It’ll amaze you the way FC Barcelona fans talk about Eric Castel as if he was a real player. Former Barca President, Joan Laporta, called Castel the greatest ever signing, comparing him with current Barca play maker, Xavi Fernadez - as among his legion of loyal fans. One Barca fan wondered ahead of UEFA champions' League game, if Castel would be played out in Zlatan Ibrahamovic role in the match between Barcelona VS PSG.
Eric Castel was a silver-haired French striker whose goals propelled Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain (PSG) to European glory. Castel career flowed through the pencil of Raymond Reding, whose vibrant illustrations captivated a generation of youngsters and brought the fictional comic hero alive among both Barca and PSG fans.
Castel was a superhero to boys across Europe, his exploits at the Camp Nou and Parc des Princes cemented his status as a football and comic book icon.
Castel's career began in 1979, the year the real Barca team lifted the European Cup winners’ cup, and his story was told across 15 albums running until 1992 - the year the Catalans became champions of Europe for the first time.
"Nothing sounds better for a young Barca supporter than a comic hero, who wears the shirt of his team and lived so many adventures," says filmmaker, Uri Garcia, who is hoping to produce a documentary about Castel.
"My favorite part is when Castel meets Pablito and the juniors in Toss de Mar in the first album," recalls Garcia, referring to the Catalonia municipality, which is north of Barcelona. Castel trains with the guys in the middle of the street, but they didn't know that he is the new star in Barca."
Reding's portrayal of the relationship between Castel and Pablitos Varela and his friends, allowed every young child to imagine what it would be like to befriend a football superstar. "Everyone can find himself in the comic. A child can dream to live events like the 'Pablitos' did." says Garcia.
As with all good stories, Castel's career took a sudden twist in 1984 when the goal scorer signed for PSG. "As a French citizen, I was happy then, to see Castel in a French club." says Jouanneaux, a FIFA agent. "That was a big success for the French championship and also the possibility to see French stadium and teams illustrated in the book."
Castel's transfer came back to haunt the fictional Barca team in the 8th edition of the book , after he powered PSG to victory in the CEVA cup, a made up European competition, beating the Catalian club in the final. Castel fans were outraged; the character had never won the CEVA cup with Barca and now he had extinguished his former club's hopes.
"The whole affair led to outrage among followers of the series, who were devastated by Raymond Reding and Francoise Hugues' decision to transfer Eric Castel to Paris st Germain." writes Barca official website.
Castel's story came to the fore again during the quarter finals UEFA champions league second leg between Barcelona VS PSG; memories of the fictional winger who brought joy to fans of both teams came alive again. But the Catalonia lay claim that Eric Castel was more of a Barca player than PSG.