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Totti Today #61: Cast(an) Away

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Benatia, Jedvaj, Toloi, Burdisso, Romagnoli, Astori, Mapou, Spolli. Since Rudi took over in 2013 a lot of centrebacks came and went. Even more if you count the ones since the American ownership (since 2011): Kjaer, Heinze, Juan and of course Marquinhos. One name has been the only presence in Roma’s defence for years now: Leandro ‘Leo’ Castan

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Heaven

The 28-year-old Brazilian started his Roman career brightly with 30 Serie A appearances in his maiden season in Italy, followed by an impressive 2013-2014 alongside Benatia at the heart of Roma’s defence. Castan played 36 games, Roma conceded only 25 goals that season. Roma finally found its wall. But then Benatia quickly jumped ship and went to Bayern, Castan (fortunately) stayed. But was that the right decision or not? Probably yes.

After all, Leandro was relatively unknown in Europe before he joined AS Roma. Only a handful of games with Helsingborg, that was his best achievement. But in Italy’s capital he really made a name for himself. Thanks to Roma he even deserved two call-ups for the Brazilian NT. Unfortunately he didn’t make the FIFA World Cup 2014 in his own country, a crying shame because he was one of the most consistent and best CB’s in Italy that year. AS Roma and Castan, it was simply a match made in heaven.

Faith

After that stellar season and a massive 85 points, Leandro’s misery began. In Empoli on the 13th of September 2014 to be exact. He was substituted after the break because he felt dizzy, something was wrong. Very wrong. Blood vessels on his brain were swollen and so Castan underwent a much-needed brain surgery. What a blow, for Roma and especially for the player. Kinda like Strootman now: His future was/is uncertain. When will he come back? How? Will he ever regain his form of 2013-2014? Will the side effects affect his performances? Isn’t he scared on the pitch? So much uncertainty but let’s be clear: the player’s health is the primary objective. Take it step by step. Do not rush things.

Unlike Strootman, who has gone from one surgery to another, Leandro was declared 100% fit for the current season. He even played most of the pre-season friendlies, including tough matches like Real, Barcelona and City. He also started the first Serie A game, away at Verona. Everything was fine up until then. Castan was back and ready to repay Roma a favor because of the faith the club put in him.

Island

Fast forward one month and a half, and Castan hasn’t seen a single minute anymore. Not in Italy, not in the Champions League. It seems Rüdiger, Manolas, Daniele and even Gummy Bear are in front of our dear Leandro in the picking order. Why this sudden change? Is there something we don’t know concerning his fitness? Or doesn’t he impress enough during training? I thought Tom Hanks did a pretty good job in the movie Cast Away but that role should really belong to Castan. He’s alone on an island and he can’t get off, yet he’s one of the more likeable characters of the club. I also never read a bad word of Castan about Garcia and vice versa. A very very strange situation if you ask me.

Since Chiesa di Totti doesn’t have any spies in Trigoria, we’ll probably never know what’s the real problem in this case. But playing Daniele at CB next to Manolas is a temporary solution at best. Rüdiger looks talented but needs time. Manolas-Castan was nearly everyone’s first choice for this season (a left-footed and right-footed CB, pace, height, strength) but it’s not too late for Garcia. There are still 31 games in Serie A left to play, 4 in the CL.

Patience

After Verona Castan has always been on the bench, yet he doesn’t play, not even as a sub. My (and probably your) patience is gone. The time is right, after an international break and a chance to edge closer to first place next weekend (with Inter-Juve, Napoli-Fiorentina and Sassuolo-Lazio to be played). I think it’s time for Castan’s true comeback.

Rudi Garcia admirers must admit it, this one depends entirely on the Frenchman’s stubbornness. It may even decide the title race.