In soccer, they say you should never fall in love with a loan player. Well, you shouldn’t fall in love with a young player in MLS as it continues to evolve into a selling league. But watching Taty Castellanos these past few years as he became one of the most sought-after prospects in the world, how could you not fall in love with him? The now-23-year-old was initially meant to provide attacking depth when he was brought in on loan from Torque in 2017, but what he provided was beyond any fan’s wildest dreams.
It was a case of “maybe next year” in 2018, when he suffered a hamstring injury and a spell on the bench. In 2019 he provided 11 goals and 8 assists while playing on the left, right, and center of the attack, stepping up in the absence of Héber when he went down with a quad injury late in the season.
After a Covid-stricken 2020 season left everyone full of uncertainty, Taty was hungry to rediscover his form in 2021. Castellanos exceeded all expectations, scoring 19 goals and assisting 8 on his way to the Golden Boot – he finished as the runner-up for the Landon Donovan MVP Award, scored in the three postseason he played, and helped New York City FC win their first MLS Cup. With double-digit goals in as many (normal) seasons, a Golden Boot, and a major trophy to his name, scouts are falling head over heels for the Argentinian.
Now that it might be time to see off Taty to the next step of his career. Now that New York City are expecting a big sum for Castellanos’s services, the front office has some decisions to make on the future up top in the Bronx. Let’s explore the possibilities of who could be tasked with filling a Taty-sized hole in New York’s center of attack.
The In-House: Nicolás Siri
City Football Group has taken full advantage of having multiple teams under the same ownership, sending players such as Frank Lampard, Jack Harrison, Thiago Martins, and, of course, Taty Castellanos himself between different teams within the conglomerate. New York City has a chance to stay within the City Football Group and do the same thing they did with Taty: Enter Nicolás Siri, an 18-year-old center-forward from Uruguay.
Siri, a U20 Uruguayan national team member, is currently a fringe player at Torque looking to break into the first team after appearing in only five matches last season. He has potential. If managed properly, the young Siri could have a Taty-like progression at NYCFC, and yet another young South American prospect can make his way to Europe after a prosperous early career in America.
The Boys in Blue from Brazil: Heber, Talles Magno, Thiago Andrade, and Gabriel Pereira
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The club got these guys for a reason—especially Talles Magno, the most expensive player in NYCFC history. The Brazilian Mafia, as these four are coming to be known, are an explosive, dynamic quartet that can use their Brazillian link to their advantage. Talles and Thiago have both shown flashes of their potential, and Gabriel Pereira has come off the bench to provide a spark in five substitute appearances since his arrival from Corinthians. The trio of Thiago, Talles, and Pereira are all under the age of 22, so longevity will not be an issue with them.
It’s 30-year-old Héber that has fans worrying about life after Taty. Since Taty’s meteoric rise, Héber has had a big question mark next to his name for health reasons and form reasons. Keeping Héber healthy and giving him time to gain his form back will be key for our No 9 to reach his full potential in a New York City shirt. If not, the front office can go a different route that once felt like common sense, but now seems surprisingly questionable due to the direction of the club.
The Big Name: Diego Costa
NYCFC has been out of the big-name market since David Villa, Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo left, so bringing in a big name could get the fans excited again. Since those big-signing days, the club have relied on a strong Academy and a renowned recruiting system to create NYCFC’s high-risk, high-reward project centered around young talent. The Academy has produced names like Gio Reyna, James Sands, and Joe Scally, and the recruiting has found names like Harrison, Keaton Parks, and Castellanos. Taty’s meteoric rise started at just 20 years old and European teams have been circling for his signature since last year due to his quick rise.
An older player who can still play and lead the team at a high level, and can dedicate his time to the Pigeons without the worry of another team snatching him up, could be what the doctor ordered. Enter Diego Costa. The former Spanish international won the Premier League at Chelsea and La Liga at Atletico Madrid. He is a classic center forward whose bullish attributes showcase his speed, hold-up ability, aerial prowess, and lethal finishing.
The rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated: The 33-year-old Spaniard played last season alongside Hulk for Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro last year, and the two helped propel the side to their first league title in 50 years. He has since left the club to become a free agent, which could play into the hands of New York even more as his services wouldn’t cost them a dime.
One downside to a free transfer of a four-time league champion is that his age goes against the grain of the project the club has been building. You could compare a move to New York City in the same light as Los Angeles FC’s move for Giorgio Chiellini to bolster an already-stout defense. Costa would give the club a nice status boost as well as a proven leader on the pitch who can use his experience to benefit the club.