During Rafael Benitez's rather tainted period in charge of Real Madrid, one player received a lot more playing time than expected - Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro.
The Spanish manager's more pragmatic and cautious approach to the game gave the young midfielder, who had previously been on loan at Porto, a chance to shine in the heart of one of the world's most prestigious midfield units.
Casemiro was a firm first-choice for Madrid during the start of this season, featuring in 18 of the clubs matches before the turn of the year and completing 90 minutes on 12 occasions.
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However, once questions were raised about Benitez's more defensive style he abandoned the 24-year-old and reverted back to an all-out-attack midfield of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez. Barcelona duly proved the flaws in this set-up in the season's first El Classico, thrashing their rivals 4-0.
Zinedine Zidane was reluctant to include Casemiro in the side during the early stages of his reign, but his inclusion in the two most recent games has perhaps shown that one of Benitez's proposed midfield solutions could benefit the Frenchman.
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Brings balance to the midfield
Madrid are a side heavily reliant on producing entertaining and attacking football. The concept of having a player in the middle of the park to do the dirty work seems almost alien to many in their part of the Spanish capital.
However, someone with the playing style of Casemiro can pay huge dividends for any team. The talent of midfield duo Modric and Kroos is wasted running around trying to win the ball back, instead, they should be focused on orchestrating the play and driving the team forward.
The 4-0 win against Sevilla on the weekend was a perfect demonstration of how giving these two midfielders the necessary defensive support can benefit the whole side.
Both Modric and Kroos were at their best, dominating their opponents in the middle of the park, running dangerously at their opponents and providing a high-quality supply line for the deadly attacking trio in front of them.
Casemiro simply went about his business quietly, offering support to a makeshift centre-back partnering of Raphael Varane and Nacho Fernandez.
His simple passes and astute defensive work, which limited the threat of Vicente Iborra for the entirety of the match, helped Madrid stroll to a well deserved three points.
A necessary player in every team
His input in the match against Sevilla may look relatively unexceptional on paper, but a performance of this footballing intelligence should not be understated. A calming presence in the middle can be a very effective platform for technicians like Kroos and Modric to thrive upon.
Casemiro's influence could be compared to Sergio Busquets at Barcelona. The Catalan defensive shield is a player who never attempts the spectacular but simply keeps things ticking over in a team full of world class players who are desperate to set the world alight - something Madrid's players are also keen to do.
Casemiro is of course not up to the standard of Barca's enforcer yet, but it is high time that Madrid notice the value of this type of player and how success can often stem from it
Zidane seems to be taking a liking to the Brazilian and after a few impressive performances, it is likely that this will continue. Could they get an upgrade in the summer? Probably, yes.
After all, this is a team with almost unlimited amounts of money, but the most important thing for the club right now is to persevere with Casemiro and realise the importance of his input. After all, what great team in the modern era hasn't had a great defensive midfielder?
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