When Valentin Castellanos arrived in Major League Soccer he didn’t have much experience as a professional, but now he’s a league champion after a stellar 2021 season.
New York City FC brought Castellanos to the club in 2018, initially on loan, before signing him on a permanent contract.
The following season, the Argentine began to exhibit the type of play that would eventually make him one of the league’s elite goal scorers just a few years later.
The versatile attacker entered the 2021 season with 18 career MLS goals in his previous two-and-a-half seasons with NYCFC, and he went on to break that goal total in a single campaign.
ONE37pm takes a closer look at Castellanos and how he’s become one of the top players currently competing in MLS.
Castellanos was born in Mendoza — a large province that’s actually closer to Santiago, Chile than most of Argentina’s major cities.
Growing up, the Argentine played for a number of youth teams in his homeland before moving to Universidad de Chile.
Although he never made a senior team appearance, Castellanos found a home at Uruguayan side Torque in 2017 and scored four goals while on loan from the Chilean club.
That’s when NYCFC began to examine the attacker closer and eventually the Yankee Stadium side brought in Castellanos on loan.
Despite scoring just one goal in his initial season, the club saw enough of him to believe that he could make a real impact in the future.
Clearly they were right about him.
Castellanos has the ability to play in a variety of roles, and NYCFC has utilized his versatility effectively.
Since joining the club, Castellanos has largely played as a right winger or a false No. 9 in a more central position.
His skill on the ball makes him extremely dangerous when running at defenders, and for that reason he plays very loosely in a set position.
Castellanos finished last season as NYCFC’s top scorer and had the second-most assists, further showing his importance in different roles for the club.
It appeared that Castellanos would surely be leaving NYCFC this offseason after a tremendous season in MLS, and he was linked with moves to Europe and Brazil, but ultimately the Argentine will spend at least the start of 2022 in New York.
There’s no question the 23-year-old attacker is talented enough to play overseas, and with another strong start in 2022 it’s very possible he’ll move over the summer when the transfer market is more active.
Until then, MLS fans get to enjoy Castellanos, which is definitely a great sign for football in the United States.