Every year, EA Sports in its popular video game mode FIFA Ultimate Team™ releases what in their opinion is the Team of the Season for the major leagues around the world. Last year, EA announced that FIFA players would be able to collect one of these Team of the Season players as a reward for winning a tournament playing online against other gamers. When it was revealed that the player on offer from La Liga was Ruben Castro, the news was met with widespread disappointment. “Ruben who?” and “never heard of him” were some common responses. The gamers had wanted the mystery player to be a more illustrious and recognizable figure such as Gareth Bale, which is a shame as little did they know that Castro’s incredible goal scoring exploits deserved far more recognition than merely being acknowledged on a video game.
Castro was born on the Canary Islands, a region more famed for being a very popular tourist destination rather than a breeding ground for footballers. There are two main clubs that are situated in the region, and they are Club Deportivo Tenerife and Union Deportiva Las Palmas. It was in Las Palmas where Ruben Castro started his footballing career.
And that start coincided with Las Palmas returning to the Spanish top flight after more than a decade of absence. In his first season he rarely featured as Las Palmas maintained their top flight status with a highly respectable 11th place position. During his second season, he started to feature more regularly, and it was in one unforgettable match that Castro will never be forgotten by the Las Palmas faithful.
The Galacticos of Real Madrid had arrived to town led by the most expensive player in the world at the time, Zinedine Zidane. Everyone expected the game to be a whitewash, but that didn’t stop Las Palmas from rising to the occasion as they contributed to an exciting game which ebbed and flowed. With the score poised at 2-2 after Zidane’s majestic free kick, enter the then 19 year old Ruben Castro to announce himself on the big stage. Two goals, the second of which an unbelievable long range volley, won the game for Las Palmas and sent the Estadio Insular into raptures.
Sadly, that was as good as it got for Las Palmas as they couldn’t escape relegation. And despite Castro scoring 22 goals to become the Second Division’s top scorer, further relegation beckoned in 2004 as Las Palmas entered into deep financial troubles. Therefore, the time was right for Castro to move on to pastures new and in 2004 he signed for Deportivo La Coruna. That proved to be the wrong move for Castro as he never got the chance to shine at Deportivo, and a number of loan moves stagnated his career even further. It was starting to look like Castro would never fulfill his early promise.
Everything changed when a move to Real Betis came calling in 2010. Betis were relegated the season before and placed their bet on Castro’s pedigree in the Second Division to lead them straight back up. He didn’t disappoint. Castro hit an impressive 27 league goals to help Betis to the Second Division title and promotion back to La Liga.
By then everyone knew that Castro was a great striker for the Second Division, but it was time for him to prove that he could do it with the big boys in La Liga. And with the confidence of coach Pepe Mel making him the undisputed number one striker in the team, Castro finally started living up to his potential as a prolific striker at the highest level. He fired in 16 league goals to keep Betis safe. He then followed that up the season after with an even better record of 18 league goals to help Betis to a highly impressive 7th place finish and a place in the Europa League. During the 2013-2014 season, he also hit double figures despite Betis having a disastrous season and getting relegated. And to prove to everyone that his place belonged at the top level, Castro annihilated the Second Division defenses with a career high 27 league goals to lead Betis straight back up to La Liga and the in process became the club’s all time leading scorer.
Last season, Castro, at 35 years old, showed age defying ability and hit his best tally of 19 La Liga goals to lead Betis to safety. That was stunningly the same number of league goals as Gareth Bale. To put into perspective of just how incredible Castro’s contribution was, the next highest scorer for Betis was defender German Pezzella with a measly 3 goals. Remove Castro’s goals and Betis would be an astonishing 24 points worse off and sit rock bottom of La Liga.
In the admittedly embryonic stage of the current La Liga campaign, a look at the top goalscorers chart speaks for itself. Ruben Castro is currently sitting at the top of the chart alongside world renown stars Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann. Two goals apiece at Camp Nou and at the Mestella, two of the traditionally hardest venues for any visiting player in La Liga. Age isn’t stopping Ruben Castro from continuing what he has done best throughout his career, and that is scoring goals. Long may that continue.