As Carlos Casemiro enters the Casa do Brasil college in Madrid, he is greeted by the exclamation of a passerby, “Casemiro, you’re not that big!”
Much like how the sons of Scotland in Braveheart did not imagine William Wallace to be human, the 27-year-old’s standing at Real Madrid is so great that in the eyes of the supporters he measures 2 meters tall and shoots “bolts of lightning from his arse”, to quote Mel Gibson from the film.
“I’m 1.83 meters and 84 kilograms. I’ll have to put on weight to be bigger!” Jokes the Brazil captain. And so it begins.
'A BRAZILLIAN DEFENSIVE MIDFIELDER. WHAT'S THE STORY?'
“When I was a kid, I always start games in the striker position. Once I score and we lead 1–0 I’d move to No. 10 and control the match tempo. If we go 2–0 up, I’d move further back to defensive midfield and hold our shape.
I didn’t do it because someone asked me to, but because I enjoy applying my strengths where my team could use most. That’s just how I see football, even at that age.”
'RIVALDO FERREIRA SAYS YOU THINK AND PLAY LIKE A EUROPEAN FOOTBALLER.'
“I guess people expect Brazil players to be like Marcelo Vieira, Neymar Junior, footballers who play with this spark of improvisation.
I’ve always been more interested in tactics, decision-making on the other hand. Maybe this has something to do with me captaining Sao Paulo since 11, and Brazil at various age levels. My disposition is more serious, more about control and outcome.”
'YOUR REAL MADRID JOURNEY IS ALSO ATYPICAL.'
“Everyone dreams of joining Real Madrid as a Galactico for 50, 100 million Euros. I joined as a Real Madrid Castilla player.
The long-distance bus rides to remote areas across Spain, the everyday struggles within football’s less glamorous realm, the passion and pain among the academy people and supporters… All of these occupy a special place in my heart. I take great pride in being able to identify myself as a true Real Madrid school player who worked my way up.”
'YOU HAD TO GO ON LOAN TO GET NOTICED BY THE FIRST TEAM NO LESS.'
“Real Madrid is a big club so it’s unrealistic to expect young players to have a role immediately available to them. Loan can be a good interim solution, I’m living proof that if you perform you’d have your future.
I was blessed of course that I went to Porto when Julen Lopetegui was the manager. He complemented my attributes with Hector Herrera and Oliver Torres, we played good football, I managed to show my value in the Champions League. The rest is history.”
'AT THIS RATE YOU WILL SURPASS FERNANDO REDONDO.'
“I’d say my style is probably more similar to Claude Makelele, whom I study a lot at home to the dismay of my wife.
Redondo is a Real Madrid legend too for sure, and Xabi Alonso whom I had the privilege to play alongside. Real Madrid always field great players in this position, I’m honoured to join their ranks.”
'A FINAL TIP ON THE ART OF DEFENDING?'
“It’s all about anticipation, predicting your opponent’s next move.
Say I’m up against Sergio Canales, he often releases the ball on first touch, the key is to guess the pass. Or Kylian Mbappe, you know he likes to come inside, you then set yourself up to steal the ball from him.
It’s a thinking game and I’m loving it.”