Before the 2021 campaign even began for New York City FC, there were questions about the attacking third. No one knew who would step up and be the hero, and lead the Pigeons to success. But in the end, Valentín Castellanos was that hero who rose to the occasion, and scored 22 goals in both the regular season and playoffs.
Not only did the Argentine win the Golden Boot, but he had an incredible season overall. He was a constant threat, and had eight assists, solidifying he is not just a goal scorer. His ability to manoeuvre with the ball improved, and defensive capabilities continued to progress in the right direction. He, like many on the team, refused to stand still when the opposing team had the ball, and would always try to recapture possession for his side.
Undoubtedly, Castellanos had his best season so far in his young career, and helped NYCFC win the MLS Cup. As much as fans would love to have him for another year, everyone knows the time to take the next step is now. In fact, there is no question the Argentine will move on, and likely in the winter transfer window.
The question of where he should go to take the next step is both clear and opaque: Castellanos should go to a European club, but exactly where is something both him and NYCFC must consider.
Valentín Castellanos is ready to leave New York City FC, and should make the jump to a European club
Now, the reason he should go to Europe is simple: there are multiple leagues that can further aid his development, and will give him the opportunity to grow as a player and play at a higher level. Castellanos has also stressed in the past about his dream is to move to a club in Europe, and both himself and NYCFC know that is the ultimate goal.
Still, after the season the 23 year old has had, the Pigeons should work with the young forward to ensure he goes to the right club that is best for him. From a business perspective, the club should ensure they get the right transfer price. Currently, the Argentine is estimated to be worth $7.7m, per Transfermarkt. With the rumors of many suitors, evidently he will be sold for a much higher number.
According to ESPN, there are multiple Premier League clubs interested in the Golden Boot winner, including West Ham United. That same report also said NYCFC rates their star player at around 15 million dollars, which expresses there is a lot of competition to sign Castellanos, and he is highly rated. Other clubs who reportedly expressed interest include but are not limited to Olympique de Marseille, Feyenoord Rotterdam, and ACF Fiorentina.
Meanwhile, there are reports that the club turned down a bid from Turkish Süper Lig side Beşiktaş J.K., for the team wants to try and retain the striker for 2022. However, it is likely the club turned down the bid due to it not being high enough. It is very unlikely bids will be turned down to try and keep Castellanos, for everyone knows, from the fans to the club, the time to take the next step is now.
Even Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the Argentine is ready to move to Europe. He told a news conference that Castellanos is a “quality player” and “ready to make the next step to Europe”. Such words from one of the best managers in the world illuminates the striker is talented enough to play in Europe.
Recently, the club that continues to haunt New York City FC, Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, made a $12.5m offer for Castellanos. Previously, they attempted to sign him back in the spring of 2021, but ultimately negotiations broke down, and then NYCFC gave the Argentine the new five-year contract.
Unless Castellanos wants to make his next step in Brazil, then New York City FC should turn down that offer, and tell Palmeiras there is no chance of signing him. The young star is ready to move on, but clearly to a club that competes at a higher level, and European sides offer that. That is not to say that the Brazilian Série A is not a high quality league, but rather Castellanos is ready for one of the top leagues in Europe, which play at a higher and more competitive level compared to leagues in the Americas.
Where should Castellanos go?
As mentioned, New York City FC has to make the right decision for both the club and Castellanos. He should not be sent to a club where he will get little to no playing time, for it is vital that his development continues. This is something that must be a part of the dialogue when discussing his transfer. Hence, NYCFC should not sell him to a club like Manchester City, for it would be difficult to find playing time with the current squad. More than likely, the Premier League leaders, and similar teams like that, would send him on loan. Alas, the Pigeons should avoid sending him to such clubs, unless of course that is the wanted move.
Instead, the Argentine, his agent, and the club should be looking at teams where he can easily compete for minutes, and will get playing time. At this point, it would be difficult for Castellanos to find playing time with a top team in leagues like the Premier League and La Liga. That is not to say he cannot play in those leagues at this time, but rather such teams would be a huge jump from Major League Soccer. Undeniably the jump would be a huge learning curve, and it would take time for Castellanos to adjust.
Still, ideally the young forward would transfer out to a side where he will continue his development. Leagues like the Süper Lig and the Eredivisie are leagues where Castellanos would find playing time to continue developing, and could become a star.
In addition, the Bundesliga is a league that offers players with potential the ability to develop, and teams within the German first division are more inclined to give such players opportunities. Many former MLS players have and continue to take the next step in Germany too. Plus, such sides would likely to be willing to spend more to sign someone like Castellanos.
Since there are rumors about Premier league clubs wanting the Argentine, then NYCFC should work with their star to find the right spot for him. Once more, no one wants to hinder the development process, and as such, Castellanos should go where it is best for his development. Maybe a team like West Ham would be the right place, for they have goal scorers where he can learn from, and ease into the Premier League without pressure.
On the other hand, while some would think it to be the right move, he should not go to a team toward the bottom of one of the bigger leagues. Such a move could be detrimental due to the high expectations to save a club from relegation. Again, is extremely important for Castellanos to go to a new club where he can continue his development.
The next step of Valentín Castellanos’ journey is clearly in Europe. The time for him to move on is now. He will be missed in MLS, but he achieved his goals. He worked hard, won the Golden Boot in 2021, and helped lead the Pigeons to their first MLS Cup. Yet, there is the question of where, and which league. New York City FC must hold firm, and only accept an offer that is suitable for both the club and the Argentine.