It’s been almost six years since we saw Nery Castillo at that memorable opening game of the Copa America tournament. Juan Carlos Cacho chipped the ball on to the young forward who brought the ball down with his left foot, chipped it over a defender and placed it with elegance into the empty net. Brazilian style goal by a Mexican against Brazil in the backyard of the mighty Selecao. That was a time when Hugo Sanchez, in his trademark polo shirt, walked the Mexican bench sideline. That was also the time that young Nery Castillo was making a name for himself in world football with the Mexican National Team. His life, like so many other great names from the past though, has not turned out the way many would have anticipated.
Nery Castillo had his first major stint in Europe with Greek club Olympiacos. His speed and an eye for goal made him a fan favourite with the “Ultras” in the port city of Piraeus where, in seven years, he amassed 105 appearances and 30 goals. His talent and stupendous performances in 2006-07, where he finished second only to the great Rivaldo on the scoring charts, made him an immediate first choice for Hugo Sanchez in the Mexican National Team. It seems as though during his stay in Athens, he must have studied a lot of Greek tragedies as that was what his life would eventually turn out to be.
Post this and Mexico’s performance in the 2006-07 Copa America, Nery was hot property in Europe with Shakhtar Donetsk breaking transfer records to land his signature at $27.5 million. Having succeeded in sealing a huge deal, Castillo set off for the snowy Ukrainian shores that proved to be the first step towards an eventually free-falling career. His bitter relations with the coach and teammates and inability to adjust to weather conditions made him an outcast waiting to be offloaded. His desires to try his luck in England was fulfilled as Manchester City came calling on a loan deal, where he eventually made a name for himself for his off-field rather than on-field activities. He returned to Ukraine to play a season for Dnipro without much success before moving far west to the MLS in USA with the Chicago Fire, another unsuccessful venture. He eventually went out on loan to Greek club Aris and secured a permanent deal. He had only a year long stint with them before moving home to Mexico with Pachuca.
This was the year 2012 and the beginning of the Mexican Apertura season. Pachuca were a club in transition having had little success in the past few years and with high expectations in the board, manager Efrain Flores had been sacked. Hugo Sanchez had been appointed new manager and with the signing of the once-talented Nery Castillo, there were hopes among fans that a reunion could once more bring the best out of the player. That was, sadly, not to be the case. The season turned out as disastrous and cost Hugo Sanchez his job. Nery was a non-factor in the team with only 13 appearances and a solitary goal to his name. His fans would love to believe that Nery’s performance was more a result of the circumstances at Pachuca rather than a culmination of his free-fall from grace.
Nery Castillo was eventually loaned out to Leon in 2013 where results proved to be the same-disappointment. Now, back at Pachuca for the upcoming Apertura 2013, Nery’s future looks as uncertain as ever. Coach Caballero does not want the player in his team, and has relegated him to training with the U-17 squad. With 2 years left on his Pachuca contract, it looks unlikely that Nery Castillo will ever regain the awesome playing style we saw in that match against Brazil in the Copa America.