Sports newspaper outfit, MARCA on 8 September 2019 dedicated two articles to the importance of Casemiro in the current Real Madrid set-up; one detailing his progression since joining los Blancos, and the other claiming he’s been more effective in the middle of the park than his midfield counterparts because he has scored more goals.
Both articles have greatly exaggerated the importance of the Brazilian in the squad and here’s why.
First, let’s take our minds back to Zinedine Zidane’s intentions to land Paul Pogba from Manchester United.
Zidane has always been a huge admirer of the 26-year old Frenchman and believes that he could be the missing piece his Madrid side needs to pip Barcelona to the title this season, along with Kylian Mbappe and Eden Hazard. It is even alleged that his comments about wanting Gareth Bale gone was his way of forcing the board’s hands in order to help generate the funds required to match Manchester United’s £180m valuation of Pogba, according to the Mirror. The inability of the Madrid board to sign Pogba led to Zidane almost tendering his resignation, according to Diego Torres of El Pais who closely monitors Madrid.
However, Zidane has decided to work with the squad he has, and so far, is doing well enough, but there have been a few questionable decisions from the French tactician, beginning from pre-season. Against Villareal, the French tactician opted to play Casemiro in an offensive position which greatly exposed the Madrid midfield as well as the player himself, as he was to blame for both goals by Villareal in their 2-2 draw.
Usually, Luka Modric would be the one in those advanced positions creating the play being behind the attackers, while Toni Kroos stays in the centre of the park to link the middle of the field and the defence, and of course, Casemiro providing cover for the defence in the holding midfield role. We could see Zidane revert to this pattern eventually, but that particular decision is very evident of how much Zidane has lost trust in Modric going forward.
The Brazilian may have scored more often than Modric and Kroos, mainly from long range shots and headers in corner kicks, a scoring pattern characteristic of a holding midfielder. An offensive midfielder will be expected to make the runs into the box once in a while, like Andres Iniesta used to do for Barcelona and Modric for Madrid in their heydays.
This is where MARCA gets it wrong when they claim that Casemiro is more clutch than either of Modric or Kroos.
It is clear what Zidane wants from Pogba, seeing how he has used Casemiro in the past three matches, but the Brazilian cannot fulfil this role. While we appreciate the importance of Casemiro in the midfield, he doesn’t fit the current playing style Zidane expects of him and if this continues, he may quickly become the biggest liability in the squad.
Zidane still doesn’t trust James Rodriguez, but the Colombian brings that exact skillset to the table for Madrid – the build-up play, the passes that spread the ball to the wide players, the through ball, the dribbles – all qualities which are not Casemiro’s strengths. With Modric unable to do this effectively anymore for Zidane, it is obvious that the French tactician needs to unleash James and allow Casemiro flourish in his natural role of a midfield enforcer.
The MARCA articles praising Casemiro have brought to mind how the influential Madrid board have sometimes used the media to tip the scales in their favour or in the favour of one of their players. With Zidane not getting his way, this looks like an attempt to convince everybody and the coach that they have Casemiro as an option, which, clearly, he is not.
Zidane however, needs to really consider his legacy (arguably Madrid’s most successful coach in the modern era) and play for the club and not himself, which he seems to be doing by risking Casemiro up-front instead of using the players he has to his advantage.