While Neymar has been the Brazilian in the spotlight this year, it is Real Madrid anchor, Casemiro, who has the chance to have an historic season
Casemiro has surprised the football world with his quick adaptation to Real Madrid’s ranks. Since the arrival of Zinedine Zidane back in January 2016, the Brazilian has reached the next level and keeps getting better and better. The 26-year-old received a lot of criticism at the start of the current season, but showed in the Champions League tie against Paris Saint Germain why he is still one of the finest defensive midfielders in the world.
It is easy to bash a player when the team is having a disappointing season in general, but the truth is that the individual is directly affected by the lack of efficiency of the group, and of the unit. Casemiro can be criticized for his performances, but is it not the case for most of his teammates as well? If the idea is to suggest that the whole Real Madrid starting lineup is no longer world class, which of course is a ridiculous claim, then only in this case, would Casemiro no longer be one of the best at his position.
Because Casemiro does not have the same reputation nor fanbase as the likes of Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric or Isco, the Brazilian is naturally the easiest target whenever Real Madrid underperforms. But in this case, it is only fair to do him justice and admit that he has been one of the most decisive players for his club in the Champions League over the past two years.
How many man-of-the-match performances has the tank pulled against high-profile European teams over the past few months? From Napoli, to Atlético Madrid and Juventus, without forgetting Manchester United in the UEFA Supercup final, the Brazilian has always showed up with his resilience, defensive skills, passing abilities and forward drive – whether it be in terms of assists or goals.
Casemiro completely neutralized Paris Saint Germain’s attempts to create danger in the second-leg, and although Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were both out of the starting lineup, he and Mateo Kovacic pocketed the likes of Edinson Cavani, Kylian Mbappé and Angel Di Maria. The defensive protection that Casemiro offers, makes it easy for his teammates to enjoy offensive freedom without over-worrying about the consequences.
Manchester City midfield-star Fernandinho is having a sublime season in England, but the Real Madrid midfield-anchor remains the number one in his position, heading into the 2018 World Cup. He is perhaps one of the first names on Tite’s list, whereas Fernandinho will have to compete for a starting spot with Paulinho and Renato Augusto – who he is superior to, despite having different characteristics.
Ideally, Brazil’s best midfield trio for the tournament in Russia should be composed of Casemiro and Fernandinho, right behind Philippe Coutinho in the number ten role. It would certainly be the most balanced defensively, while retaining the passing quality on the ball, as the two pivots are both decent deep-lying play-makers. Casemiro does need more time than Fernandinho on the ball, but the two would compliment each other, allowing the Barcelona-man to concentrate on setting-up Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino et al.