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A tribute to Zé Castro - a player I didn't know already left! (18th August, 2017)

So as it turns out, I made a mistake.

A few days ago, I talked about the Rayo squad, and as it turns out things are even worse - Zé Castro, who had reportedly rescinded his contract, had actually done so with no announcements being made.

Because this is the Rayo website:


I didn't even get to say goodbye! So here it is...a tribute to Zé Castro.

August 29th, 2013. Leave it to Rayo to scramble at the last minute and make an amazing, seemingly impossible signing.

This time, they made two.

Zé Castro, and Seba Fernández half an hour later, were the two gems that had been picked up. Castro was a "boring" signing - he had played for Atlético de Madrid but was more of a backup. And at Depor, Zé Castro appeared in only ten games in 2009–10, and featured even less in the following season, prompting him to request a move in mid-November 2010.

Some people even disliked him - in March 2011, he was to be picked as a last-minute substitute for a league match against Real Sociedad after Aythami Artiles went down with a bout of gastroenteritis, but did not present himself at the Estadio Riazor, and could not be traced through his cellphone.

On the other hand, Seba had played for the Uruguay national team 14 times and had played for Málaga for three seasons, and had even scored in the Champions League. Not only was he an exciting signing, he was a Málaga fan favorite. His dedication, fighting spirit and sacrifice, as well as his character on and off the field were revered - his praises were already being sung.

And yet, every Rayo fan can safely sing those praises about Castro. Seba, on the other hand, suffered a combined ACL and meniscus rupture in the right knee. The diminutive striker's career at Rayo was over after just nine games.

And most fans won't even remember his name.

Much promise, much disappointment - that might be the best way to describe Zé Castro.

Castro entered hometown Académica de Coimbra's youth ranks as a child, and made his Primeira Liga debut in the 2003-04 season. Despite his young age, he eventually became an undisputed starter and team captain.

Portugal's Big Three love to prey on the other clubs in Portugal for the scraps of youth potential. But this time, all three clubs, plus Celtic, Bayern and Tottenham, missed out on a club that was embarking on a spending spree of breakneck speed.

On 29th May, 2006, Mariano Pernía, Zé Castro and Sergio Agüero signed for Atlético Madrid. On the 30th, they signed Georgios Seitaridis and Costinha from FC Dinamo Moskva. Atlético were preparing for a new era under Javier Aguirre at breakneck speed indeed.

Zé Castro was the only free signing that summer.

It was not without controversy though - he had publicly declared that he would renew his contract but didn't, and later denied accusations by president José Eduardo Simões that he didn't renew because he wanted to be the club's highest paid player.

In his first year, he benefited from injuries to teammates, appearing in 22 La Liga matches, with two goals, but featured rarely in the following.

Depor came along in 2008, signing him on a season long loan deal - it was the same story. Habitual starter Pablo Amo was sidelined for months with an Achilles tendon problem and the Portuguese was able to start most of the campaign, and the option was activated for a permanent move. But the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons saw him play just 16 games combined.

It's hard to sum up the player and his qualities. His speed across the ground, his surprising comfort on the ball, his strength and stamina....but maybe this moment does.

On the 19th of April, 2015, a sunny day in Vallekas greeted two squads with very different moods. The previous week, Rayo had been smashed for six at the Balaídos, while Almería had won 3-0 against Granada.

For me, the first goal against Almería was what personified Rayo.

A corner by Kakuta is taken short and the ball finds its way to Zé Castro. Castro ends up dribbling past two players with a feint, crosses the ball into the box, and Antonio Amaya scores a header.

So what's so special about that?

Castro and Amaya are both center backs. Yes, a 32-year-old center back dribbled and crossed the ball to a 31-year-old center back who scored a header. That's the beauty of positional play - any player should theoretically be able to play anywhere. Obviously, at a small club like Rayo that's not always possible, which is why fans should appreciate it when goals like those are scored.

To score is in itself amazing - to score a goal like that is a cherished memory.

Also, think my intuition on Lucho being a third keeper was right:


Edit: These pieces go up at 10 am and at 9 am today, Rayo signed goalkeeper Mario Fernández who last played for Osasuna. I'm now adding this at 9:57. 

Talk about close calls.

Finally, Míchel has said in an interview that "four to five players will arrive".

I hope so too...


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