Congratulations to Spaniard Diego Castro for sweeping the board when it came to the awards at Perth Glory’s Most Glorious Player Dinner.
Castro who was signed at the start of the last A-League season picked up the coveted QBE Most Glorious Player, the Golden Boot with 13-goals, the Players’ Player of the Year, and the Volunteers’ Player of the Year.
With his 13 goals in the season he was the fourth highest scorer in the competition. He was also only the fourth Perth Glory player to score ten or more goals in an A-League season. Eugene Dadi and Nikita Rukavysta both scored 10 goals in 2008/09, Shane Smeltz scored 13 in the year the club made the Grand Final in 2011/12, and Andy Keogh scored 12 goals last season. The latter’s record is still in the record books despite the club breaking the salary cap and being deducted points.
Perth Glory has to go back to season one of the Hyundai A-League to boast the A-League Player of the year award coming West, but Castro picked that up as well in what was a stellar season for the Spaniard.
Castro joins a number of foreign players to have taken out the A-League’s top award; in fact only one Australian player has won the award since 2008 and that was Nathan Burns last season at the Wellington Phoenix.
Castro although playing regularly in La Liga found himself playing for clubs more involved in relegation battles rather than challenging for the La Liga title before coming to Australia. In fact he was part of the Sporting Gijon side that won promotion in his second season. He was also part of the side when they were relegated in his sixth season.
Castro held his own in La Liga in a struggling side, so much so that when Sporting were relegated he was immediately re-signed by another La Liga side.
Castro’s debut A-League season is a similar story to that of Thomas Broich at Brisbane Roar, and Besart Belisha when he also joined the Roar. Broich played in the Bundesliga in 2004/05 with Borussia Mönchengladbach when they flirted with relegation, they avoided it by a point and he has been credited with helping them avoid the drop. Brooch then joined relegated FC Cologne and helped them back up into the Bundesliga 1 in his second season. He left Cologne and joined Nuremberg where he won promotion again. So he made his impact at the bottom end of the Bundesliga and in the second tier.
Berisha is another player who struggled to maintain regular top flight football in Germany before heading to Australia. Yet has shone since coming down under, despite upsetting fans from every club he plays against.
The key factor in Belisha’s early success was the supply he received from Thomas Broich. Both were of an equal standard, and so immediately clicked on the park. This is not dissimilar to Perth Glory in the season that has just ended.
Prior to the return of Andy Keogh, a player that was a regular in the Championship with Wolverhampton Wanderers but only received restricted game time in the Premier League, Castro was frequently forced to delay his passes as he waited for the players around him to react. As soon as Keogh came into the side he found a like-minded soul, a player as quick of thought as he was, who knew instinctively where to run to receive the ball. The two gelled superbly. It would be harsh on the players in the heart of the defence for Perth Glory this season to say that this combination turned the team’s season around, but it had a huge impact. Castro became a different player, able to play first time passes and unlock defences. His class came to the fore.
There is a lesson here for all A-League sides looking to recruit players, if you are signing a playmaker in midfield you also need to sign a striker who has played at a similar level in order for both to be effective.
Former Scotland and Manchester United player Lou Macari took his first role in management as player manager of Swindon Town in the 1980’s. He came from what is now the Premiership to the second division. He was famously quoted as saying he felt he could improve the players reading of the game at that level, but soon understood there was a reason that the players were playing at that level. Obviously there were players who grew with players with such speed of thought and vision around them, but the older players had been, and were playing at their level.
There is a case to make that Western Sydney Wanderers lacked a link to Romeo Castelen. Had he had a quality player from a similar career background as his own to play with, would that have made the difference to Wanderers season? Here was another player with vision and skill to tear teams apart – sure he and the fans would have liked more goals,- but how often was he forced to delay a pass because no one around him had seen it, or made a move into the space he has seen?
There is no doubt the likes of Broich and Castro do help the younger players around them and that has to be good for football in the country. Hopefully the A-League will look to recruit more of this ilk rather than over-priced, over-the-hill ex-superstars, as they in the main contribute more to the team and the development of young local players. The A-League needs players like these, and that is why Perth Glory need to do all they can to try and secure Castro for at least one more year, two at the most.
However sadly after a season like the one he just had that will be hard. Being 33 years of age, Castro not surprisingly wants to get the best deal he can for himself and his family. He knows he only has a few more years playing left and if he can secure a better two, or even three year deal, somewhere else he is sadly bound to take it.
If he does leave he has left some wonderful memories and will be a player that Glory fans will extol for many years to come and hopefully other A-League fans too.