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Totti Today # 94: The Unbearable Lightness of Leandro

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For the first time since 2011, Roma will have to face a Castan-less Summer. A new Brazilian seems on his way, but let’s look back for a minute and review Leandro’s Roman career.

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Back in 2012 Leandro Castan was a rather unknown to us. Only 4 games under his belt in Europe, in Sweden of all leagues. The rest of his career he spend in Brazil, which is a lot warmer place so can’t really blame him. He was brought in during full Zemanlandia mania and seen as the ideal partner for Burdisso. Nico was a hothead, Castan the calm presence on the pitch. A nice combination.

But after all a while, a certain younger Brazilian CB made his way into the first team. Marquinhos. Castan played most games of all CB’s that season (30 in Serie A). In fact, he played most games from all defenders we had. Our defence wasn’t exactly the Chinese Wall during those days, but hey, what did you expect with Zeman at the helm? Just hope your strikers score one more than theirs.

In the space of nine months, Castan convinced everybody, especially his critics. In Zdenek’s sometimes chaotic tactics, he at least offered the team some stability and peace. A worthy heir of Juan. Castan did even better after his maiden year, in 2013-2014 he really upped his game. Why? Because that season, something extraordinary happened.

Actually two things happened: Rudi Garcia entered the fray and astounded Italy in his first season with his inspiring 4-3-3 and ‘kick the ball to Gervinho and watch him run’ tactic. And the second one: Benatia came and played alongside Castan as Roma’s backbone. A formidable partnership, bringing out the best of each other. Castan nearly played everything in the league and ended with a massive 36 appearances, Benatia 33. Plus a record of 85 points, mainly thanks to Rudi’s cohesive unit.

As of now, Roma’s defence is made out of rocks and ready to take the league by storm and finally challenge Juve for that crown. The Benatia-Castan combo was set to star for years to come in giallo e rosso. Alas, think again. Two horrible things happened. Benatia was sold (we’ll leave out the details of his departure, but it wasn’t smooth) and Castan, well, we all know how he ended up after his brain surgery. He started doubting.

One mere appearance, and that was it for 2014-2015. Just when Leandro was about to settle himself into the hall of fame of AS Roma... What a sh*t timing. Yanga, Astori and Manolas had to split the minutes in Leandro’s absense. Players can come back from a physical injury, muscles can be healed, fractures can be fixed… But this was more of a psychological thing. We didn’t ask ourselves ‘when’ he will return, but ‘how’ he will return. The fear of tackling or heading… Not exactly conductive when you’re a CB in a tight and defensive league like Serie A.

Last season a similar phenomenon happened like that in 2013-2014: The pairing of Manolas and Rüdiger. Both have progressed a lot and are even younger than Castan and Benatia were in 2013. There was rarely room for Castan on the bench, let alone on the pitch. Gyomber and later Zukanovic arrived at the club and that was the final blow for him. A total of five appearances in which he looked rather shaky. He didn’t deserve this.

Luckily for him, Leandro’s terrible journey ended not so long ago. He left his bad luck in Rome and hopes to revive his career at Sampdoria, where he has more chances than under Spalletti. Whether we see him again in our colors or not remains a mystery. His star could weaken even more or he could rake up 30+ games and guide Sampdoria to Europe, who knows. Fact is, Castan never complained or made life harder. He just worked hard and hoped for an amazing comeback.

I can’t stand injustice. It could have been so much more. Castan’s career is not one of ups-and-downs, it’s one up and then many downs. Surely one of Roma’s most unfortunate players ever.

And so one of Roma’s oldest loyal servants leaves the stage and closes his Roman book, one with a very bitter ending.

But hey, at least we still have Lobont in pre-season.