Designated players usually come to MLS to ease their way toward retirement, not resurrect their careers. Yet Mexican International Nery Castillo has arrived at the Chicago Fire knowing this may be his last chance to turn his once-promising career around.
This would have seemed unthinkable in the summer of 2007. When Castillo shredded the U.S. defense to set up Andres Guardado's goal in the Gold Cup final, it was thought that he would be tormenting international opponents for years to come. This line of thinking was reinforced a few weeks later at Copa America, when Castillo scored four goals, including a memorable strike in a 2-0 win over eventual champion Brazil. A 20 million euro move to Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Donetsk followed.
That's when Castillo's world began to unravel.
Castillo has always been a mercurial figure, unafraid to flaunt a massive ego emblematic of attackers. While his personality was tolerated during a seven-year stint with Greek club Olympiakos, in 2007 it got him into trouble in the Ukraine at Shakhtar Donetsk. After his team won a penalty in a league match, Castillo famously pushed aside designated penalty taker Cristiano Lucarelli, only to miss the ensuing spot kick.
"I'm just a player who likes to take action," said Castillo in a telephone interview with the help of an interpreter. "That day, I just wanted to take the penalty. If I would have scored, nothing would have happened. But because I missed, things were worse."
That would be an understatement. His actions didn't go down well with manager Mircea Lucescu, and Castillo hasn't played for the club since. A loan spell with Manchester City was interrupted by a broken collarbone and the subsequent firing of manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. Castillo eventually returned to Shakhtar only to be loaned out to Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, where he played sparingly.
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