Real Madrid tend not to have unsung heroes. A team full of superstars, as if Cristiano Ronaldo does not attract enough plaudits, the rest of the squad have the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos to contend with for attention. That suits Casemiro. Barely known by many outside of Spain, the holding midfielder may not have captured the imagination of headline writers quite as much as some his illustrious teammates this season, but few have been as influential in their run to the top of La Liga as the Brazilian.
Likened to the famous Claude Makelele, and the closest that Los Blancos have had to a replacement since the Frenchman’s departure for Chelsea, the 24-year-old has developed a reputation as one of the best all round holding midfielders in the game. Making breaking up play look easy, he also boasts an impressive range of passing and has been known to pop up with the occasional belter from distance to find the back of the net, as he did against Napoli in midweek Champions League action only this week.
Previously exiled from the club, Casemiro joined the club initially on loan in January 2013 from Sao Paulo, and then spent the 2014/2015 season on loan at Porto as he got his first experience of first team football on a regular basis in Europe, having made just 26 appearances across his first 18 months at the Bernabeu. In Portugal, he managed 41 in one season as he impressed, scoring four and registering three assists but being lauded for his impact defensively as he broke up play. Back in Madrid for the 2015/2016 season, it was unclear if he was to be sold or retained, but Rafa Benitez used him frequently, giving him a future at the club, and one that was consolidated by Zinedine Zidane since he took charge of the side.
Now back in the frame for Brazil too, his rise is clear for all to see. Having made his debut in 2011 at just 19-years-old, and with a flurry of substitute appearances in 2012, 2014 and 2015, he is now considered one of the first choices for his country for the first time in his career as he looks to make the holding midfield role his own. Having only failed to start two games when fit this season, bizarrely both against Espanyol, it is clear to see the importance of Casemiro for both club and country.
Whilst the attacking stars are the ones who may sell the most shirts in Madrid, few would question the importance of Casemiro to Real Madrid’s success over the past year. His role, which came as a surprise to many, in starting at the Camp Nou last season against a Barcelona side who had gone nearly 40 games unbeaten, was pivotal and not just a tactical masterstroke by Zidane, but a wonderful display by the midfielder.
When a player can make shackling the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar look easy, it is no wonder that Casemiro has become such a key figure. With the club on course for the La Liga title and still in the fight to defend their Champions League victory from last season, Casemiro could well be on the way to becoming one of the club’s most important additions in many years.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Thuy Tran Thanh.