Not one, but two Marca articles today showed the newspaper’s delight – and who knows, perhaps the club’s too – with Casemiro’s role so far this season. The first one, subtly titled “Casemiro is more important than ever”, dwelled on the Brazilian’s progression since he became a Madridista and on how important he’s become for Zidane, while the second – “Casemiro packs more punch than Modric and Kroos”, good God – stated that in his tenure with Real Madrid he’s scored more goals than his mates in the middle of the pitch in less matches played.
Last week, I mentioned how I thought that Case’s way too offensive position against Villarreal looked like Zidane’s way of telling Florentino “I need Pogba”. Well, it now seems that the club is answering Zidane “You already have Casemiro” through its usual channels.
This won’t end well.
Of course, Casemiro is not the answer to Zidane’s midfield concerns. He may have scored more often than Modric and Kroos, and any self-respecting Madridista should remember a few clutch goals by the Brazilian. But Case scores off long range shots and headers in corner kicks, more like a centreback than like an offensive midfielder. Ramos has also scored more than the memorable midfield duo and that is not a reason to make him play as a central midfielder; I know, Ancelotti tried it and kinda worked, but for different reasons.
What Zidane wanted from Pogba, Casemiro can’t bring to the table. The build up play, the sequence of passes that gets you to the final third, the killer through ball or the unexpected dribble that suddenly uncovers the space the offense needed is what makes Pogba – and Kroos, and Modric, and some other similarly impressive offensive midfielders – a different class of player, even if he scored less than Casemiro – he doesn’t.
Of course, this is obvious to anyone with a pair of eyes and some basic football knowledge, so these panegyrics about Case may hint at some trouble on the horizon. Club management has a very peculiar way of letting its voice heard through unofficial spokespersons, and some newspapers / journalists play that role in exchange for scoops. If there’s any reason for discrepancy between Zidane and the club, it’s the midfield, and the events since the Villarreal match make me think that shots have been fired already.
In the personnel department, I agree with Kiyan’s opinion: all the club could do was let the players Zidane did not want go, and in the cases of Ceballos and Llorente that’s what they did. Kovacic simply did not want to stay, which eased things. But Pogba did not depend on them, and given that Manchester United did not want to sell and that the other alternatives didn’t work either, now we see a downsized midfield with no replacements for Casemiro and precious few options for the other roles.
Again, I don’t think seeing Case playing as a #10 last Sunday was a coincidence, but Zidane’s way of showing that the team could do much better if he had more options. Real Madrid’s outstanding offensive performance during Zidane’s first tenure had a lot to do not only with the incredible talent of one of the most gifted strikers ever, but also with the quality of service that Isco, Kroos, Modric, Benz, etc. provided. Now we don’t have the striker and several of those players look far from their past form. With the transfer window over, either Zidane uses his players differently or the team will suffer offensively.
One thing is sure: Casemiro is not the answer.