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Player Focus: Luc Castaignos - A striker reborn

Modified 16 Oct 2013, 14:54 IST

Luc Castaignos

Not long ago Luc Castaignos was one of the hottest prospects in the Netherlands; a prodigious talent they said, with limitless potential. However, like so many, he left too early. It was feared that he would never be heard from again. Fortunately that never came to fruition and he won’t be remembered as a wasted talent; having had a second chance, the last fifteen months have seen a striker reborn.

He didn’t exactly disappear off the face of the earth but the decision he made in January 2011 stunted his development. Castaignos, aged eighteen, signed for Internazionale. It was the bog-standard ‘dream move’. His time there rekindled memories of Dennis Bergkamp; the only difference was Castaignos didn’t arrive with a great reputation and expectations, but as one for the future. After a frustrating season, where opportunities were sparse – featuring in six league games (all but one from the bench) scoring just once with a late winner away to Siena – he would leave.

The importance of playing time for young footballers cannot be overstated. This is one of the selling points of the Eredivisie. A return to the Netherlands beckoned. Feyenoord, the club he moved to Inter from, ruled themselves out on economic grounds. FC Twente stepped in.

He repaid their faith with 13 goals in 38 games last season, though it wasn’t the easiest of campaigns. Twente would part-company with Steve McClaren halfway through and his successor Alfred Schreuder – now assistant manager – could only guide them to sixth place; their worst finish in six years. Castaignos nonetheless was a positive and has started this campaign with intent.

The youngster, who arrived as Luuk de Jong’s successor after the much loved forward departed for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer of 2012, is one of the first names on Michel Jansen’s team-sheet. He complements the football Jansen demands. He is their undisputed number nine, but is far from just a finisher inside the penalty area. Instead he is a forward that is constantly involved in his side’s attacks: the embodiment of your archetypal Dutch striker.

He is not a target man by any stretch of the imagination – often creating chances for himself, sometimes out of nothing – but plays the lone striker role well. He’s exceptional in bringing the creative players around him into the game – with short passing – as a focal point. When starting up front this season only two Eredivisie strikers have completed more final third passes (80). Meanwhile, of all players to start at least 5 games up front only Steve De Ridder has a better pass accuracy in the attacking third (74.8%).

They repay him by playing to his strength, which is his willingness to get a shot off. So far Castaignos has four goals in nine games, averaging 4.2 shots per game – fourth highest in the division behind Alfred Finnbogason (5.1), Memphis Depay (4.4) and Graziano Pellè (4.3).

With two assists he is only behind Quincy Promes (3) and Dusan Tadic (5) at his club. Both coincidently are deployed either side of him. “I’m increasingly finding myself decisive,” he told Voetbal International. “But I must continue to develop.”

His intelligent movement off the ball, great positional sense and ability to beat defenders with his rapid pace and acceleration – completing 0.6 dribbles per game so far this season – as well as his calm and composed finishing (comfortable with both feet and dominant in the air) led Albert Stuivenberg to christen him the new ‘Thierry Henry‘. It was a moniker that raised a few eyebrows, but you can see where Stuivenberg’s is coming from. Castaignos’ playing style is reminiscent of the great Frenchman, and while Stuivenberg made the comparison as his Dutch under-17 boss, they’ve since been reunited at under-21 level.

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Published 14 Oct 2013, 17:46 IST
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