Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has described Casemiro as Real Madrid’s most important player ahead of Saturday’s Champions League final.
The two sides meet at San Siro in a repeat of the 2014 showpiece, when Atletico led 1-0 until deep into stoppage time only for Sergio Ramos to rescue Madrid, who went on to win 4-1 after extra time.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale make up a formidable front-line for Madrid, but Simeone believes it is holding midfielder Casemiro who gives that fearsome trio the licence to wreak havoc.
Asked during Friday’s media conference if he felt Casemiro was the most important cog in the Madrid machine, Simeone replied: “For the balance of Real Madrid, yes, certainly.
“It’s going to be a very tense, balanced game. The presence of Casemiro gives them the possibility of regrouping better if they lose the ball.
“Casemiro makes Madrid very dangerous on the counter-attack. If you give them space they’re very dangerous.”
Simeone insists he is not burdened by the ambition to lift the trophy for the first time in Atletico’s history, and says a consistency in philosophy has been key to their success in recent years.
“The club, the players, it’s reinventing itself continuously,” he said. “And that’s what’s most valuable in this club. Everyone works with the idea of continuing to grow, you try and try again and if you continue you eventually get what you want.
“To play a final is fantastic, to win it… there is nothing better. It makes you continue to prepare yourself for these moments.
“Not change the structure or the identity, but repeat, repeat, repeat and you can achieve things.
“I think the continuity in the successes the club has had positions you a lot better as one of the best clubs in Europe.
“Few teams are better – perhaps Bayern, Barcelona, Real Madrid – but there’s an idea about how we work and that’s what allows us to be in this privileged position.
“The only way of maintaining that is by winning.”