Leandro Castan, born in 1986, Brazilian, centreback. I could think of a lot more words than that, but I’m gonna keep it short and sweet, just like Leandro’s career in Rome.
Short? Why I can hear you think, because he joined Roma ages ago, in 2012 and was a member of the ‘old guard’, alongside Daniele and Florenzi. He even witnessed Zeman as Roma’s coach, how about that! Six years have passed and Castan was still here, albeit after one hell of a rollercoaster for him and his relatives.
Six years seems like a lot, but Castan’s career can be summed up in only two seasons: 12-13 and 13-14. 66 Serie A appearances in two seasons, something that is unthinkable for him right now. Back then he was a stalwart at the back, next to Benatia and Marquinhos. A reliable no-nonsense defender. A warrior. A lion.
Not as talented as a Bonucci, Pique or Ramos, but he got the job done, plain and simple. Keepers and Roman tifosi always felt a bit safer when he featured at the back. He even earned a call-up for the Brazilian NT thanks to his performances in the Eternal City. We all know this is the biggest compliment any Brazilian football player can get. It was fully deserved.
Empoli-Roma, September 2014. The misery began. Leo stayed in the locker room after halftime because of dizziness and wouldn’t play a single minute in Serie A for the remainder of the season. Verdict: He needed brain surgery. What. A. Blow. A huge blow, like the ones only Ali or Frazier could hit in the ring. And then some.
What followed was a long and hard voyage for Castan. Mostly alone, somewhere in a fitness room or God forsaken clinic. The color and smell of grass abonded him. Yet Roma always kept the faith in the Brazilian, in a miracle comeback. Just like with Kevin Strootman. The night is always darkest before the dawn. He gave Rome too much to just throw him out, next to the garbage. He’ll return one day. Eventually… We had to keep the faith.
It was only a fool’s hope.
2015-2016 wasn’t any better for Leo, with only 5 games, some minutes spread out here and there. Loans to Torino and Cagliari afterwards were only a small band aid on a big, nasty wound. It was quite obvious for AS Roma now: the old Castan won’t return. Too much has happened, a man can only take so much.
Just recently, the now 31-year-old Castan has terminated his contract at Roma by mutual consent and will return to his home country, to play for Vasco da Gama. I can’t help but feel relieved for Leo. The fight is finally over. The voyage has ended. At Brazil he’ll be closer to his family and friends and hopefully he’ll rediscover football. He’ll enjoy it more than in Europe. He returns home.
An example for every sports athlete worldwide. After all the misery Castan is still considered a professional footballer today, that’s perhaps his biggest victory ever and no one can take it away from him.
Castan may not have won a single prize in those six years at Roma, but he gave us, fans, the best advice anyone could take: ‘Never give up.’
It’s only fitting to end this piece with the words of Leo the Lion himself:
“It does not matter how often or how badly you get beaten, how difficult it seems, never give up! I still have not given up and will never give up!”