Tough-tackling midfielders are a rather rare find in today’s football. They have been in the game for over the past many decades and continue to survive. All that, despite many being sure about the game becoming faster than ever. While that is certainly true, but tough-tackling ball-winners will always have a place in the game. After all, imagining the game without someone like Casemiro would be very dull.
Players like the Brazilian bring spice to the game. They add the fire that many fans can connect with. Every tackle of theirs increases their connect with an average football fan. After all, they are those passionate warriors that fans find themselves to be in matches. They play the game in the same hungry way as a fan would want.
Put a fan in defensive midfield, he or she would go hunting for the ball like a maniac. Tough-tackling midfielders do just the same, bar the fact that they’re much more effective than a fan would be.
An El Clasico match thrives on players like these. The recent one did end 0-0 but for Casemiro, no game goes actionless. And in the game against Barcelona, he was immense in midfield. Rather, he was his usual self. It was a reflection of how the Brazilian is probably the best ball-winning midfielder in Europe currently.
He won as many as five tackles. It was more than the combined number of the Real players bar the defence. He made one interception, also playing the second-highest number of passes in the Real side. He stamped his authority superbly, nullifying the opposition midfield.
The Barca midfield struggled for control. While others do deserve credit for that. But Casemiro was key to bringing that fire in the heart of the park.
So far this season, the 27-year-old has won 3.8 tackles per game. He has also made as many as 2.2 interceptions per game in the La Liga. Both of them are the highest in the league. In the Premier League this season, those numbers would rank at third in terms of tackling and sixth in terms of interceptions. All that, when Casemiro isn’t even playing in that ‘physical’ league.
And it is a myth that the Brazilian is a mere tackler. Casemiro has completed 2.1 dribbles per game this season- the second-highest in the La Liga this season. He has played 59 passes per game- the fourth-best in the current Real side.
It shows how Casemiro would never back down from dribbling forward at every opportunity. He is crucial in not just winning the ball back, but he’s also key in taking it forward to the attacking players. In an era where the game has become faster, the defensive midfielder has become much quicker too.
Back in 2017, Zinedine Zidane drew some very valid comparisons. He told the media (via the Sun) :
“Casemiro is an important player, he ensures the balance between defence and attack, he does a similar job to Deschamps and Makelele. What he has been doing is not surprising, he has confidence and he is better every year”
Those aren’t high praises for Casemiro at all. Not because Deschamps and Claude Makelele weren’t good players. But because Casemiro has done enough to be just as good as them.
He has won the La Liga once, helping the club win the Champions League on four occasions. In all the Champions League title wins, Casemiro was the deepest midfielder behind Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. He gave them the freedom to operate like they like, taking the defensive burden off them.
In the 2016-17 Champions League season, he won as many as 5.3 tackles per game. That is a monstrous number, even though the games in question are less. But that shows how crucial Casemiro was for the Los Blancos over the years.
With Zidane now back at the helm, he will be just as important. The longer he plays well, the further Real will go in the Champions League. Zidane very well knows that.