As Real Madrid prepare for Real Sociedad most Madridistas' thoughts are on the Champions League second leg at home versus Manchester City. It 's the only silverware that can be won by los blancos this season. No, while there was an outside chance I believe that it's time to forget about the league title and focus on that 11th Champions League title. One of the names that has been on the lips and finger tips of the community is Casemiro.
I'll be the first to admit that his effort in the first leg was a little less than to be desired. At times he looked nervous with the ball at his feet. But over all his performance in the Champions League has actually been better than in the regular course of La Liga.
So let's look at some reasons why Casemiro is our best option on Wednesday and in the future going forward. Casemiro does not play 'pretty' football and most likely never will. But that's not his job, and this is something I'll keep saying.
His job is to win the ball and then pass the ball to either Kroos or Modric.
It's a bit more complicated than that, but you get the point. He's to sit back just in front of the back four and help out defensively, which he did when called upon on Tuesday getting two key clearances inside the box. He's the blue collar worker, the one that does the job no one else can do or in some cases won't do. He gets his hands dirty and takes fouls for the team when needed. He's been referred to as a offensive black-hole - where I argue that offense is a secondary priority and works in concert with winning the ball back and passing it out to the attackers.
It can be a thankless job.
Let's take a look at a few numbers for Casemiro. In La Liga he averages about 40 plus passes, where as in the UCL he's at just over 60 per match meaning he's moving the ball around a bit more in tournament matches.
Tackles are about even with Casemiro picking up 3.5 in UCL which is good enough to lead the team. Coming in second is everyone's favorite whipping boy right now in Danilo. He leads the team in UCL tackles and is second on the team in the same category in La Liga. Even then only he and Danilo switch places in the #1 and #2 spot.
He's 3rd on the team in interceptions in the UCL, which tells me he's doing his job when it comes to winning the ball back. He's no slouch on the defensive end which is exactly as it should be. He won't be a scoring machine, but again: not. his. job.
I think that Casemiro needs to continue now and into next season as the holding midfielder. While he may wear the #14, some should be reminded that he is not Xabi Alonso. Xabi is a once in a few decades type of player, a rare unicorn who makes the CDM position look easy. While he was in Madrid he had another partner in the double pivot - Casemiro doesn't have that luxury. He's taking care of a single pivot a role which while he's having his growing pains, which is what happens when you're developing talent.
Think of the pressure of being the team's only 'real' CDM. You can put an attacking midfielder in the holding spot but then you're sacrificing that added protection and defense. I've seen some names thrown around, and none of them are CDMs but attacking midfielders shoehorned into a roll they're not built for. Casemiro is built for his role, he's stocky and someone I wouldn't want to run into going down the pitch.
He's been Zidane's first choice on a very regular basis and I think it's because of his grit and defense. If Casemiro were about the offense he'd be on the bench next to James playing cards. But he's not, I believe that there is no reason that moving forward Casemiro can't be the CDM of now and the future, the guy is only 24 years old playing for one of the top teams in Europe.
I see no reason why we can't go out in the summer transfer window and bring in someone to back him up. I think that's totally plausible and doable. The market is pretty thin when it comes to CDM's so there are limitations. In the end, Casemiro is here, now. He's what we've got to work with, and he's coming along fine. Just look at the numbers quoted above. Zidane and Rafa before him found something in Casemiro, Rafa is the one that brought him back from loan to take a place as the holding midfielder. Zidane also likes what he sees.
If all else fails trust the manager. He's the one drawing up the starting XI's - we can sit here and rosterbate all we want and dream pie in the sky Pogba dreams (by the way, he's not coming and the sooner people accept that the better off the whole community will be). Be that as it may, I think Casemiro is the man for the job and he's only going to get better the more he plays. Why bench him in what could be one of the penultimate matches of the season coming up on Wednesday?
You can call me a Casemiro apologist or whatever and that's fine. I stick by what I've said - Casemiro is the man and it should stay that way. Bring in a back up, yes - go out an buy a new starting CDM? No, I don't think there is a need to do that at this time.