Real Madrid conqueror & City Football Group poster boy Taty Castellanos looks destined for superstardom - and at €15m would be a steal for aspiring clubs

Valentin Castellanos La Liga 2022-23
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The New York City FC loanee plundered four goals against the European champions to continue his impressive season in La Liga after tearing up MLS

Not many players get to score four goals past Real Madrid, but Valentin 'Taty' Castellanos joined an elite club with a striker's masterclass for Girona as the Catalan minnows thumped the European champions 4-2 in La Liga on Tuesday.

The Argentine conquered Major League Soccer with New York City FC, firing the Boys In Blue to the MLS Cup in 2021, and he is now tearing up La Liga in his loan spell with Girona.

In his first season in Spain, Castellanos has scored 11 goals, as many as Antoine Griezmann and one more than Vinicius Junior.

The 24-year-old is the latest success story of the City Football Group, shining for three clubs in Manchester City's stable of teams in South America, North America and now Europe.

And after his goal blitz against Madrid, clubs across the continent will be taking notice of Castellanos, who is available in the summer for just 15 million ($16.5m).

  1. In the footsteps of Lewandowski
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    In the footsteps of Lewandowski

    Madrid had kept consecutive clean sheets in their last four matches before facing Girona, but Castellanos only needed 12 minutes to score against them, netting with a simple header.

    Later in the first half he out-paced and out-muscled Eder Militao before beating goalkeeper Andrii Lunin with a powerful low finish.

    He pounced again right at the start of the second half with a first-time finish to complete his hat-trick, before netting a second header for goal number four.

    No team had scored four goals past Real this season, but suddenly Castellanos had done so all by himself.

    He became the first player to score four times against Madrid in any competition since Robert Lewandowski for Borussia Dortmund in 2013, and was the first player to do so in a La Liga match for 76 years, since Real Oviedo's Esteban Echevarria.

  2. Bouncing back

    Bouncing back

    Castellanos called it "the dream night".

    "We are playing against one of the best teams in the world, and I could not have imagined that. Scoring against Real Madrid was already a dream, so scoring four goals, I couldn't even imagine it," he said.

    Coach Michel paid tribute to his striker for dusting himself off and responding to a big setback earlier this month, when he missed a big chance to score the only goal against Barcelona at Camp Nou.

    Castellanos was so affected by the reaction to the miss that he shut his social media accounts.

    “The other day he had a miss against Barcelona and it looked like it was the end of the world for him,” Michel said. “But this is his first season in Europe, coming from a league that is very good but has nothing to do with Europe in terms of rhythm, tactics and situations, so he had to adapt to that and I think that he has been doing that perfectly.”

  3. Globetrotting in search of success
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    Globetrotting in search of success

    Castellanos' journey to stardom has taken him around the world. Born in Mendoza in western Argentina, he began his career in the youth set up of local side Independiente Rivadavia.

    But he ended up seeking his fortune across the border with Universidad de Chile, making his professional debut in 2017 in the Copa Sudamericana, South America's equivalent of the Europa League.

    Later in the year, he was swiftly sent on loan to Uruguayan side Montevideo City Torque, who had just been taken over by the City Football Group.

    After helping Torque get promoted to Uruguay's top-flight in 2018, he went out on loan to NYCFC, the Manchester club's first expansion side, at the age of 19, before sealing a permanent move in 2019.

  4. Learning alongside David Villa

    Learning alongside David Villa

    Working under coach Domenec Torrent, Guardiola's former assistant at City, Castellanos came of age in the Big Apple.

    His development was helped by meeting the best mentor he could have hoped for: World Cup and Champions League winner David Villa.

    "What I learned from him was incredible," Castellanos told DAZN. "Training with someone like that teaches you so much. First of all human values, but on a footballing level too. He taught me how to take free-kicks, how he shaped to shoot, how he would find space, how he would play with only one touch."

    Castellanos scored 11 goals in his first full campaign at the club, though his best season came in 2021, when he netted 22 times and was nominated for the Landon Donovan MVP award.

    The Argentine was also pivotal to NYCFC winning the MLS Cup for the first time, scoring in the final against Portland Timbers and converting his penalty in the shootout victory.

    Having proved himself in the United States, it was time for a move to Europe, and Girona, where CFG own a 47 percent stake, was a logical move.

  5. A roaring success for CFG

    A roaring success for CFG

    Castellanos is one of the poster boys for the City Football Group, which owns or has large stakes in 11 clubs across the world.

    He has spent practically his entire career under the CFG's umbrella, first moving to Torque aged 17.

    With each move he has steadily gained experience and his career has been perfectly planned. It meant he did not move to Europe to early, and when he made the step up, he was ready.

    "I had no doubts about coming to Girona, it was a good opportunity because I wanted to leave MLS and show to myself what level I was at. I felt I had come as far as I could and I wanted to take the next step," he told Mundo Deportivo last year.

    "Without a doubt I want to stay in Europe. That was always my dream, what I aspire to and what I work hard for. I feel capable of playing in La Liga."

  6. Admired by Guardiola

    Admired by Guardiola

    Castellanos' goal glut may have flummoxed Real Madrid, but one person who would not have been surprised by his success is Pep Guardiola.

    In 2021, the Man City boss revealed he had received glowing reports of the player's progress in New York.

    "I think he is a guy who will do the next step in Europe," Guardiola said. "What I saw when the scouting department talked to me, I know he's a quality player and ready to make the next step to Europe and we will see where."

    Castellanos in turn has expressed his admiration for Guardiola, whom he met as a teenager while training with City's Under-23 side.

    "Who doesn't want Pep to lead you, being one of the best coaches in the world? It was a very nice experience," Castellanos told Sport.

    "My idea now is to be in Girona and try to establish myself in Europe. I am calm, enjoying this process. When the time comes to decide what to do, my representative and the club will meet to decide what's best for me."

  7. Available for a bargain price
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    Available for a bargain price

    Despite his progress in Girona, Castellanos is unlikely to be working alongside Guardiola in the immediate future.

    With Erling Haaland breaking goalscoring records for fun and Julian Alvarez making the most of every opportunity he gets, a place in the City frontline is out of his reach, at least for now.

    But his stock is sky-high right now, and NYCFC are willing to listen to offers in the region of 15m for their on-loan forward.

    For a player of his age, versatility and goalscoring record, that represents a real bargain for aspiring clubs. And given how far he has travelled to make his way in football, he should have little trouble settling in at his next destination.

    Wherever he ends up, Castellanos will not be shy when facing top teams. Just ask Real Madrid.