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Blues sign Castillo as Halilovic linked with Champions League outfit

Welcome to BirminghamLive’s coverage of all things Birmingham City – let’s start with the new boy

Juan love

Birmingham City have confirmed the signing of Chelsea defender Juan Familia-Castillo.

The 21-year-old has signed a season-long loan and becomes the club’s fourth signing of the summer.

The Netherlands Under 20 joins Ryan Woods, Chuks Aneke and Jordan Graham in Lee Bowyer ’s remodelled squad.

He does so having spent virtually all of his recent career with the Stamford Bridge club out on loan.

He started last season on what was supposed to be a season-long loan with AZ Alkmaar but made only one senior appearance.

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As a result he was recalled and sent back out to ADO Den Haag where he played 17 games either as left back or left wing back.

He also spent a season in the Dutch second tier with Jong Ajax, whom he helped finish fourth in the table, providing six assists.

The defender came through at Zeeburgia before attending the Ajax academy between 2009 and 2016. He moved to Chelsea five years ago.

Three and easy

The impressive thing about Lee Bowyer’s salvage operation last season was that in the space of a few days they went from making no formation work, to looking good in any shape they tried.

Whether it was three, four or five at the back, a midfield diamond or wingers, Bowyer’sBlues were organised, well-prepared, won matches and hauled themselves over the line.

That generated a real debate about the team’s best set-up. Would Bowyer try to build a side based around the talents of wingers Jeremie Bela and Ivan Sanchez?

Had he seen enough in the superb second half at Derby to play with a midfield diamond as his default setting?

Or would he start the new season playing three at the back with wing backs?

You’d have to go a long way back to find any precursor of Blues doing that successfully.

Perhaps the pattern of signings in the summer transfer window would give us some clues.

In came Ryan Woods – suitable for a number of formations. Likewise Chuks Aneke. While the addition of Jordan Graham implied wingers would be the way.

That was until it emerged Blues are on the brink of signing Chelsea wing back Juan Familia-Castillo, with the obvious inference being Bowyer is planning a three-man defence.

What can we expect from Bowyer’s team?

The only consistent from last was two up front – which gives us our starting point for what this season’s Birmingham City might look like.

Normally you’d build a team from the back – but we’ll do it the other way round, beginning with Lukas Jutkiewicz, Bowyer’s Renaissance Man, partnering Scott Hogan up front.

That’s the easy part dealt with.

Now the defence.

Lowdown

Who is he?

A 21-year-old left back or left wing-back, who played either in central midfield or as a winger as a schoolboy, born in Amsterdam in January 2000 with Dominican heritage.

He came through at Zeeburgia before attending the Ajax academy between 2009 and 2016. He moved to Chelsea five years ago.

Blues sign Castillo as Halilovic linked with Champions League outfit
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What’s his experience?

After arriving at Stamford Bridge he quickly forced himself into the Under 18s’ FA Youth Cup campaign. As a 17-year-old he started both legs of the 2017 semi-final and final and scored the ninth goal in a 9-2 aggregate thrashing of Tottenham.

He ended his first season with winners’ medals in the FA Youth Cup and Under 18 Premier League.

The following season he moved between youth and development team football and played all but one game as the Under 19s were runners-up in the 2017/2018 UEFA Youth League.

He also scored his first development squad goal in the Checkatrade Trophy quarter-final win over Oxford United in January 2018.

In 2018/2019 he bagged a goal against Montpellier in the last-16 of the UEFA Youth League as the Blues once again finished runners-up again.

Oh Hal

Alen Halilovic is wanted in Greece and Turkey, according to a report in Croatia.

The 25-year-old spent the second half of last season with Birmingham City after signing a short term contract following his release from AC Milan.

Without performing spectacularly, he scored just once in 17 matches, he showed enough to be offered a long-term deal by Blues – a deal that has remained resolutely unsigned.

Speaking from Blues ’ training camp last week Lee Bowyer insisted the offer had been a good one and suggested he was ready to move on without the former Barcelona player.

“I believe if a player wants to come to you and they want to play for the club – obviously the money side of it, they have got a short career, I understand that,” Bowyer said.

“But there comes a point where it’s tough times for everyone financially.

“Us, as a football club, we made a good offer, I think a fair offer.

San Jose offer

Former Birmingham City midfielder Mikel San Jose is considering an offer from SD Amorebieta.

The Basque outfit, who just last month were promoted to the Spanish Segunda Division for the first time in their history, are looking to beef up their squad.

San Jose left Blues at the end of the 2020/2021 campaign after just one, disappointing season at St Andrew’s.

He arrived as an Athletic Bilbao legend, having played more than 300 games in more than a decade with Los Leones.

He agreed a two-year deal with Aitor Karanka but after 28, largely stuttering games in the Championship he opted to return to his homeland.

San Jose is likely to have plenty of options at Segunda Division level but one from new boys Amorebieta.

The Blues, as they are known, will play their home games at Athletic’s second ground because their traditional Urritxe home does not fulfil league requirements.


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