Segundo Castillo is still going strong in his Ecuadorian homeland and the South American is certain his 12 months with Everton was key to his longevity. More than a decade after moving to Goodison Park, midfielder Castillo recalls how he became a go-to man for David Moyes on the Blues’ toughest away days.
A version of this interview first appeared in a 2018/19 issue of Everton's matchday programme.
“It has to be 15 minutos, no more,” reads the message.
The missive was sent by Mariegiselle Carrillo, who manages the media commitments of players at Ecuadorian club Barcelona SC.
Segundo Castillo, she explains, has a very small window in his diary between morning training and lunch.
At the time of our interview, Castillo is 36 and at the 11th club of an itinerant career.
Perhaps grateful for some sanctuary from the oppressive outdoors, he is still talking 25 minutes after answering the phone.
As we speak, it is already more than 10 years since Castillo joined Everton from crack Serbian club Red Star Belgrade.
What is the first thought to enter his head, then, when he hears the name Everton?
“Always the fantastic treatment I received from all the people at the Club and in the city,” says Castillo.
“I loved living in Liverpool, it is an incredible place.
"And Everton gave me one of the best professional experiences of my life.”
Carrillo is acting as interpreter, her brain on overdrive to keep up.
Castillo is as generous with his words as he is with his time.
“When I finish my career, I want to visit all the clubs I played for,” he continues.
“But the first one I go to will be Everton.
“I want to learn and find out more about training and football.
“Everton taught me what it is to be a proper professional.”
This is relevant because Castillo is still performing on an elevated stage.
Barcelona is Ecuador’s pre-eminent football club.
They are 15-times national champions and based in the country’s most populous city, Guayaquil, home to two million of Ecuador’s near-17 million inhabitants.
Soon after speaking to the Everton matchday programme, Castillo would move on to his 12th club - another top-flight Ecuadorian outfit in Guayaquil City, where he remains.
“I know the time is coming,” he acknowledges.
“I am thinking about what to do after I finish playing.
“All I know is I want to stay in football, maybe work as a Mister [a popular Spanish colloquialism used to refer to a football manager].
“I don’t know exactly but the main thing is to be involved in football.
“The only secret to playing for so many years is to be disciplined; to train well and be professional on and off the pitch.”
Castillo came to Europe with Red Star in 2006.
A logical thinker, he had started to deliberately plot his ambitions when he made the grade with CD Espoli, a workaday team from capital city Quito.
A compact midfielder with a long, easy stride, Castillo’s primary mission was to convince scouts he could play for a “big club” in his homeland.
Tick off that objective, he reckoned, and goal number two, namely selection for his national team, would be within reach.
“Those were my targets and all I thought about,” says Castillo.
“It was only when I achieved those things I started to dream of going to Europe.
“My time with Red Star was very important. I had to adapt to the culture and customs of a new continent.
“I was 24 and knew only life and football in Ecuador.
“But I did well and the team was successful. Then you want more – to achieve something bigger.”
Castillo actually won his first Ecuador cap in 2003 – playing eight minutes as a substitute in a friendly match – five days before being purchased by El Nacional, Quito’s most powerful club.
It was in 2005, though, Castillo’s annus mirabilis, when he launched his international career in earnest.
His was a timely breakthrough with a World Cup around the corner.
He would join 1991 European champions Red Star after playing a valuable role in Ecuador progressing out of their group at the tournament for the first time – before losing out to David Beckham’s free-kick in a last-16 tie with England.
Castillo had won back-to-back titles with El Nacional – the first in 2005 ending the club’s nine-year wait to be champions – when he swapped Quito for Belgrade.
“I am very thankful to God I had the opportunity to live those moments with my national team,” he says.
“It is such a big honour for Ecuadorian footballers to represent our country.
"That team from 2006 will always mean a lot to the people in Ecuador because we showed what is possible.
“These are memories you keep with you for life.”
Castillo was a double winner in his first season in Serbia.
He was still ticking after being pipped to the following year’s title by city rivals Partizan when news arrived to illuminate his mood.
“I had the opportunity to go to Everton and fulfil one of my dreams,” says Castillo.
“I always watched the Premier League and loved the style of football in England.
“There was already a small bunch of Ecuadorians in the Premier League: Ulises de la Cruz, Agustin Delgado and Antonio Valencia. Felipe Caicedo as well.
"They had opened the door for players from our country and I was delighted to follow in their footsteps.”
Castillo became Everton’s first Ecuadorian footballer when he signed on a season’s loan from Red Star in August 2008 – and the sixth of 11 players from his country to play in England’s top division.
Manager David Moyes had identified a requirement for additional clout in Everton’s midfield, with Marouane Fellaini coming in from Standard Liege four days after Castillo’s arrival.
The new boys were handed their debuts away at Stoke City, armed with Rory Delap’s trebuchet throw-ins and stuffed with aggressive six footers.
Castillo and Fellaini joined forces to bestride the land of giants and Everton won 3-2.
“It was a vital moment in my career and helped me settle at Everton,” says Castillo.
“It meant a lot to have the confidence of the manager so early in my time at the Club.
“I felt I did well and it showed me straight away I could play in the Premier League.”
Everton’s winning goal at Stoke was scored by Tim Cahill – one of 31 he scored for the Club with his head – and created by Mikel Arteta.
“They were two brilliant players and I had a great relationship with them both,” says Castillo.
“I developed a bond with Mikel because of the language and Tim spoke Spanish, too.
“We looked to them when we needed something special – and they often provided it.”
Castillo crossed swords with Cahill in March 2014. Ecuador and Australia were paired in one of those off-the-wall international friendly fixtures, the two countries meeting at Millwall’s home ground, The Den.
Cahill scored two headers to help the Aussies rattle up a three-goal half-time lead.
Castillo hit Ecuador’s second from the penalty spot as the South Americans mounted a barmy comeback to win 4-3.
“One of my best memories,” says Castillo.
“Tim helped me so much when I joined Everton.
“It was wonderful to see him again and talk about our time at the Club.
“And, of course, very nice to win the match.”
Castillo’s international career has pitted him into direct combat with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Neymar.
From his privileged view, he considered the Portuguese player the best of the lot, by a hair’s breadth.
Castillo boasts a pretty enviable record against Argentina, winning two and drawing four of his six meetings with Messrs Aguero, Di Maria, Mascherano and Messi.
Moyes recognised Castillo’s big-match pedigree, employing him as an extra security blanket on some of Everton’s dicier away trips.
In the 339 minutes Castillo spent keeping guard at the traditional England citadels of Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle United, Everton conceded once.
No matter that he has represented eight clubs in four countries in the 11 years since, nor that more than half of his 88 Ecuador caps were won after leaving Goodison Park, Castillo’s recollection of those matches remains undimmed.
He remembers it all: the intricate preparation, the pace and the fury.
How these tussles forever hung on a knife edge.
“My favourite match was against Manchester City,” says Castillo.
“It was a game which showed why the Premier League provides the biggest test for a footballer.
“It was so tight until the end when Tim Cahill scored [another header] and we won 1-0.
"The coach [Moyes] always made sure we knew our jobs, then we had players with the quality to decide close games.”
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EVERTON'S TRIBUTE TO KEY WORKERS
The match at Chelsea finished 0-0 with Moyes singling out Castillo for praise after the player had placed Frank Lampard under lock and key.
“Casty showed us what he is: an international footballer,” said Moyes.
“He was right in the game and did very well.”
Castillo started a tinderbox FA Cup fourth round tie at Liverpool, which Everton drew 1-1 before triumphing 1-0 in the replay.
When Everton reached the final, however – where they were beaten 2-1 by Chelsea – Castillo had to make do with a place on the bench.
“The FA Cup provided some great moments in the season,” says Castillo.
“I was sad not to play in the final but the greatest disappointment was the result.”
Arteta missed the Wembley date after injuring cruciate ligaments in a game at Newcastle.
Castillo replaced the Spaniard seven minutes into the scoreless draw and promptly sent a long-distance howitzer whistling an inch past the post.
He had hit the jackpot from similar range on his first Goodison appearance in a 2-2 UEFA Cup draw with Standard Liege.
“The goal was very soon [four days] after the match at Stoke and helped me continue to build confidence,” says Castillo.
“It was a great year and I wanted to stay for many more seasons but Red Star held my contract and decided to take me out of Everton.”
Castillo had another year on loan in the Premier League with Wolverhampton Wanderers and cherished his “beautiful” reception when he returned to Goodison with his new team.
He added a fourth domestic championship winners medal to his personal treasure trove after returning to Ecuador with Deportivo Quito in 2010, before time in Mexico at CF Pachuca – managed by former Real Madrid superstar striker Hugo Sanchez – and Puebla FC.
Castillo played for a third Mexican team in Dorados de Sinaloa – the club recently bossed by Diego Maradona – following a year in Saudi Arabia with Al-Hilal.
“I expected it to be very difficult in Saudi and went with the intention to purely focus on my football,” says Castillo.
“But I had no problems adapting to the culture. It was a fabulous experience, in life and football.”
Castillo was an Al-Hilal player when he was involved in a horrible collision with Mexico midfielder Luis Montes 15 days before Ecuador started their 2014 World Cup finals campaign.
Both players’ tournaments were written off, Montes suffering fractures of his tibia and fibula and Castillo damaging ligaments in his knee.
“It was very sad, I played nearly all the qualifying matches then missed the tournament in Brazil,” says Castillo.
“But I used it as an opportunity to strengthen my body and I think that period is one of the reasons why I am still playing.”
On that note, Castillo has lunch to eat and another training session to complete.
Locum interpreter Carrillo can catch her breath.
The same can’t be said for Segundo Castillo. Not yet.