now needs to get his personal form back to the level that saw him voted into the 100 for the last two years and rediscover that arrogance all great strikers have.
Goals have been a little harder to come by but he did strike five times in his first 15 appearances. He now has the patience from his club he would never have received at Inter and will come again we’re sure. His attitude has been good throughout and his work rate has never dipped when given a chance to show it.
Internationally he has played for The Netherlands at every youth level available and remains their all-time U17 top-scorer. So far though he has yet to receive a cap for the full side and competition is fierce but he has been under the radar for a full season. This year he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing – working hard, heading towards double figures goal-wise and getting game time, he can worry about working his way into the international squad over the next 3 to 4 years once established again.
He’s 20 years old and already has a second chance, will he ever get back up to the level of Champions League winning clubs fighting over his signature? Probably not but you never know, the talent still isn’t in doubt and he has a long time to keep developing. We’ll still be watching but it might be ‘good’ rather than the ‘excellent’ we were once hoping for.
“Struggled to make an impact at Inter given depth of attacking talent available, now cut loose at Twente he scored twice in his opening five games to show his quality in a way he never could/would in Milan.”–
Adam Digby (ESPN, Sports Illustrated)
“The move to Inter was never going to work and, lo, it didn't. A return to a club where he might actually play, FC Twente, has allowed him to show what he can do. The early signs are good. His travails in Italy should act as a lesson to all young footballers about taking that big-money move too soon.” – John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
D The experience at Inter has taken the wind out of the sails but he’s young enough and ambitious enough to get back up there