Casemiro: Real Madrid's unsung hero

Casemiro is indispensable as Real Madrid's midfield anchor but, in the 3-1 defeat of Napoli, he produced a stunning goal too: Joe Walker salutes the man who makes the holders tick.

Casemiro (Real Madrid)
©Getty Images

While the plaudits may be reserved for his more glamorous team-mates, there can be no denying that Casemiro makes Real Madrid tick.

Whether he is breaking up play, supplying an incisive pass or, as with his wonderful volley in the UEFA Champions League holders' 3-1 round of 16 first-leg defeat of Napoli on Wednesday, scoring goals, there are no doubts about his contribution to the side. UEFA.com considers what makes the Brazilian international so important.

First-leg highlights: Madrid goals including Casemiro's thunderbolt
Highlights: Madrid win including Casemiro's thunderbolt

He keeps things simple
One of the first things Zinédine Zidane did when becoming Madrid manager was to bring Casemiro into the centre of midfield in his 4-3-3 set-up. Since then the No14 has played every game when fit, and it is not hard to see why. Mobile, indefatigable and strong, he has all the tools required of a modern-day midfielder.

Casemiro's raison d'être is to win the ball back, get it under control and recycle possession quickly and concisely. He knows he is not there to play Hollywood balls or get the goals to fuel victory. He is a player that does not over complicate things and will never shy away from a tackle – the kind every coach loves to have.

He might not be the most talented member of this Madrid outfit, yet through sheer hard work and determination Casemiro is carving himself into a cult figure among the Bernabéu faithful. Moreover, he has made himself undroppable in Zidane's current line-up.

He allows Modrić and Kroos to do their thing
This Madrid midfield is wonderful when firing on all cylinders, with Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos pulling the strings and using their vision and range of passing to push the team forward. However, Madrid's dynamic duo would not be able to function as they do without the former São Paulo prospect behind them.

When Casemiro was out injured between September and November, Kroos was required to operate deeper and while doing an admirable job, he does not possess the same natural defensive instincts.

Casemiro's free-kick in focus
Flashback: Casemiro's 2015 free-kick against Basel in focus

The benefits of freeing the German up were never more obvious than when Kroos ghosted into the area to net Madrid's second against Napoli in a more advanced position, safe in the knowledge the defence was well protected by Casemiro.

He scores special goals
While the 24-year-old is not exactly a frequent scorer, when he does find the target it is often a sight to behold. His stunning right-foot volley may have surprised many on Wednesday, yet those who have followed Casemiro's career will have been less surprised.

During his Porto loan spell in 2014/15 he hit a long-range free-kick versus Basel that was good enough to rival any of those that Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale regularly bury.