Carlos Henrique Casemiro is a coaches dream. The Brazilian is the constant professional. He is insatiable in his drive to become a better player, to better understand the game, and to find the smallest of margins which provide the difference to win a match. In an exclusive interview with Sid Lowe of The Guardian, Casemiro discussed the mental side of the game, Zidane’s influence and persistence, his off-field preparation, and the importance of his midfield teammates.
“I like to think, it’s not the legs, it’s the mind that’s in charge. You have to be strong, aggressive: I like challenges, contact. But you play with your head; I always thought the key was thinking: being better positioned, seeing the move before it happens,” he explained.
What comes across most in the interview is Casemiro’s application to his profession. Sid mentions the use of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, electric recovery boots, extreme abstinence, and morning sessions before training — all which had been documented by El Pais.
“I love to learn — I watch back, see the errors, evaluate. I love that. People say I think like a coach. I always try to read the game, the other team’s mind, their coach, what they’re trying to do. Often the smallest details – a metre either way – change everything. I have [football video and analytics platform] Wyscout and watch everything, from China to any league. My wife gets annoyed. It’s my work. There’s a time for everything but it’s my job. And I love it. My life is football. I have to think permanently about football.”
When asked if he had been watching clips of City and studying their game ahead of the pivotal clash, Casemiro was emphatic: “Man, since the day the league ended. It’ll be a very, very hard game, but we go with hope. This shirt obliges you to win every game – even friendlies.”
The interview then moved towards Casemiro’s thoughts on his manager, Zinedine Zidane. One call tell the mutual respect between the two and the adoration in Casemiro’s words when he speaks about his manager.
“Even today I get a little nervous talking to him,” Casemiro tells Sid Lowe. “I tell him he doesn’t know what he meant for us, for me.”
“He’s incredible: the humility, how he expresses football. He treats us with so much affection and love.”
Conversation gradually moved towards the galácticos and Sid paralleled Makelele’s role with that of Casemiro’s in Zidane’s system. “Makelele is one who invented this position,” he says. “Him, Mauro Silva, Dunga. Gilberto Silva was another. There was a period teams played with two, but it’s mostly one pivot again now. I watch videos of them: they developed this position. Zidane is a specialist: he knows every player’s importance. But Makelele wouldn’t have been as important without Zidane. Or me without Toni or Luka. And Fede now, or Isco,” he concluded.
It seems Casemiro’s goal scoring exploits and late-arriving runs are not just a feeling within the game, but a persistent tactical message and instruction from his coach.
“That’s Zizou. He’s very insistent; he always, always says: ‘Case, you can do more: arrive from the second line, feed midfielders, bring the ball out cleanly.’ This year, maybe I’ve had more protagonism with the ball, but I still know my job: rob the ball, give it to my teammates. But Zizou is heavy going: always talking to me, wanting more. He says: ‘I’m not asking you to do something you can’t do; I’m asking you to do something you can.’ He trusts me a lot.”
To read the full length interview and all the details behind Casemiro’s upbringing, thought process, and game preparation, click here.