Taty Castellanos transfer rumors have been a constant for followers of New York City FC for over two years, but the collective Tatywatch finally ended minutes ago when the club officially announced his permanent transfer to SS Lazio in Italy’s Serie A..
His move to I Biancocelesti became all but certain over the weekend. He was reportedly sold for €15 million plus €5 million in add-ons, and joins Lazio on a five-year contract that will pay him €1.8 million net per season.
This officially, finally severs Taty’s ties to NYCFC and City Football Group, who likely count The Man from Mendoza as one of the bigger developmental successes of their multi-club model. Taty played for three CFG clubs on three continents and steadily upped his game to the point where Lazio were willing to agree to commit potentially more than €20 million to secure his services.
He’s come a long way from when he first arrived in New York, joining on a short-term loan from fellow CFG side Club Atlético Torque in Uruguay for the duration of the 2018 MLS season to help newly-installed manager Domé Torrent reinforce his squad after taking over for midseason quitter Patrick Vieira. Taty scored on his debut, but was not an instant-impact signing, instead taking until 2019 to begin to break out in MLS.
Break out he would, as he steadily developed into one of the league’s best players during the parts of five seasons he spent with NYCFC. That developmental success saw Taty reach almost all of the highest highs MLS has to offer—winning the Golden Boot, leading his team to its first two senior trophies in the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs, and helping NYCFC make a CONCACAF Champions League run that petered out in the semifinals.
Rumors linked Taty with a move away from NYCFC as early as January 2021, when Brazil’s Palmeiras first started a prolonged flirtation with the Argentine forward. Those rumors dragged on throughout the first months of the 2021 season, but were quashed when Taty signed a new long-term contract with NYCFC that presumably was accompanied by a gentelman’s agreement to sell the player when the right offer came in.
That sale was expected to happen before the 2022 MLS season even began, at least according to NYCFC sporting director David Lee, who told The Athletic last summer that “we were kind of imagining that Taty was going to leave in January.”
Instead, Taty stayed in New York City while Lee and CFG waited for a club to meet their long-rumored $15 million asking price. Over the course of the years-long Taty transfer intrigue, he has been linked with moves to so many clubs: Palmeiras, River Plate of Argentina, Leeds United and West Ham United in England, Sevilla in Spain, Benfica and Porto in Portugal, and Fiorentina, Roma, and Lazio in Italy.
No one met the asking price last summer at the peak of Taty transfer frenzy, leading CFG to pivot to the intra-group loan to Girona FC in Spain ahead of their season in La Liga.
The loan worked out swimmingly for Taty, Girona, and CFG, as the Argentine scored 13 goals and helped the Catalonian club finish 10th, comfortably ensuring another season of soccer in Spain’s top flight. Taty had his ups-and-downs — notably there was that brutal miss against Barcelona, but he also put four goals past Real Madrid. It proved he was good enough to hack it in one of Europe’s top leagues, opening the door for his big-money move to Lazio.
The Girona loan was much less of a slam-dunk success for NYCFC, who watched their promising 2022 season turn into a roller coaster ride, cratering immediately after Taty left before rebounding with a late-season run that got them back to the Eastern Conference finals, though no further.
The loan stint also didn’t exactly drive up the eventual sale price for Castellanos—$15 million was the magic number to sell the player in 2022, and a poker against Real Madrid and a 13-goal campaign in La Liga only bumped the final transfer price up by around $2 million, though with the potential to go higher depending on how attainable the sale’s €5 million in add-ons really are. Quibbles aside, it’s still a top-five price paid for an outgoing MLS player, though it’s hard to not wonder if some money was still left on the table.
The delayed sale also likely didn’t sit well with NYCFC fans hoping to see Taty immediately replaced with another promising striker. Instead, they were forced to wait almost an entire calendar year for a new first-choice forward to be signed by the club. Even with a new non-Taty striker finally putting pen to paper, it’s no given Mounsef Bakrar will slot right in as the piece that’s been missing since CFG relocated Taty.
CFG executive Brian Marwood also exhibited some extreme ignorance about NYCFC and its fans’s understanding of their place within the multi-club CFG universe, dismissing any “frustration of New York” as it related to Taty moving to Girona as par for the course for teams inside the City Football Group.
The “frustration of New York,” though, has always been less about Taty leaving, and more about the NYCFC approach to addressing his departure. The in-house option NYCFC expected to fill that Taty void, Talles Magno, has struggled mightily since the very first match the team played sans Taty, and should go down as a cautionary example of how the NYCFC and CFG approach to acquiring and developing young international talent can fail.
Talles Magno and other young prospects from overseas like him are all likely hoping to replicate the Taty experience when they sign with NYCFC. Talles Magno arrived with more hype and greater expectations than Taty, costing NYCFC a reported $12 million to bring him over after facing competition for his signature from huge clubs like Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.
Rather than following the Taty blueprint, though, Talles Magno has regressed in MLS and appears to currently be out of favor with NYCFC head coach Nick Cushing, with rumors now linking the young Brazilian attacker with a move away from NYCFC, possibly on loan to Palmeiras (there’s that team again).
The CFG multi-club model values players like Taty and Talles Magno as company assets, with CFG always looking to maximize the return on their investments in players, willing to shuffle them around between CFG clubs as player performance, team needs, and transfer market conditions dictate.
This approach can work well for players and for CFG, with Taty likely the prime example of the blueprint being executed to perfection. NYCFC has come to rely on this approach a bit too much, though, and the team’s hit rate with young international prospects isn’t looking as promising in the post-Taty days. If Talles Magno leaves he’ll be following closely on the heels of players like Thiago and Nicolás Acevedo, who each left NYCFC before really breaking out and succeeding in the way Taty did during his time in New York City.
The contrasting fortunes of NYCFC’s young South American prospects might just be a testament to the greatness of Taty Castellanos. Taty has met every challenge that’s come his way thus far in his still-young career, an example of what’s possible if you’re able to climb the ladder within a multi-club soccering organization like CFG.
Another huge challenge awaits for Taty in Rome, and while NYCFC people are likely to have mixed emotions about his final goodbye and the state the team has been in since Taty left, he still deserves all the credit in the world for following the long, winding career path that has now led to his life-changing move to Serie A.