Profiles - Ze Castro

Squad Number 2012/13: 5
Date of Birth: 13 January 1983
Place of birth: Coimbra
Nationality: Portugal
Contract: 2009 - 2013
Transfer: 2 million Euros (2009)
Career: Deportivo (2008-now), Atlético Madrid (2006-2008), Académica Coimbra (2003-2006)
Buy-out Clause: 79 Kgs 
Height: 183 cm
Weight: 77 Kg
Position: Defender (centre)

The summer of 2008 witnessed how ZÉ CASTRO became into the eighth player who made the switch from Atlético to Deportivo since the promotion of the Galicians to Primera in 1991. The Portuguese defender didn’t have too many chances at the Madrilenian club, but in a few months he demonstrated his skills and turned into a key piece in the plans of coach Lotina. That’s why president Lendoiro fulfilled the buyout option over the defender in April of 2009, later the Portuguese central defender barely entered into the plans of the first squad until becoming a key piece in the returning campaign to Primera.

Zé Castro started his professional career in the city where he was born: Coimbra, a small city of 140,000 inhabitants located between Lisbon and Porto. The defender was part of Académica’s youth system and entered their first team in the year 2003. 20-year old Zé Castro only played one match during the season 2003/2004, but the year after he was a starting defender in the team playing 24 official matches in the highest Portuguese league. Two seasons after it, Zé Castro became captain of Académica Coimbra and already started to attract foreign interest. After having played another 30 league matches in the season 2005/2006, several important clubs were knocking on the door of the former U-20 and U-21 international player as they knew his contract was expiring. Firm offers were made by Celtic Glasgow, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich, but Zé Castro preferred to move to a country nearby and signed at Atlético de Madrid until June 2011 on a free transfer.

Ex-Atlético and Portugal star Paulo Futre praised his signing and predicted that Zé Castro would become a great player in Spain. And it seemed that his prediction was right when he entered their team on November 4th, 2006 during the 0-0 away match at Real Mallorca. The week after he was a starting player against Villarreal and even scored a goal. Later the Portuguese played 16 of possible matches, all them as starter and performing for the fully ninety minutes. Zé Castro was a solid choice at the centre of their defence together with either Colombian Perea or Spaniard Pablo Ibańez. Zé Castro for his part said to be very happy with his move to Spain and commented that Atlético was a bigger club than he thought. Meanwhile, interest of Chelsea in him appeared in the newspapers. Zé Castro scored his second goal of the season in the final phase of the match against Osasuna (1-0).

But the Happy Days were more or less over after matchday 24. Atlético just couldn’t make a step closer to the Champions League spots and now arch-rivals Real Madrid visited their stadium. Atlético only had beaten the white team at the end of the season 1998/1999 and had to look back to the season 1991/1992 for their second recent victory against Spain’s biggest club. The four most recent matches against them even were all lost with big scores and with a balance of one goal for Atlético and twelve for Real. But this time Atlético completely outplayed their opponents and took an early lead through Fernando Torres. However, with only thirty minutes remaining, it was precisely Zé Castro who had a weak effort at Higuaín and the Argentinean player tied the game. 1-1 was the final result, despite Real Madrid finishing the match with ten players. Another frustrating result had appeared and the supporters of Atlético never forgave him for that. He was constantly being booed and whistled at during the next matches and his performances dropped. Coach Aguirre took him off the team after Atlético suffered an important 1-0 defeat at rivals Real Zaragoza. Defender Eller surpassed him in Atlético’s ranking and only suspensions and injuries of others were the reason to see him starting in four more matches during the remaining confrontations of the season. Eller and Zé Castro were Atlético’s central duo when the team was humiliated by FC Barcelona at the Vicente Calderón: 0-6.

The status of Zé Castro at the club had changed. Perea and Pablo Ibańez were Aguirre’s starting defenders for the season 2007/2008 and Eller was third on his list. Zé Castro only started six Liga matches and was taken off in two of them. With Zé Castro on the pitch that season, Atlético suffered 12 goals in 553 minutes (including an own goal of him against Sevilla) which is almost two goals per full match, something which does not represent the fact that Atlético finished fourth and for the first time since 1996 returned to Champions League football. During the winter months a move to Ajax Amsterdam (to succeed Jaap Stam) collapsed because he was injured. Later his situation at the club became quite clear when Atlético signed Euro 2008 defenders John Heitinga and Tomas Ujfalusi. Zé Castro noticed his new situation and indicated his wish to leave the club.

Zé Castro was linked to Sporting Lisbon when early July rumours appeared about him going to Deportivo. The defender called Deportivo “a great club for a young player. They had, and still have, prestige and will play in Europe next season”. The loan deal with Atlético made Zé Castro the third signing for the new season after strikers Omar Bravo and Mista (another Atlético-reject). Deportivo signed a €2 million buy-out clause at the end of the season 2008/2009 to own 50% of his transfer rights and to have him contracted until 2013. That would mean that Deportivo was having a full say about Zé Castro’s destination, but the income of a future sale will have to be shared with an Portuguese investor group.

Zé Castro made his official debut at Deportivo in the Intertoto match in Riazor against Bnei Sakhnin. Quickly, he became the favourite choice of coach Lotina for the centre of the defence alongside Albert Lopo. Despite a muscular injury suffered at the beginning of the year 2009, the Portuguese clinched 29 appearances in la liga plus 6 in Europe and 2 for Copa Del Rey, all of them during the 2008/2009 campaign.

Deportivo was so happy with him, than on April 3rd, 2009, almost one month before the buy-out option over the player was expiring, the club decided to fulfill the clause. The final payment reached the €2.2 million since Depor had to pay the taxes. The negotiation also included the participation of Atletico in future editions of the Teresa Herrera.

The ex-Academica defender expressed his satisfaction when the news was released, “I’m content, things have been solved and I have to thank the people that have trusted and that have bet on me. It’s a great pride; I’m satisfied because I am happy on here. Since I came to Depor, everybody has been kind with me, it was always my goal. I made a great effort trying to prove myself and I will try to bring more things now.” In this way, Ze Castro is following the footsteps of those other ex-Atlético players who became successful at Deportivo: Donato, Alfredo, Valerón, Molina, Capdevila and Arizmendi.

But things radically changed for Ze Castro during the season 2009/2010; he began the season as a starter, but the picture quickly changed at matchday 03 after a disastrous home match against RCD Espanyol (2-3). The Portuguese defender was the player that paid the highest price for the setback as Colotto took his place at the centre of the defence; after it ex-Atletico was reserved for the Copa encounters. Several reports appeared on the newspapers informing of his anger for the situation. The situation got worse at the end of the campaign as Lotina tried to compensate him giving him some liga minutes, but the coach just complicated the things as Ze Castro never found the pace of the previous season. His worst moment came on matchday 27, just when he was replaced in the second half during the 0-2 loss with Real Valladolid. He performed on that game as a defensive midfielder and the public at the Riazor whistled him when he was replaced by Mista (64’). Two matchdays later he was scoring an own goal in the 1-3 loss against Getafe, against at the Riazor. Definitely, it wasn’t his best season. In the end he presented a poor mark of only 704 liga minutes in 10 matches.

When the season ended, the defender talked to reporters and explained his view on the work done, “It wasn’t a positive season for me. I had some physical problems that prevented me from repeating the things made on last season. I prefer not to qualify it from 0 to 10. Ditto on the team, which made a great first round to end broken in the second, and that was a disappointing. But in terms of attitude and will, it’s possible to say that we always fulfilled the job.”