Casemiro saw Real Madrid-Levante repeated twice. Normally, he reviews the games once, but that defeat (1-2) at Di Stéfano had a peculiarity that added interest: he played almost 90 minutes as a center-back alongside Varane. So he double-checked his performance on the field.
The referee expelled Militão in the 8th minute and Bettoni, leading that day due to Zidane’s coronavirus, ordered 20-year-old Victor Chust, the only center-back on the bench, to prepare. However, Zizou, over the phone from home, ordered him to stop. “My reaction was to put a center back, but with a cool head we decided it was better to delay Casemiro, and double pivot with Kroos and Modric,” Bettoni later explained.
The Brazilian midfielder, who turned 29 this Tuesday, is Zidane’s man for everything. Especially in this time of acute shortage of troops. Casemiro plays Casemiro in the middle; de Ramos in defense and Benzema in attack. Sometimes everything in the same game. As on Saturday against Valladolid: he started as a midfielder, scored the winning goal (0-1) and finished as center back, between Varane and Nacho, the same place where he had finished in Huesca. That afternoon at El Alcoraz, at 1-1, Zidane formed a defense of three to seek victory by attacking on the wings with Marvin and Marcelo. Whether for the emergence of a red, to launch the attack or to protect a result, Casemiro always appears to balance the coach’s plans. Essential as a stevedore, because some of those adjustments are executed without much previous fieldwork in Valdebebas, as the Frenchman explained after playing with three centrals against Getafe. “We weren’t able to prepare the new drawing much. The players interpreted well what had to be done, “he said.
That afternoon Casemiro played in his place, but he arrived with his homework done after reviewing the Levante game twice and once that of Huesca locked in his hyperbaric chamber. There it is subjected to stays of one hour with 100% pure oxygen and pressures that can triple the normal of the atmosphere, which increases the amount of oxygen that the blood can transport. Aside from his own movements, when it comes to studying defenses he pays attention to those of Ramos and Varane. In addition, according to his close people, he especially likes Guardiola’s Manchester City center-back game, his ball delivery, his tactical display.
Casemiro has often said that he does not plan to be a coach when he retires, but a source who treats and observes him on a regular basis believes that the bench is an increasingly inevitable fate for him. “He always says that he wants to bring intelligence to the field; tactical intelligence, and not just foot ”, says this source. “He admires Xabi Alonso a lot, he says he is the smartest tactically.”
As he told Valdano in an interview, Casemiro arrived at his position of defensive midfielder avoiding the competition. At the age of 11 or 12, he had signed up as a striker for a test to enter São Paulo, but that was full of scorers, while there were few midfielders. So he posed as one, despite what his record and his form said.
From that central position he seems ready to extend his dominions. Not long ago he discovered a meme with which he commissioned t-shirts to be printed: “2/3 of the Earth is covered by water; the other 1/3 is covered by Casemiro [dos tercios de la Tierra están cubiertos por agua; el otro tercio está cubierto por Casemiro]”.
His numbers this year again draw that expanding scenario. He is the fourth most used footballer by Zidane, and if he plays at least half an hour against Atalanta this Wednesday he will overtake Benzema in third place, behind Courtois and Varane.
He is the Madrid footballer who recovers the most balls in all competitions (190), ahead of Modric (169), Varane (138) and Kroos (134), and that data places him in fourth place of all the players in the Liga, behind Mikel Merino (207), Jordi Alba (192) and Frenkie de Jong (191), according to Opta data.
So far, the custom in recent seasons for Casemiro, a luxury midfield sweeper at the height of the meme of the shirts he ordered and one of the few who dodges injuries: only the coronavirus left him out in two games.
But this season also moves closer to the goal than ever: he has six goals and two assists. He intervenes directly in a goal every 294 minutes, his best record, ahead of that of the 2016-17 season, when he scored six times and gave four assists (one intervention every 313 minutes); or in the past, one every 408 minutes. Casemiro is the team’s second top scorer behind Benzema, who has 17, and ahead of Modric (4) and Vinicius (3).
Without the Frenchman in the lead and without Ramos to order the team and finish with a header, Casemiro extends his area of influence with the same hunger that he began to cultivate when Madrid sent him on loan to Porto in the 2014-15 season and felt that he was the white dream escaped. From there he has exhibited a voracity that colonizes the entire field and led Simeone to ask him for a truce at halftime in a Champions League match. “Why don’t you stop running for a little bit, you’re screwing with me?” “I can’t,” Casemiro replied.