With no new updates on Roma's #DaretoDzeko campaign, and in the absence of any absurd offers for Alessio Romagnoli, it seems as though we've hit the doldrums of transfer season already. Now, this could simply be a natural lull in the rumor mill or the byproduct of so many teams, particularly in Italy, handling their business early in the window. Whatever the case may be, beyond the internet teasing us with possible suitors for Seydou Doumbia (two in fact!), there isn't a ton to speculate on--so, instead, let's take a quick look at an important and somewhat forgotten man, Leandro Castan.
Following the discovery of a cavernoma in his brain, and the ensuing surgery in December, Castan's 2014-2015 season was essentially a wash. Now that Roma's pre-season training is officially underway, Castan took the opportunity to address the media on his recovery, his personal goals, and the club's ambitions ahead of the new season:
Yes, I'm very happy because many fans see football as more than just a game. I hope to be an example for everyone and I'm very thankful for everyone who's stayed close to me throughout. I want to get back to the way I was before, do my job and torment opposition fans a bit. In terms of my condition I thank God for allowing me to be near so many capable people, who have helped me to overcome it
...I thought I would be able to return more quickly after the operation, but even now I'm working very hard to get back to my level as soon as possible. I hope to be there by the first day of the season - I've given up my vacation to be ready. Right now I feel good after a tough training session
For the uneducated (like me) who have no idea what a cavernoma is, a quick Altavista search can be quite enlightening. While it seems they are eminently treatable, a look at the possible side effects reveals how devastating this can be to one's life, let alone a career as a professional athlete. We're talking about seizures, loss of balance, weakness, numbness and vision problems. Serious life and career debilitating consequences.
We simply cannot gloss over what Castan was up against, nor can we, consequently, assume he'll return to full fitness by the start of the season, but his determination to return is certainly a welcome sign.
While Roma's defense wasn't necessarily in shambles this past season, the lack of chemistry and cohesion was palpable nonetheless, as Garcia never seemed to settle on a consistent pair of central defenders. This, then, underscored just how important the partnership between Castan and Mehdi Benatia was to Roma's sterling defensive record in 2013-2014; their communication, ability, and simple familiarity with one another kept the backline intact and opponents at bay.
It's funny, and perhaps somewhat telling, to look at what happened to not only Roma but Benatia in Castan's absence. While Roma managed to keep her head above water without him, Kostas Manolas never seemed to form an understanding with either Davide Astori or Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, resulting in some chaotic moments for all parties involved, while Benatia suffered his own ups and downs without his former partner.
Whether it's due to his by-the-book style or his lack of self-aggrandizement, Castan tends to be an overlooked player, but the trail of dissonance his absence created this season speaks volumes about his abilities and importance to Roma's success.
For the interview in its entirety, head on over to the official club site; it's a pretty engaging read, he speaks on everything from his potential partnership with Manolas to his actual relationship with Walter Sabatini.
Needless to say, if Leandro Castan can return to his prior form, Roma will be one step ahead.