Can you imagine this Real Madrid side without Casemiro? Not many can, because the Brazilian has already accumulated 1,920 minutes total this season. This comes out to 80 minutes per match, and we are roughly halfway through the season. Casemiro was leading the team in minutes played until the Valencia and Athletic Club games, but now he is just 30 minutes behind Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema at 1,920. Ramos and Benzema have played 1,950 and 1,947 minutes respectively. The accumulation of minutes shows the Importance of those three aforementioned players, and had Casemiro not been suspended for the Athletic Club game, we can assume he would be leading the entire team in minutes played.
The holding midfielder position has been one of the keys to Madrid’s success this season — but in years past as well. Though Casemiro has shown his best form under Zinedine Zidane, he has been a constant on the team sheets throughout every coache’s tenure.
Marcos Llorente looked to be a good rival for the holding midfielder role under Santiago Solari. Many fans even suggested that he might be a better fit for the spot over Casemiro, but this season Casemiro has proved many fans wrong. Casemiro’s passing and press-resistance have both looked smoother this season and the Brazilian is rounding himself out as a better player and becoming the indisputable best holding midfielder in the world when on form.
With the transfers of Marcus Llorente and Mateo Kovacic, along with the loan of Dani Ceballos, the midfield at the Bernabeu looks thin. If the Brazilian were to go down with injury, the middle of the park would be tested with no like-for-like replacement available. Zidane does have the options of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Fede Valverde — but none of them bring the destroyer qualities that proves vital with Casemiro in the eleven. Casemiro was granted his first full rest against Valencia when Zidane did not want to risk his suspension for El Clásico.
It seems Zidane has found his solution to resting Casemiro, and that is to keep the three-man midfield and shift Fede Valverde into his holding role. Against tougher opposition, I’m not sure this would work. In the past Zidane would roll out a double pivot with Kovacic and another midfieder, but Kovacic is no longer with the team. A favourable option would be to have Fede and Kroos in a double pivot if Casemiro were to go down with an injury or suspension. This is also reliant on only Casemiro getting injured. If two of the four midfielders were injured, Zidane would need to invent a makeshift midfield of more attacking players to accommodate the injuries.
To avoid these major headaches Zidane must find a solution to resting Casemiro more often then two matches out of the twenty-four played. If he was to go down with injury it most likely would be a direct result of the minutes he has amassed. This could prove to be detrimental to the squad. I am confident Zidane would find a way to make it work, but why take the chance? With Madrid’s qualification for the Round-of-16 in the Champions League, Casemiro’s presence will be essential. Personally, I think Valverde is a class player, but even he admitted he feels most comfortable playing as an 8 and not a 6. If Casemiro was to pick up an injury before the Manchester City draw in the Champions League, would we feel comfortable to advance from that tie without Casemiro? On top of the Champions League run Madrid are fighting on all fronts and Casemiro will be needed for big games in the league as well.
La Liga has proven to have parity to start the season. The distance between 4th and 10th is only 7 points. Every team is fighting for a European spot, and that means Madrid will not have any easy conquests in the league. For now, Madrid are in a good position to succeed this season domestically and internationally, which is impressive with the amount of injuries this squad has had this season — but they haven’t yet missed the three most important players in the squad in Benzema, Ramos and Casemiro.
Casemiro needs his rest. This isn’t the same situation as Karim Benzema who’s been exiled from the French National Team. On top of Casemiro playing most of the available minutes for the Real he continues this trend with the Brazilian National Team too. Tite, Brazil’s national team coach, could give him a rest with his back up being Fabinho, who has arguably been the second-best holding midfielder in the world this season behind Casemiro. Tite doesn’t opt for resting Casemiro because of his reliance on the Madrid midfielder.
Unlike some of his squad members, Casemiro must travel across continents as well. Traveling takes a massive toll on the body. Anybody who travels understands that it can be exhausting and in addition to the exhaustion, your body needs to adjust to the changing of time zones. Casemiro must deal with all of this while amassing immense minutes played for both club and country.
To put this simply, Casemiro needs a rest or he will be injured. It’s just a matter of time. This isn’t a pessimistic take; it is impossible for the human body to exhaust this much energy and stay healthy. Rest is key to staying healthy. Casemiro is one of the first names on the team sheet every game along with Benzema and Ramos. Though these three players could all use rest, Casemiro could use it the most because of the lack of midfield depth. If Casemiro goes down with a serious injury it makes it that much harder for Madrid to compete for titles. Zidane must find the correct solution to rest Casemiro.