Meet The New Arjen Robben: Samu Castillejo

 • by Thomas McIlroy
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There’s a new ‘BBC’ in Spain this season. Striking acronyms are definitely fashionable in La Liga at the moment, despite the ‘MSN’ of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar finally being broken up by the Brazilian’s move from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain.

Their main opponent for the title of greatest forward trio in Spain was the ‘BBC’ – Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, but with the Welshman being all but permanently injured at the moment, there’s a front three after their name in La Liga.

Villarreal’s Carlos Bacca, Cédric Bakambu and Samu Castillejo are definitely terrifying defences.

While the Colombian striker is unlikely to attract much interest in January, the other two certainly will, and it would be no surprise to see Castillejo subject of transfer rumours from clubs of the calibre of Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United, all of whom he has previously been linked to.

Who is Castillejo?

A talented winger, Castillejo came through the youth system at Málaga, his local club.

Aged just 16 in 2011, he made his debut for their reserve side, going on to spend three seasons in Tercera División, being dubbed El Fideo (which means noodle in Spanish), due to his wiry frame and ability to squirm away when in tight situations.


His time with Málaga’s reserve side earned him a call up by Javi Gracia for pre-season with the first team in July 2014, and his career took off from there.

Castillejo’s senior debut came in August 2014, and he ended up clocking up 2351 minutes in his first season, starting 28 games of the 34 he appeared in.

Although he only scored once, in a 1-0 win over Valencia, he recorded five assists throughout the season, and showed his potential at terrorising backlines, with Tottenham Hotspur linked with an £8million move.

He did end up leaving La Rosaleda, but not to England, instead to Villarreal, alongside Málaga team-mate Samu García.

While García struggled at Villarreal, Castillejo has grown and has become an important part of El Submarino Amarillo’s squad.

He largely plays on the right, taking on defenders with ease, and likes to cut in and get a dangerous shot away.

When he gets going, his control and speed can be reminiscent of Arjen Robben.

Since he’s been at Villarreal, he’s managed six goals and 11 assists in 102 matches in all competitions.

What are Castillejo’s main strengths?

There’s no doubt that Castillejo can really scare defences when he starts to run at them.

Playing from the right, he isn’t afraid to cut inside and run at someone in the middle of the pitch too.

The stills from the game against Getafe above show how he can quickly get down the pitch, leaving defenders in his wake.

He picks the ball up within the centre circle, but five seconds later, he’s glided past a number of Getafe defenders and finds himself on the edge of the box, where he can get a shot away.

He’s not just taking players on though. As you can see from the stills, against Alavés, Castillejo had just come inside a bit, before receiving it and playing a pinpoint pass – his passing is better than he gets credit for – through to Bakambu, who finished it first time.

And if you watch the 22-year-old play, you’ll notice how well he switches the play.

He often cuts in from the right, moves the ball onto his left foot and plays in someone down the left wing, as you can see him doing in the stills above with Jaume Costa.

His comfort in taking players on, as well as picking players out means it’s ideal for him to play on the right, where he can cut in but also still try and take the opposition on down the wing.

What’s more, if you want a winger who’s not afraid to track back and get involved defensively, Castillejo is your man.

What are Castillejo’s main weaknesses?

Like most wingers, Castillejo can be up and down, although he is definitely becoming more consistent as he gets older.

Perhaps the biggest frustration with most is how easily he goes down.

You only have to blow on him for him to go down screaming in pain.

In Spain, he already has a reputation for diving, and should he come to England, that would not enamour him to opposition fans as well.

It could be down to his frame though, he is very lightweight and rarely wins a physical battle – he has to rely on his speed, rather than his strength.

You would also perhaps hope he would improve his goal return as he gets older.

Key stats on Castillejo

Samu Castillejo player card

How much is Castillejo worth?

The winger signed a contract until 2020 when he joined Villarreal and is believed to have a buyout clause of around €26million in that.

With transfer fees going up massively since he arrived at the Castellón club in 2015, it’s unlikely they’d sell him for anything under his buyout clause, which really isn’t too expensive at all in today’s market.

His importance to the team would also mean Villarreal would be reluctant to negotiate over a potential fee.

For a 22-year-old with a lot of potential, he could well be worth the gamble in January.

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