My Problem With Nery Castillo

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | View Comments
SOCCER/FUTBOL SELECCION MEXICANA ELIMINATORIAS CONCACAF 2010 ALEGRES Y LIBERADOS Photo of Nery Castillo of the mexican team, during a press conference./Foto de Nery Castillo de la seleccion mexicana, durante una conferencia de prensa. 11 August 2009. MEXSPORT/OMAR MARTINEZ Photo via Newscom

I have a problem with Nery Castillo. No, it's not because he's a Mexico National Teamer or because his unibrow appears as though it will leap off his face and attack small children at any moment; no, my problem with Nery Castillo is that Chicago has signed him as a Designated Player, and I'm not sure he should be one.

The word that most easily comes to mind to describe Castillo is "disappointment." Yes, he had some nice moments with El Tri, and he certainly cost a lot of money for Shakhtar Donetsk; but other than that, Castillo has almost always played short of his perceived talents. Chicago is essentially his last resort and MLS his last hope of proving he can play a little bit and perhaps get Shakhtar to give him a run out or sell him elsewhere.

Is this what the DP Rule is meant to do? Bring in a player with a scant resume but a big money transfer in his past? I realize Castillo is not being paid close to what Beckham and Henry are getting, but his DP status naturally has me questioning whether or not he deserves it.

Castillo is younger (26) than most of the DPs MLS typically brings in. This is the saving grace, the one thing that makes his marquee status palatable. Houston tried something similar with Luis Angel Landin, a player with even less of a resume than Castillo. I applauded the Dynamo's approach at the time, happy to see a club use the extra wiggle room that the DP slot gave them to bring in a promising player who cost just a little bit too much.

Castillo seems different to me, both because he's slightly older and because his recent history is so poor. Nery hasn't scored a goal for any club he's played for since 2007.

The marketing element of this is obvious, and I'd be a fool not to realize that Castillo is a smart signing for the Fire for reasons that have nothing to do with how he plays. Signing DPs, short of Thierry Henry, is about finding a balance; is the player worth the money both for what he can contribute to the team's play and to the club's bottom line?

In Landin's case, his DP status had little to do with how much he made directly. His salary ($120,000 this year per the MLSPU) was just part of the total he counted towards the salary budget because the Dynamo paid his Mexican club a fee for his services. The Dynamo were taking a chance on a young player in need of playing time and thought it worth the risk. If they had no intention of looking for a more traditional DP rule-worthy player, than signing Landin made some sense.

The fact that they got it wrong in the end doesn't change my certainty that their approach was commendable. If Chicago is doing the same, more power to them. I suppose the DP tag might be justified in that case. Maybe Castillo will only make $200,000/year.

But Castillo has had ample opportunity to score goals and realize his potential. The window on his chances to finally figure it out is rapidly closing, and it's hard to imagine that Chicago's return will match their Castillo-as-DP investment in terms of goals. Unless that's not the point.

Castillo might put more butts in the seats at Toyota Park. I suppose that's a good thing. But I can hardly picture him being much better than, just to use an example, Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio. Saborio has certainly scored more goals than Castillo in the last three years.

For the record, Saborio makes $120,000/year.
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