The Real Madrid midfield has often been highly criticised since last season. There is a feeling that Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are past their best. A need is already being felt for a change. Casemiro, though, has hardly been questioned.
The Brazilian was seen as the glue for the side in their consecutive Champions League wins. He sat in front of the back four, breaking up play and circulating the ball forward. He laid down the foundation for an attack that boasted of Cristiano Ronaldo and peak Modric and Kroos.
Last season was a transition period for the Los Blancos. There seemed to be a lack of motivation. A loss in desire and it gave the impression of being a laborious season. From making 18.1 tackles per game in the 2017-18 season, they made only 16 tackles per game last season (via Whoscored).
The main criticism often pertained to the midfielders not tracking back. This led to a midfield imbalance that was never seen during Zinedine Zidane’s first stint in charge. Ronaldo’s loss also led to a lack of motivation and a lack of a personality who could propel them in losing positions.
One thing that no one doubted was Casemiro and his performances. The Brazilian stood tall in the dark times, even though Karim Benzema got the goals upfront.
Last season, Casemiro made the highest number of tackles per game for Real- 3. This was the third-highest tally in the whole La Liga too. In the 2017-18 campaign, he made 3.6 tackles per game and ranked fourth in the league (via Whoscored)
This season, Casemiro has made the fourth-highest number of tackles per game- 2.8. More than that, he has also made the most number of interceptions per game in the league- 2.6. That is another sign that Casemiro still holds immense importance to the side.
There is no doubting Benzema’s abilities though. The Frenchman has scored six goals this season and found the back of the net 21 times in the La Liga last season. Linking up play and dropping deeper to allow others to join the attack and make runs in-behind.
But the importance he carries in the goal-scoring front is just how much Casemiro means to the defence.
It isn’t a coincidence that teams with top-class defensive midfielders do well. Be it Manchester City, Juventus, Atletico Madrid or Liverpool. All these sides boast of top-class defensive midfielders in Rodri, Miralem Pjanic, Thomas Partey and Fabinho respectively.
It will be unfair to compare more technical defensive midfielders in Fabinho, Rodri and Pjanic to Casemiro. But a comparison with the brilliant Partey would say a lot about the Los Blancos star.
The Ghanaian has been attracting plaudits for his performances this season. He is a better passer than Casemiro but the latter has proved his superiority in the defensive side of the game already.
In fact, Casemiro has already made more tackles per game this season than Partey has ever had in any season of his career. Partey made 2.8 tackles per game in the 2017-18 season while the Brazilian’s highest stat in this regard is at 3.6 in the same season.
Casemiro isn’t as intelligent a passer but he likes to shoot from distance whenever a chance comes. Scoring three goals last season and five goals in the 2017-18 season shows that.
More than anything, he brings a fire to the plate that no other player does at the club. Any club in Europe would love a player like Casemiro, because of that. He would do anything in his will to help the side win the game.
Having him sit in front of the back four reduces the load on the defenders too. Before Casemiro’s influence at the club came about in around 2014, Sergio Ramos had to make more tackles and interceptions per game (2.3 each) than he does with the Brazilian in front of him.
That in itself shows how much Casemiro helps out the back four in shoring up the threats and addressing the defensive needs.
The fact that he is still 27 is a huge positive for the Santiago Bernabeu side. He still has at least 5-6 years of first-team football at Real left in him. Whenever the club undergoes a renaissance in the future, Casemiro will have a massive influence.