Originally featured on TalkingTikiTaka:
Can you believe it was only three seasons ago during the 2012/13 campaign that Málaga, managed by current Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, were challenging towards the top of end of La Liga and not just competing in the Champions League, but making it all the way to the Quarter Finals only to be narrowly beaten 3-2 by the eventual runners up Borussia Dortmund. Of course given the curse of financial fair play and the various implications excessive spending and investment often brings, Málaga failed in their continuation to pertain to meeting the elevated expectations and subsequently find themselves back where they left off prior to the golden period of 2012/13. Yet despite the difference between three years ago and the present day in terms of status, expectation and wealth for example, just as Isco proved to be, there seems to be one current individual who this time has been nurtured, built and produced in a similar mould to the quality of Isco and Santi Cazorla, and has not only stood a cut above the rest in his age-group but also looks likely to follow in the footsteps of his fellow compatriots in reaching the dizzy heights of modern-day football. If you’ve not heard his name already, I’m almost certain will do in the not so distant future. Meet Samu Castillejo.
Born in Málaga, local-boy Samu Castillejo was playing football from the age of 9 at different regional sides before being snapped up by his current club at 12 years of age back in 2007. After seemingly graduating through the youth ranks with ease, it wasn’t long before the young winger made his debut for the Senior Reserve squad at the age of 16 before progressing to complete a further 3 seasons with the reserve team competing in the Tercera División. Clearly behind the scenes, it must be said that Málaga surely soon knew they had a real talent on their hands but this was obviously to be their secret with the intention to ensure he developed naturally in the correct way with the club in order to fend off any interest from sides with financial prowess in their recruitment of the best young players in La Liga. However, the secret was out and Newcastle United fans more than any will have soon took note of Castillejo’s talent after scoring a brace and subsequently receiving the Man of the Match award during a pre-season friendly 12 months ago in June 2014. It certainly was beginning to look like the young right winger could be a star in the making and consequently, Castillejo was soon promoted to the senior squad prior to the 2014/15 league campaign.
And unlike the many other talented youngsters of a similar age, more typical of those challenging at the very top of the table throughout the biggest domestic competitions throughout Europe, Castillejo didn’t have to wait very long until his first appearance in sky blue and white jersey of the Málaga senior side and was fittingly substituted on for fellow academy graduate Juanmi. Yet whilst his first appearance came in a 3-0 defeat to Valencia away at the Mestalla, it proved to be both a personal achievement for the player and the youth setup at the club, and also paved the way for further inclusions with the big boys in the highest tier of Spanish football. And with retrospective looking back at the 38 game league campaign as well as the number of domestic cup games possible to feature in, Samu’s statistics from his debut season certainly bode well for the future. Clocking up 2351 minutes in his debut season, clearly the hierarchy at Málaga trust the youngster in what is a highly competitive league, opting for youth over experience with his inclusion, starting 28 games of the 34 he is appeared in during his debut season. Meanwhile although the youngster has only contributed 1 goal to date during Málaga’s home victory over Valencia in February 2015, a much more prominent part of his game is clearly his contributions with assists, recording 5 during the 2014/15 league campaign.
Alongside his progression through the ranks at Málaga, with hindsight it also looks like the Spaniard didn’t seem to have any issues whatsoever replicating his talents on the international stage either, making his way through the national sides’ several youth sides’ with ease. After scoring twice in his 6 appearances for the Spanish U16 team in 2011, he was quickly promoted to the Spanish U17 before making the step up once again to the U21 crop of players where he continues to feature until this present day. Should the trend continue, who knows how long it will be until we see Castillejo’s development replicated in Spain’s international setup. Although we don’t know when or whether it will happen, one thing we can be certain about that at this moment in time, Samu Castillejo may be hovering under the radar of the elite European sides but should he continue to develop and qualities enhance further, who knows how long it will be until he is propelled into the limelight both at a domestic and international level.
Samu Castillejo Domestic Career Statistics:
2014/15: Malaga (Senior Squad)
- Minutes played: 2351
- Goals: 1
- Assists: 5
- Passes Made: 677
- Pass Accuracy: 70%
- Ball Recoveries: 125
- Successful Blocks: 41/51