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Casemiro: “I wanted to be like Ronaldo”

The midfielder talked about his career and his style of play in an interview with Spanish magazine Panenka.

Athletic de Bilbao v Real Madrid - Spanish Copa del Rey Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro has talked to Spanish football magazine Panenka, where he has reviewed his career, his first years playing football and also what he brings to the table as a player.

“I wanted to be like Ronaldo or Romario, some even told me that I played like him, everyone wanted to be like them or Bebeto. I was always a big football fan and also the youngest player on the team. If my match was set to be played at 5pm, I would get to the stadium at 1pm and ask around to see if any other team needed a player, no matter the position. It was easy for me to play multiple positions and I enjoyed each one of them. It wasn’t hard for me to give up on the idea of being an attacker and getting used to playing in the midfield, that’s why one of my main virtues as a player is to adapt to different situations within the game. If it’s a beautiful game where we are playing well, I know how to approach it and the same goes for games where you have to struggle and fight. That happens because I always enjoyed playing in every position when I was a kid,” said Casemiro.

Then, the midfielder was asked about his work on defense alongside players like Kroos or Modric, who usually get the headlines.

“I think there’s a stat that nobody talks about. Football games tend to go for an average of 97 minutes and Real Madrid players usually have the ball around two or three minutes. The other 95 minutes we’re running, covering different spaces, runs off the ball, helping the team. Many times we look at those three minutes and say, ‘look at that, he plays really well’, but people usually forget about the other minutes. You foul to stop the opposition’s counterattack, you cover ground, you force the opponent to pass it backwards, that work is there. Sometimes, that’s even the most important aspect of the game. Defenders and defensive midfielders like myself have less room for error, we have to make fewer mistakes. I always say that you must have all kinds of players within your team. Quality players, players who run and help, you have to mix them. When we talk about Modric, Kroos and Casemiro, one helps the other and the other complements the third one. One has a brilliant passing skill, the other is more aggressive and another one has magic, this is the best example. Without help you can’t build a team. that’s why I say that it is a huge honor for me to help Marcelo, because no other fullback in the world of football has his quality. If I’m paying attention to his back is because I know he can contribute offensively,” he explains.

The midfielder then went on and explained the plays he loves to do.

“The recoveries, the smart fouls, those are my goals! Those are my assists! That’s what I love doing the most, recovering the ball. When the match is over I always look at how many steals I’ve had and how many shots blocked as well. Those are my numbers. Of course everyone likes to score and do a nice play, but my happiness lies on steals and those reveal how much I helped the team,” he added.

Casemiro was asked about his reputation as a rough player.

“I’m not worried about it. On the contrary, the numbers speak for themselves and I was only sent off twice in Madrid. It doesn’t bother me, it’s what a defensive midfielder should do, stop the opposition’s plays, be there at all times, stop counterattacks, that’s my job. Besides, there’s a difference between fouling and trying to hurt the players. I always try to reach the ball, of course I go with intensity after the ball, that’s who I am and that’s my body also. But I never tried to hurt someone. In fact, I get mad at myself whenever I hurt someone. Fouling is part of the game, but never with the intention of hurting the opponent, those are the values my mother taught me. I never try to injure someone and I never insult other players. Of course sometimes you argue. I will keep fouling and getting booked, but I will never lose my principles,” says Casemiro.

He concluded his interview by explaining why he joined Porto on a loan deal early in his career.

“I wasn’t playing much with Ancelotti because of the players he had, of course. Xabi Alonso, one of my teachers, Khedira, Di Maria... That was normal, I was still learning and I remember I didn’t know where to go. I could’ve gone to Sevilla, I truly wanted to go. They made an offer, Emery was there. Inter Milan were also interested on a loan deal. Those were always loan deals, because Florentino told me that I would be a Real Madrid player for sure. And then Porto came into the picture, they weren’t in my plans. I could pick and I wanted minutes, then Lopetegui called, we talked for around 15 minutes about his playing style and after two or three minutes I realize I wanted to play for him. The best thing is that I wasn’t wrong, I can’t put into words how much he helped me on a personal and also on a professional level. I still thank him for that today, we text each other because of how he helped me and I can only say good things about him. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for him in Madrid because at the end of the day football is about results and the results didn’t go our way, but he is a great coach and a big professional who enjoys his job,” he concluded.