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  • By Alessandro Schiavone

Crystal Palace: Cameroon and Nantes World Cup star Castelletto is the man to boost your defence

By Alessandro Schiavone from Troyes

What did we learn about Cameroon World Cup star Jean-Charles Castelletto?

As FC Nantes and ESTAC Troyes played out a goalless draw at Stade de l'Aube Capital Football analysed the performance of Cameroon's World Cup centre-back Jean-Charles Castelletto who could become an interesting addition for Crystal Palace should the Eagles decide to add to their squad.

It's known by now that James Tomkins has a blunder in him every now and then as his red card and disastrous performance in Palace's 3-0 trashing by London rivals Fulham epitomised on Boxing Day. And with the ex-West Ham defender turning 34 this year and age being the worst of attacking opponents nobody can beat, Palace need to bring in fresh blood.

But more worryingly Marc Guehi, who has played 16 of 19 times for the Eagles in the league, could do with being rested from time to time.

His shocking mistake leading to Son Heung-Min's goal against Spurs in mid-week proved just that. Hence a bit of competition for places would benefit his growth.

Knowing that you start every game if fit due to a lack of dependable back-ups may make you feel untouchable. And that can lead to complacency.

That said, with Palace having leaked a dismal NINE goals in the last four games since the restart, a reshuffle is heavily required to ease the pressure on Vieira.

So, who better 27-year-old Cameroonian Castelletto who was a calming influence at the heart of the Canaries' defensive line, excellently partnering experienced skipper Nicolas Pallois, as they shut up shot in the Ligue 1 game away at Troyes?

At 1m86 tall, he may not be a man mountain of a defender but what the half Italian (his father has Italian origines) lacks in height he makes up for in tactical awareness and instinctive defending.

Dominant Troyes asked the most serious questions in the game, having hit the bar with Andreas Bruus in the first period before Odobert was thwarted by Alban Lafont. But neither threat came from his side, as Castelletto delivered a near-perfect performance which epitomised his growing stature and self-belief since playing at the world's biggest tournament.

A natural choice for both his country and club, Castelletto attracted the attention of the global audience with his goalscoring display in the 3-3 draw with Serbia at the World Cup.

And on Sunday at Stade de l'Aube, he excelled again, winning all of his personal duels with Renaud Ripart whom he had dans sa poche, in his pockets, as the cocky French would say.

And what a tough customer he proved to be for the ESTAC Troyes forward whom he didn't give half-a-chance. First he intercepted an incoming ball at a crucial moment, just when the striker was ready to collect it and hammer it goalwards. That particular chance demonstrated his proactive ability to spot danger and neutralise attacks.

And he did it again minutes later against the same opponent. It just carried on from a determined first-half display in which he didn't give Ripart a sniff as when he headed the ball nonchalantly to Lafont with the 29-year-old ghosting in behind him and ready to capitalise on a potential howler.

Cool as cucumber under pressure, he has the much-needed European experience a host of Palace players lack, not least at the back as Tyrick Mitchell and Marc Guehi have yet to taste European football.

Having grown in leadership, experience and tactical ability, Castelletto showed that he is ready to take over from the ageing Pallois as the leader of Nantes' defence one day.

But he's also ready to make the next step and with his ability to hold his own under the cosh, combined with his athleticism, positional sense and zonal marking prowess, he is the perfect fit for how Patrick Vieira wants to play.

Having never been beaten for pace against Troyes and blocking everything that came his way, it's fair to claim that he's taking his World Cup form over to Ligue 1 with his high-level career increasingly catching on.

And given what he offers on and off the ball, with weaknesses few and far betweem, he's tailor-made for English football.

With Tomkins increasingly looking like he can't be trusted over a longer period of time, Castelletto may just be the perfect man to take his place for next season.

Taking Palace's good record with African footballers into account, with Senegal star Cheikhou Kouyate and London-born Ivory Coast international two hits at Selhurst Park, why not taking a punt on the Cameroonian?

Come what may there's a good chance he will be gone at the end of the season. But for the time being he still soaks up the adulation at Stade de la Beaujoire, with a double header against Juventus in the Europa League beckoning and another chance to impress on the big stage.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?


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