Four-time league champion with Pumas, Israel Castro has decided to retire from football. The Mexican midfielder was playing in Spain with Segunda Division B team Toledo, which he joined back in 2016. Castro is a legend at Pumas where he was a key part of the team that won the Bicampeonato in 2004 with Hugo Sanchez, as well as in 2009 and their last league title in 2011. He also had a somewhat short but very successful career with the National team, in which he won 2 Gold Cup titles (2009,2011), got a 3rd place in Copa America (2007) and went to the 2010 World Cup.
Israel Castro started his career at Pumas, where he debuted in 2002. During Hugo Sanchez’s second tenure as head coach, Castro earned his place in the starting lineup, a role that would be permanent during his time in Pumas. In 2004, he was a key player when they went on all the way to the title, the first since 1991. Castro then continue and made what might have been his more iconic role with Pumas. During that summer, Pumas was invited to play the Trofeo Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Although a friendly in nature, Pumas went and shocked everybody by winning the game 1-0. That Real Madrid was the legendary team of Zidane, Raul, Beckham and Ronaldo. Pumas won the game with a goal by Castro, a magnificent long range bomb. The goal was Castro’s best goal ever and one of the two most important goals in his career.
After the trip to Spain, Castro and Pumas returned to Mexico and finished in a disappointing 9th place, albeit good enough to get into the Liguilla. There they became a different team and won the title, becoming the first team ever to win a Bicampeonato (back to back championships) since the short season calendar had been established in Mexico. Castro continued at Pumas where he finished second place in a Sudamericana (2005) and in the League (Apertura 2007).
In 2009, under Ricardo “Tuca” Ferreti, Pumas was once again able to win another title. Defeating Pachuca, Pumas was crowned champions of the Clausura 2009. Castro continued in the team and might have had his best season in the Clausura 2011. In that tournament he was the key to a solid team that went all the way . He had some of the best play in his career, including some great goals like this one against Tigres.
The team then went through Monterrey and Chivas in the Liguilla before defeating Morelia to win the title, Castro’s fourth. Winning the title earned him a big money move to Cruz Azul, where he won a Copa MX title and later on to Chivas. In 2016, after he had already lost his spot in the team, he decided to go to Spain and sign with Toledo, where he played his last seasons.
Castro’s career in the national team wasn’t very long but it was extremely successful. Like with Pumas, Hugo Sanchez was the key as he handed him his debut while he was the national team coach. In 2007, he made the Copa America squad that finished third in Venezuela. Castro remained on the team and even became a starter after Javier Aguirre took over. In 2009, he was part of the team that won the Gold Cup by defeating the United States 5-0. Weeks later, he would score the only goal of his career with Mexico and his second most important ever goal. In the World Cup qualifier at the Estadio Azteca against the United States, after Mexico went down to a Charlie Davis goal, Castro tied the game with a thunderous shot for the 1-1. Mexico went on to win 2-1.
Castro kept getting called up but gradually lost his starting spot to teammate Efrain Juarez. He still made the list to the World Cup and came in as a substitute against Uruguay. After winning the league title in 2011, Castro made the Mexico national team that went to the 2011 Gold Cup under Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. That was probably the best ever Mexican performance in a Gold Cup and Castro was a starter all through the tournament, including the final victory over the US by a 4-2 score in what turned out to be his last tournament with the national team.
A historic player for Pumas and at one point an important piece to the Mexico National Team. Castro will go down as a player that gave it his all in the playing field. Congratulations are more than deserved.