Is Casemiro back on track at Real Madrid?
Background image: Elemaki, CC BY-SA 2.5
During Real Madrid’s struggles in the post-Zidane era, Casemiro experienced a shocking drop in form. He evolved from a scrawny kid to a formidable man under the Frenchman, but his side's transitional period hit the Brazilian harder than anyone.
Casemiro looked lost without his mentor guiding him at the Santiago Bernabeu. The midfielder stood a mere spectator as Ajax, Barcelona-amidst others, humiliated Los Blancos all through the dreaded campaign. Just when things threatened to reach a new low, Florentino Perez brought Zidane back with more authority.
Now their troubles seem so far away. Casemiro, for one, is acting as if last season is a faded memory. A loyal disciple to Zizou, he’s worked hard to rediscover his swagger this time around.
Having won nearly everything there is to win, the Brazilian’s incurred the elite winning mentality from his manager. Last season, however, the coach succeeding Zidane didn’t go by the same wave-length resulting in disorientation in the Madrid #14’s mindset.
But now that normality has resumed at the Bernabeu, the 27-year-old’s back to being a cunning figure under the Frenchman. He's the player Madrid fans love and opposition fans love to hate. Possessing a wicked foul-prone, naughty side doesn't help. However, his devotion to his side's cause stands commendable. After watching his side suffer an embarrassing loss to Atletico Madrid in pre-season, cutting short his summer vacations plans and report early to pre-season training exemplified it.
This is despite the fact that he played a pivotal part in Brazil’s Copa America success after an enduring campaign, spanning more than 40 appearances, for Los Blancos. When others were easing back into the set-up, Casemiro was determined to lead the charge into getting his side back to firing on all cylinders.
It has taken time, but he’s reclaimed the controlling aura for Los Merengues. At a point when Zidane boasts the luxury to rotate his squad at will, the Brazilian’s rarely missed a game. Only Karim Benzema’s made more appearances - pointing out how important he is to his manager’s set-up.
46/70 tackles won
164/284 duels won
55/84 aerial duels won
83.9% passing accuracy
59.5 passes per 90 minutes
71.2% successful long passes
5 chances created https://t.co/aUGNvgumuh
The loyalty in this partnership is two-sided. But the reason for more responsibilities being placed to act as a leader for Madrid is thanks to his refined overall style. Of course, there’s no denying that the former FC Porto man is among the best defensive midfielders in the country.
He’s leading Los Blancos’ defensive charts this season, averaging 3.9 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, 1.9 clearances per game (WhoScored). Perhaps the shining example of his dominance was displayed during El Clasico, where he made repeated interceptions or clutch challenges whenever necessary to gain his side a rare clean-sheet at Camp Nou.
That being said, his game doesn’t revolve around merely protecting his backline and stopping opposition counter-attacks anymore. The Brazilian’s being encouraged to venture forward more often to supplement their attack. He’s been their x-factor in adding his physical figure to Madrid’s attack, hence disillusioning the opposition defence into making mistakes.
The height of his confidence was displayed when he popped out from nowhere to score a match-winning brace. By cutting an influential figure in dictating the games’ tempo as well as being an indomitable cog at the back, he’s helping Los Merengues grind out crucial points.
In more ways than one, he’s the embodiment of Zizou’s philosophy. Ruthless on the defensive end and accurate on the attacking front, he’s arguably mastered his style better than anybody else at Madrid. As a result, he’s inspiring them into maintaining their momentum with ease.
However, the real test is up ahead in the next few months for Los Blancos. As the Champions League nears its business end and the La Liga title race against Barcelona reaches the endgame, Casemiro’s strength of character will be tested. In order to prove himself as well as his side as the European Kings again, the Brazilian must keep overwhelming opponents with an iron fist. If the past bears witness, it's when the pressure is highest when he thrives battling against the storm.