The year is 2013. Zemanlandia is in Roma’s recent past, having failed to heed results to no one’s surprise. Aurelio Andreazzoli’s brief tenure as skipper is over and the powers that be have brought in French violin mimer, Rudi Garcia, to guide the team back into the Champion’s League. Expectations aren’t very high as the French mister’s lack of Serie A experience has fans skeptical. Despite this, there is one player who, after coming into form late in the 2012 season, is pumped and ready to prove his worth. Partnering with recent acquisition, Medhi Benatia, Leandro Castán, bought from Corinthians for a mere €5.5 million, looks ahead unknowingly to what will be his best season as a footballer.
Fast forward to Halloween, October 31st, 2013. 44,000 roaring cheers erupt around the Stadio Olimpico as the final whistle blows. Roma has just won their tenth match in a row, earning their ninth clean sheet with a 1-0 victory over Chievo. There is hope for the first time in years, and the S-word begins to form prematurely on dreamers’ lips. And why not? Roma look fierce, quick on the counter and resolute in the back. The team hasn’t looked this good in a long, long time. Leandro Castán, war-beaten but invigorated, joins his teammates in front of the curva sud. There is no way for him to know of the downfall ahead.
A run of four-consecutive draws would ultimately derail Roma’s 2013-14 season with Juventus being crowned with a record-breaking 102 points. Yet, despite finishing as runner-ups, Roma’s defense looked to be impenetrable with the partnership of Benatia and Castán, the latter being one of Roma’s most surprising stalwarts. The 2014-15 looked promising. But as is customary with Roma, the promise would soon fade into utter disappointment, and Leandro Castán’s career would be meet its most challenging obstacle.
Diagnosed with a cavernoma, a cluster of irregular blood vessels in the brain, Castán required surgery which abruptly ended his 2014-15 season. Despite a successful operation, the Brazilian would never return to his stellar form under Rudi Garcia. Loaned to Sampdoria in 2016, Leandro Castán’s contract was shortly terminated and he joined Torino on loan instead. Making only nine appearances for the Toros, he was never able to make an impact. After the 2016-17 season he returned to Roma where many believed he would be immediately sold, loaned, or even dropped. Yet, oddly, after making several appearances in Roma’s preseason friendlies, the Brazilian remained on the roster at the final tick of the transfer season despite Roma having a handful of serviceable center-backs ahead of him.
Which brings us to today. With zero appearances this season, Leandro Castán has officially joined Cagliari on loan. And although Roma won’t really miss his services, or lack there of, one must wonder why he wasn’t utilized, or why he was kept in the first place. Recently, the Brazilian had his say on the matter:
“I feel ready, I’m available to the Coach, if he wants to rely on me. I’m lacking match fitness, but I can play for 90 minutes. I miss the pitch so much, I have chills. Only I know the sacrifices I made to keep playing at Torino and I started well, in November they wanted to buy me outright. Then I got injured and I only came back at the end of the season. By then [Coach Sinisa] Mihajlovic was relying on other players but I always gave my all and respected his decisions. I knew it would be difficult to play at Roma, but I wanted to know what condition I was in. I trained well, and now I’ll face these next six months with confidence. I haven’t missed a single training session this season, I’ve passed all the tests and now I’m only lacking match fitness, which you only get by playing. It was a difficult year, my kids asked me why I never played, but I never game up.”
While this is yet another loan for Castán, Roma faithfuls will undoubtedly wish him the best. His first two seasons at Roma will be fondly remembered, and as a player he deserves the opportunity to prove himself once again. Although cast away, Leandro will always be a wolf. No one ever thought he would amount to much at Roma, yet he fought hard to win a starting spot. He battled through a serious brain condition and overcame it to play competitively again. And now he is battling to save his career. Leandro is a fighter. And he isn’t throwing in the towel yet. May his trip to Sardinia be fruitful, and may he come back home, ready to battle once again.