With the dark cloud that nearly cost him his future at Kaizer Chiefs having cleared, Leonardo Castro is banking on making good use of another bite at the cherry.
The transfer window is two-edged for players, a dream or a nightmare, depending on what the football gods throw at them.
Castro found himself on the wrong side of the coin in the recent transfer period, he being initially transfer listed as he was deemed surplus to requirements and the club putting him up for sale to create space for their foreign quota.
But the Colombian international continued to work extra hard and fight for his place at Chiefs.
That effort was subsequently enough to convince coach Ernst Middendorp to retain him for another season, while he instead loaned out Mozambican international Andriamirado Andrianarimanana to Black Leopards.
Despite staying put at the club it was not an ideal start for Castro, who was the second preference behind Samir Nurkovic, who had seamlessly become a golden boy in the eyes of the Amakhosi faithful and Middendorp.
But still Castro continued to work hard. The German tactician finally gave him his first start in the second Premiership match of the term, before he made his second outing on match-day six, where he came off the bench to open the scoring in the 2-0 win over AmaZulu.
“It’s great (when there’s a player such as Nurkovic) because it brings good competition. That gets everyone trying their best. But now that I’ve got an opportunity to play, I need to take it and just continue to work hard,” Castro said.
“I need to make it difficult for the coach to decide who’ll play – to give the coach a selection headache. But everyone is on the same page, and we’ve got a squad that’s got the potential to win matches.”
Starting with Castro and Nurkovic during their recent 2-0 win over reigning champions Mamelodi Sundowns, worked out like a charm for Amakhosi, and that’s why Middendorp may as well continue with the trend heading to today’s hugely anticipated clash.
This afternoon (3pm), for the first time this term, the Soweto Derby will bring the country’s football lovers to a standstill as Chiefs clash with Orlando Pirates in the quarter-finals of the Telkom Knockout at Moses Mabhida Stadium. In order to tame Pirates, expect Middendorp to start the duo, Castro and Nurkovic, alongside the mesmeric Khama Billiat, a player that developed a close understanding with the South American during their stint together at Sundowns.
“It’s a long way to go before myself and Nurkovic can thoroughly understand each other.
“But during training sessions, we’ve been getting there and doing the right things,” Castro said.
“I’ve known Khama for a while, and we can play together with our eyes closed. It’s easy to play with those two guys (because we can complement each other).”
With this being a knockout game, the trio will have to capitalise on their scoring opportunities from the outset.
Should Castro and Billiat punish Pirates’ defence, it will send a strong message to their former coach Rhulani Mokwena, who’s now the mentor at Pirates, about their intentions for the back-to-back clashes between the two teams inside seven days.