Opinion: Why Casemiro remains a pivotal part of Real Madrid's system
Football has always set numerous instances of why balance in the squad is a recipe to success. The role of defensive midfielders in maintaining the balance on the pitch remains pivotal even in the modern game. Yet defensive midfielders are often ignored when it comes to recognition. Even in a team game like football, some players, usually the ones who score goals, get the credit more than others.
Carlos Henrique Casemiro, like his predecessor Claude Makelele, belongs to the rare breed of players who often do a priceless job without much recognition and yet provide stability to the team. Most of us are familiar how Makelele's departure from Real Madrid brought a period of chaos and made the 'Galacticos' more unstable.
“Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?” - Zinedine Zidane famously said, after the departure of Claude Makelele.
Claude Makelele was an unique player in a generation filled with greats like Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo Nazario, Figo among countless others. He showed what defensive midfielders can bring into the pitch in modern football after the death of 'libero'.
Real Madrid were a team without an 'engine' and it was a win for Chelsea where Makelele served them later. Zinedine Zidane was still a player than and he did express his resentment. He was wise enough not to make the same blunder as a coach.
Casemiro came into the team from Porto when Los Blancos hired Rafa Benitez as a manager. Benitez's 4-0 loss against Barcelona early cut short his stay at the Spanish capital, and choosing an extra creative midfielder like James Rodriguez over Casemiro in that match still remains a huge mistake.
Zinedine Zidane was quick to recognize Casemiro's caliber. The Brazilian is a rare breed who can function in the 'Makelele role'. He enjoys breaking up attacks and restricting the opponent's creative game with his tackles and interceptions. Casemiro may not have the distribution or flair, but he makes up for it with his superior awareness and defensive abilities.
More often than not, he can be seen as the last man standing when both Sergio Ramos and Marcelo choose to venture forward. At times, Casemiro is like a rock who can endure any attack and eventually, clean up the mess by shutting out the holes.
Zinedine Zidane was himself an elegant footballer on his day but is not oblivious to the necessity of destroyers in a squad. It's crystal clear why Casemiro's tenure at Real Madrid coincided with Real Madrid winning a plethora of trophies, including 3 consecutive Champions League titles.
In the current season, Real Madrid are far from their best. Their standards are sky high, but the lack of a talisman upfront after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo has surely played a part in Los Blancos' downfall. But, Casemiro's return to form has steadied the ship to a notable extent.
Football often paints cruel parallels with life. Balance is the key but the cruel nature of individual trophies is that it fails to value players best at their specific job in a team game. Amidst the search for valuable 'layer of gold paints in the transfer windows', Casemiro's role in the Real Madrid team remains unchanged.
Florentino Perez once made the mistake of disrupting the balance by undervaluing a destroyer almost 15 years ago, but he is now surely aware of not repeating his blunder once again, given the team's present situation.