Timothy Castagne lay flat on his back, staring at the night sky of Lisbon. The briefest moment of serenity amid the chaos that swirled around him. It was all over, he knew that.
Just two minutes earlier, his Atalanta side had scored against the giants of Paris Saint-Germain. Only the waiting time remained. A spot in the semi-finals of the Champions League beckoned the Italian underdogs.
Then Marquinhos equalized. And then Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting won it for PSG. As fast as that. The former Stoke forward came to the end of Kylian Mbappé’s cross just before a sprawling, desperate Castagne. Too late.
Timothy Castagne scored on his first Premier League start after joining Leicester from Atalanta
A season for a club whose campaign of free scoring played out against the horrors of their hometown Bergamo, so ravaged by the corona virus that had been brought to a crushing end.
Castagne now looks back on it with surprising realism. “I think everyone who watched the game could see that we were lucky,” he says. Neymar missed a few one-on-one. Taking two goals in the last few minutes was tough, but if you watched the full game, they deserved to win. We were proud of what we have achieved, but it was also bad because we could have gone further. We tried our best. ‘
Castagne has moved on. He is now a Leicester player and joined Brendan Rodgers earlier this month in a £ 21.5 million move. The Belgium international also scored on his debut, in the 3-0 victory in the Premier League on the opening day of West Brom.
He settled quickly and it is really no surprise. In addition to him at Leicester, two of his Belgian teammates in midfielders are Youri Tielemans and Dennis Praet.
The latter went for his debut goal. “I’ve always liked Dennis,” he says. Easy to see why. ‘We all enjoy socializing. It’s good to have them here, it made it easier. Wilfred Ndidi was also a former teammate at Genk under former Scotland manager Alex McLeish.
Castagne spoke with Tielemans before moving to Leicester. “He said they needed a man like me.” They certainly did after they sold Ben Chilwell to Chelsea. “All the things he said were very positive and from what I’ve seen it’s all true.”
It’s early, of course. Castagne hopes to be able to book another out against Burnley on Sunday afternoon. But he already seems built for the Premier League. Fit, strong, fast. Driving forward, giving Leicester the width Rodgers wants from his fullbacks.
Castagne was part of an attacking Atalanta team that did well in the Champions League
It was the Northern Irishman who convinced Castagne that despite having missed Champions League football so painfully, Leicester was the place for him, even when Tottenham and the winners PSG were interested.
‘I liked the Leicester style of play, good football with high pressure. But I also wanted a coach with whom I can have a relationship. We can talk, he can help me work on my weaknesses. That’s why I chose to come here, because I had a very good impression of him. ‘
The feeling worked both ways. Rodgers was a longtime admirer of Castagne and tried to sign him during his time with Celtic.
“I have a profile of a player that I love to play on my teams and usually the guys who play fullback are the ones who are really athletic, have great speed in the future and also have tenacity when defending,” said Rodgers. ‘I saw that with Timothy.
Castagne said he was moving to Leicester because of club manager Brendan Rodgers
‘I am very happy with him, getting to know him. Everything I expected and more. From day one he is very hungry to impress and improve. His desire to get there and support, as well as defend, is crucial in how I want to play. ‘
Castagne names former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry as his hero. “He’s been my idol since I was a young boy,” he says. ‘That’s why I followed the Premier League. I remember the one he scored after coming back in 2012 (against Leeds in the FA Cup). He came into action around the 80th minute and scored immediately. Typically open the trunk to the furthest pole. It was amazing.’
They always say never meet your idols, but Castagne got the chance to team up with Henry when the former Gunner worked alongside Roberto Martinez as Belgium’s assistant coach. “It was great, although I didn’t tell him he was my hero!”
Castagne joined Leicester following the sale of Ben Chilwell to Chelsea earlier this summer
Fortunately for Castagne, Henry didn’t have to undergo training to show what he could still do. Fortunately not, now he has Jamie Vardy to contend with during practice.
And with the European Championship coming up this summer, Castagne hopes to conquer his place in the selection.
‘I came to Leicester because I feel that this coach and this team can improve my game even more. I want to have a good season and help the team. If I can, it will help me for the euros. ‘