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Taty Castellanos Loan to Girona FC: A promise kept

The move to La Liga holds little immediate financial benefit to NYCFC, but it might help decode a tweet the striker posted in January

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Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy NYCFC.com

When New York City FC agreed to loan Taty Castellanos to Girona FC, the club seemingly delivered on a promise made to the striker back in January.

The desire of Castellanos to play in Europe has been an open secret since it first surfaced shortly after NYCFC won the MLS Cup last December. It was thought that he would leave before the start of the 2022 MLS season, but then the move to Europe didn't materialize.

Around that time, Castellanos posted an enigmatic tweet:

This quote-tweet is a repost of a tweet from August 6, 2020 that retold the anecdote of Johan Cruyff, then the manager of FC Barcelona, agreeing to let star player Romario go to carnival in Brazil only if he scored two goals. Cruyff is reported to have said, “I had no choice and I kept the promise.”

In the quote-tweet, Castellanos added “Once upon a time when promises were kept in football...”

At the time, Hudson River Blue speculated that “seemingly, a promise was made but not kept....Did NYCFC walk back an agreement? Did another club? Was it an agent, manager, or sporting director?” It could very well be that Castellanos was referring to a failed transfer.

Or it could be that a handshake deal was stuck at the time, and the striker was posting a reminder that would be seen by thousands but understood by only a handful of people. In recent interviews, Castellanos said that he agreed to remain with the club while they tried to win the CONCACAF Champions League. NYCFC were knocked out in the semifinals in April by the Seattle Sounders, who went on to win the tournament. According to those recent interviews with Castellanos, he and the club reached an agreement to remain with the club until the summer transfer window.

It now looks like the enigmatic tweet that Castellanos posted in January wasn’t a gripe about a promise that was broken, but rather a reminder that a promise was made.

By all appearances, NYCFC kept their word.

The club did this despite receiving no satisfactory offers for a permanent transfer. The NYCFC front office reportedly values Castellanos at $15 million, and is rumored to have turned down offers in the neighborhood of $12 million earlier this year. “But offers of their $15 million valuation didn’t come,” according to Tom Bogart in MLSSoccer.com.

NYCFC might receive a transfer fee from Girona, but neither club have made the financial terms of the loan public. (Both organizations are a part of City Football Group but are distinct financial and corporate entities per the rules of their respective leagues.) Writing in The Athletic, Sam Stejskal reported that sporting director David Lee “declined to disclose the fee that NYCFC will receive for loaning Castellanos.” NYCFC didn’t respond to a request for comment from Hudson River Blue.

Given the aspirational valuation of Castellanos, this loan might seem like a disappointing development — writing in Forbes, regular HRB contributor James Nalton pointed out that NYFC will get “no real benefit beyond roster and salary space.” But the deal with Girona is more than the club making good on their pinky promise, it represents the faith NYCFC has in the striker: If Castellanos performs well in La Liga, his value will likely go up, and the potential payout to NYCFC will likely rise.

In other words, should Castellanos put up strong numbers in a league that is considered to be two or three rungs higher on the footballing ladder than MLS then NYCFC could be able to negotiate a favorable transfer fee that could possibly be significantly higher than the $15 million asking price in this transfer window.

The loan represents a continued investment in Castellanos — and the expectation that there will be a return on that investment. After a strong year in La Liga Castellanos could find himself courted by important clubs in the biggest leagues in Europe.

It’s important to remember what NYCFC gained by selling Jack Harrison — and the financial payoff that went to others. In 2018, NYCFC reportedly earned $6 million from the transfer of Harrison to Manchester City, which immediately loaned the player to Middlesborough and then Leeds United. Leeds went on to buy the player for a reported $18 million in 2021. In recent weeks, Harrison has been linked with a $42 million transfer to Newcastle United. The value of the former NYCFC winger tripled in three years, and might yet double again, but that’s of little advantage to New York City.

Holding onto the contract of Castellanos for another year would directly benefit NYCFC if the value of the striker rises, and helps explain why the club would reportedly accept a low loan fee.

“This is something that City Football Group do all the time,” Lee was quoted as saying in The Athletic. “It’s less often from New York, but this is something that CFG do all the time in terms of buying talent, then loaning them out to give them a platform that we think is going to increase their value.”

The loan to Girona might leave a hole in the New York City roster this season, but the bet is it will prove to be good business for both Castellanos and NYCFC.