Real Madrid are 270 minutes away from winning two of the most important trophies in the world.
Los Merengues top La Liga with only two games left on the schedule, meaning wins against Celta Vigo and Malaga would put them back on top at the domestic level. And if that was not enough, they also clinched a berth in the UEFA Champions League after getting past their local rivals Atletico Madrid in the semifinals.
If everything goes according to plan, Real Madrid would win their third Champions League trophy in the last four years. Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos get most of the praise for their roles within the team, but they have other important players as well. Toni Kroos, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric, Isco and Alvaro Morata all have played key roles down the stretch. Even James Rodriguez has managed to contribute when given the chance.
However, everyone tends to forget Casemiro. And the Brazilian has performed every time the team has required him. He has been Real Madrid’s most important player this season, even if his presence is barely noticeable at times.
A long road back to Madrid
Casemiro has been with Real Madrid since 2013, when he joined Real Madrid Castilla from Brazilian outfit Sao Paulo. He has considered one of the top prospects in Brazil but he had to wait for his chance to crack into the first team. After excelling for RM Castilla and when it was clear he had to face a bigger challenge, he did not have a space on the squad. So Real Madrid loaned him out to FC Porto, one of the biggest clubs in the Portuguese Super Liga.
As it turns out, that was one of the best decisions Real Madrid have taken in recent years. During his tenure with the Portuguese side, Casemiro went from being a competent defensive midfield, to a masterful tactical mind in the middle of the pitch. Playing with the first team regularly did wonders for him, and Real brought him back before the start of the 2015-16 season. Fans and experts thought Casemiro would have a hard time settling in, but that has not been the case. The Brazilian midfielder settled right away, and in two years he went from being an exciting prospect, to a regular starter.
Detailing his tactical importance to Real Madrid
Through 38 games this season across all competitions, Casemiro has five goals and four assists. And even though computerized systems are not 100% accurate, they seem to like him as well. The Brazilian is rated with a 7.65 rating in the UEFA Champions League according to WhoScored. That would make him the team’s second-best player in the competition, sitting behind Cristiano Ronaldo and ahead of players such as Kroos, Modric, Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, just to name a few.
Scoring is not his main talent or his responsibility, but he can contribute on that department as well. Who can forget his volley against Napoli a few months ago? He also scored against Barcelona in El Clasico, proving he can perform when it matters the most.
The 25-year-old’s impact goes well beyond the numbers, though. He’s the one in charge of organizing the middle of the field, and also dictates how high on the pitch Los Blancos play.
If the team is losing, Casemiro moves past the halfway line, leaving Kroos and Modric as two attacking midfielders with little-to-no defensive responsabilities. But if Real is losing and needs to close the game out, it’s common to see Casemiro entrenched as a third center-back to form a five-men backline. After all, things like these are the reason why several experts are comparing him to Claude Makelele, the former French midfielder who used to patrol the middle of the pitch during Los Galacticos era.
An exciting future awaits for him
There’s no question Casemiro has a bright future ahead of him. He’s a key cog for both Real Madrid and Brazil, and if he doesn’t suffer a serious injury, he’s a lock to represent his country in the upcoming 2018 Russia World Cup. He has emerged as one of the most interesting defensive midfielders in Europe this season, and Real Madrid are lucky to have him.
He’s the perfect piece to link the defense and the attack. And even though he doesn’t get half of the attention he deserves, he’s been one of the most important players in Real Madrid this season.
What makes things even better is that he is a few years away from reaching his peak. How far he goes will depend entirely on him, but there is no question he will stay as a fundamental piece on Real Madrid for the foreseeable future.
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