With Real Madrid’s La Liga match against Leganes effectively decided in the first half, with the capital club 3-0 up at half time, Zinedine Zidane took the opportunity in the second half to rotate his team. Karim Benzema was given a rest, with Toni Kroos also withdrawn for the final half hour or so.
One player who stayed on the pitch was Casemiro. That shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. He always stays on the pitch. In fact, the Brazilian has become such a favourite of Zidane’s he has become a punchline. Along with Lucas Vazquez, Casemiro is mocked for being the teacher’s pet.
“I am here to play,” Casemiro said after the comfortable win over Leganes, responding to a question about Zidane’s decision not to take off the Brazilian. “The coach knows the minutes I have to play; I’m resting more when the matches end. We have a coaching staff that knows the moments [where] I have to rest. I’m in really good form, I’m really enjoying it and I want to play all the time.”
It’s certainly true that Real Madrid look a more structured team with Casemiro at the base of their midfield. In recent weeks, the Brazilian has forged a strong understanding with Fede Valverde, the young Uruguayan who has made quite the impression over the early part of the season.
That has left just one position for Kroos and Luka Modric. In a way, it has helped Zidane that both players have suffered from injuries of late, but the pair are close to regaining full fitness and so the Real Madrid boss might have a tough decision to make. Whatever decision he comes to, you can bet that Casemiro won’t be the one to miss out.
Casemiro has been one of Zidane’s most reliable performers over his two spells as Real Madrid manager and so it’s only natural that the Frenchman continues to show faith in the 27-year-old. But it’s not probably not so healthy for a team like Real Madrid, a team that plays so many games in a season, to be so reliant on a single figure. In isolation, Zidane’s refusal to give Casemiro a rest against Leganes mattered little, but it said a lot about how he sees the fragility of his side.
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