Samu Castillejo has joined AC Milan from Villarreal in the past few days, and instead of relying on YouTube highlight videos to determine how good the 23 year-old Spanish winger really is and how good he can be for Milan, we spoke to the SBNation blog for Villarreal, Villarreal USA to get an idea of what Milan were getting in Castillejo.
Thanks to Allen Dodson of Villarreal USA for taking the time to answer a few questions from us about Milan’s new winger.
Highlights do ponta Samu Castillejo, novo reforço do Milan, pelo Villarreal na última temporada. Drible em espaço curto, arremate colocado de média distância, explosão e diagonais precisas são alguns de seus atributos. pic.twitter.com/SyefEwPszj— Charley Moreira (@chau_moreira) August 14, 2018
Allen Dodson: I’m going to start with an overall comment. The Samu Castillejo you’re getting now is a far better player than when he joined us three years ago. He’s really filled out physically since he joined us at age 20—and he’s gotten much better at fighting through one-on-ones and running at defenders. Shooting, too. He may have a bit of an adaptation period to Serie A, but I think you will really enjoy him.
Can he play on the left wing efficiently?
AD: I am sure he can play there, though he was used pretty much on the right wing with us. His style of play is going to be pretty much the same from either side: he’s an excellent dribbler who is good at getting to the byline and cutting a cross back for a striker to finish. He will give you a lot of energy tracking back from those runs too.
Does he have injury issues?
AD: He has had occasional muscle pulls but nothing significant. He’s very lean and wiry, and seems to be able to engage in a lot of physical tussles without major injury.
What formations has he worked best in?
AD: He has been good in a 4-4-2 or a diamond variant of that. (4-1-2-1-2). Regardless of formation, he’s really been better the farther he is allowed to drift toward the touchline and the more room he has ahead of him to run at defenders. I don’t see him as a player who is necessarily that comfortable operating in close spaces.
What do you think his ceiling is?
AD: Good question. I think his ceiling will be defined by his versatility and his ability to adapt to a more physical style of play than in Spain. He’s great at picking the ball up in modfield and running at defenders—what he needs to get more comfortable with is in supporting the attack without the ball, in my opinion. He also has the Spanish technical player’s tendency to look for easy fouls because he feels his technical skill is being unfairly interfered with. He’s surprisingly strong and rangy, but sometimes he tries to win the free kick instead of just powering through the defender, and that is something he will have to work on in Serie A.
Comparing Casti and Suso, Suso can come at you from more places on the pitch, he’s a better shooter and passer. That said, Castillejo has made big strides from 2015 to 2018 in all those things, so the real question is how will he be in three years, say?
Do you think he was sold at fair value?
AD: Yeah, pretty close to it. I wrote at one point I would take €15m plus Bacca for him, and that wasn’t far off what happened. It seems a fair deal to me from both sides, though who comes out ahead in the long term depends on how they both do. I’m excited to see Bacca back though I have no idea how we’ll use him with Ekambi and Gerard!!
What are your feelings on his departure?
AD: I tend to be fairly pragmatic about these things. When I joined the Villarreal USA blog back in 2010, we had Cani, a very good attacking midfielder who never quite made the jump to outstanding player and national team level. Castillejo is sort of at that point now. Will he be able to continue to progress to more of an elite level, or will his ceiling be Cani: ‘ a very good, stylish player who never quite made it big’? It’s a fair question.
I would have liked to see him stay longer with us, but unless he was going to sign a renegotiated contract this year with a bigger release clause (and bigger salary), I figure he would have moved next summer anyway. Given we have a glut of midfielders (though not wingers) I am okay with the sale, though I can’t help thinking we may have needed a Castillejo-type player more this season than a third striker, even though he is a goal-scoring machine. But we’ll see.