Real Madrid’s Casemiro does not have the Galactico glamor of Cristiano Ronaldo, but the Brazilian is indispensable to La Liga’s leaders.
Casemiro’s time at the footballer’s first club, São Paulo FC, was haunted with bad memories, very different to his current high-flying life at the most famous club in the world, where the 24-year-old is a serial trophy-winner and marshall of the midfield.
Although the then young Brazilian impressed on his debut at the Copinha U-20 tournament in 2010, his attitude failed to impress his coaches, constantly complaining whenever he was benched or subbed out of a game. In his own mind, Carlos Henrique was superior to his teammates and prioritized his own interests above those of the club.
Despite that, the quality was still clear. In Brazil, defensive midfielders with the ability to tackle, intercept and regain possession are in high demand, often referred to as “primeiro volantes.” Casemiro excelled at these attributes right from the start.
When Real Madrid decided to bring in Casemiro in January 2013, the move made waves in Brazil, although the midfielder remained a squad player under Mourinho. The situation remained under Carlo Ancelotti, although Casemiro’s defensive qualities were key in a Champions League semifinal clash against Borussia Dortmund, that eventually lead to “La Decima” being lifted.
Looking to give Casemiro more first-team experience, the Brazilian was loaned out to Portuguese outfit, Porto, and was such a success, the footballer was recalled to the Santiago Bernabeu a year later.
Madrid manager, Rafa Benitez, appreciated the sturdy qualities in Casemiro, and gave the midfielder plenty of opportunities, but made a key mistake in leaving his pivot out of El Clasico in November 2015, a 4-0 home defeat against Barcelona that would eventually lead to the Spaniard’s dismissal from the Bernabeu bench.
Zidane, who was appointed as Benitez’s successor in January 2016, soon realized that the team’s ‘gala’ midfield trio of Kroos, Modric and Isco lacked defensive stability. Casemiro was quick to win his place back and has yet to lose it. The Brazilian’s inclusion in the Camp Nou Clasico of April 2016 transformed Madrid from a side hammered by a Messi-less Barcelona, to a team that emerged victorious.
As a footballer, Casemiro is more than just a third center-back or a simple stopper. The Brazilian can not only support his back-four but is developing the ability to create, despite critics noting that Casemiro is the least technical player on the Madrid roster.
Casemiro’s willingness to keep working for 90 minutes, press in the opponent’s half to regain possession, as well as his constant presence to cover both fullbacks when they make their flying runs on the overlap, is undoubtedly an essential structure in Real Madrid’s system.
At the Seleção, the situation is no different. Casemiro has been superb and a key part of Brazil’s revival, offering impeccable defensive performances as well as a clear improvement over Luiz Gustavo in his willingness and ability to distribute the ball and construct play from deep positions. Casemiro is exactly what Brazil needed.
Indispensable for the two giants in club and international football, Casemiro still has many years left in him to achieve further glory. After two Champions League titles for his club, can the Brazilian now help his country achieve silverware in the future?