Diego Castro has been the lynchpin of Perth Glory’s attack for over five years, since joining the Western Australia side in 2015.
Moving from renowned Spanish club Getafe, Castro offered a remarkable CV.
Having played 225 games in La Liga, he scored 44 goals and created 21, and proved to be a wonderful recruit for Perth.
But going beyond his silky control, nutmegs and disguised passes, Castro was the key link of the Glory attack.
While Daniel Sturridge is obviously a quality player and, on paper, a good signing, Castro’s departure leaves clear holes in their ball progression and attacking ability, and it remains to be seen whether Sturridge will replicate these strengths.
Kick360 takes a deep dive into Castro’s strengths, and what Perth Glory will miss without him in the side.
When compared to players in his position and amongst all in the league, Castro’s ball progression stats are outstanding.
|Statistic||Percentile (%) – When compared to other attacking midfielders|
|Passes into box||98|
Castro was a consistent outlet for when Perth would look to break through the press – drifting wide, he’d hold up the ball and look to come inside, creating central overloads.
Considering the man-marking that was frequent on Castro throughout his career in Australia, by beating his man he would create quick breaks for his side, where he could drive forwards with the ball and slip passes through into the inside channels.
Castro would drift wide in the final third, to help retain possession, before advancing into the box, dribbling at diagonal angles to the defender.
From here, he would take on his opponent and look to curl a shot from the left with his right foot, or measure in a looping cross with his right foot or play a low controlled ball just behind the six-yard box with his left.
Castro excelled consistently in drifting into wide areas and is comfortable coming inside from both the right and left flank.
He struck good relationships with both fullbacks due to his clear body language and communication, to demonstrate where he wants his teammates to run, and where and when he wants the ball.
While not being the fastest across straight-line speeds, he made clever runs from in to out, to receive the ball.
This formed the key facet of Perth counter-attacks, with Perth finding the Spanish magician in the channels, who would then drive forwards with runners in support.
Castro was fantastic at making the right final decision – something that one can assume comes with experience – and he was the key cog of Perth’s fluid counter-attacking football.
Despite his pace being lower relative to his teammates, his quick thinking and decision making was what beat the backtracking defence.
Castro also utilised his vision out wide on a consistent basis, able to slide in teammates in inside channels, often with perfectly weighted passes to the byline, allowing for an easy cutback.
Castro could do a similar thing in wide areas, but with more high, looped passes.
Seeing runners coming in from deep positions, he would caress the ball with the inside of his right foot to find them in behind, again creating clear cut chances for his team on a consistent basis.
But it’s not just from wide areas where Castro excels.
The main reason why the Spanish superstar drifts towards the flanks is that he wants to be on the ball with time and space to advance at the defence.
Many attacking midfielders do this, particularly the likes of Milos Ninkovic and Alessandro Diamanti, where they have relatively free roles in their sides, to find and interpret space at will.
But when the space opens up in the middle, Castro has the ability to see and exploit it to a deadly effect.
His improvisational abilities and technique allow him to thrive in all attacking areas of the field.
However, a key, underrated part of Castro’s game in transitions was his ability to win fouls for Perth.
In both the above and below examples, Castro single-handedly relieves pressure on his side through his close control and body manipulation, keeping his back to his opponent and the ball shielded, and tantalisingly feinting for a foul.
He reels the defenders into committing a foul, giving his team a breather and a chance to set up with a better build-up structure.
Overall, Castro is a major loss for Perth Glory, and his departure has become understated due to the signing of Daniel Sturridge.
His ability to carry Perth’s attack with his swagger, technique and improvisation is unique within Australian football, and it remains to be seen how the Western Australian club will cope in his absence.
But one thing is certain; for just his silky control, nutmegs and disguised passes alone, Castro is a Glory legend.