Defensive midfielder Casemiro explains how "wanting to win in life" led him to the first team at Real Madrid and how "happy football" can help his side overcome Wolfsburg.
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After sparkling out on loan with Porto last season, defensive midfielder Casemiro has been a regular with Real Madrid this term, starring in Saturday's 2-1 win at Barcelona. The 24-year-old Brazilian international tells UEFA.com about his motivation to succeed and how he is learning from boyhood hero Zinédine Zidane.
UEFA.com: You left São Paulo and Brazil for Madrid when you were 20 to play for one of the world's most successful clubs. How did that feel?
Casemiro: It wasn't easy but I always had a lot of confidence. I wanted to win, always wanting to help my family, always thinking about making the best of myself. It's a bit different here to Brazil, but my mentality hasn't really changed. I left Brazil with the mentality of wanting to win in life. I always hold my head up high. I had a dream to play in the Champions League, so every time I play for Real Madrid, and in the Champions League, I try to enjoy it as much as possible because it's the realisation of a dream.
UEFA.com: How has playing alongside so many world-class players helped you develop?
Casemiro: Well, starting at Real Madrid B was one of the best things because first you need to adapt to the country, adapt to the club – even more so at a huge club like Real Madrid. But if you're in the B team, of course you want to play for the A team with all those players, and so far I've been enjoying it as much as possible.
UEFA.com: This season you have started six of Madrid's eight games in the UEFA Champions League; has having a longer run in the team boosted your confidence?
Casemiro: I was loaned to Porto last season to get more games, and when I left to Porto I wanted to return through the front door – I wanted to return and play. I felt I was ready because I'd learned a lot at Porto. The players and the technical staff now know they can count on me and they're helping me a lot. It's been a very good experience. I just have to continue working because there's still a lot to play for in the Champions League. I'm trying to enjoy it.
UEFA.com: You admired Zidane as a player; how is it working with him as a coach?
Casemiro: He was one of the best players I've seen. Now, with him as coach, I try to learn as much as possible, because a player like him knows a lot. He's on a very good track to become a good coach. He has good things to pass onto the group and without doubt he has the respect of all the players.
UEFA.com: Madrid play Wolfsburg in the quarter-finals. How do you feel about that?
Casemiro: Everyone Real Madrid could have faced would have been difficult because there are no easy teams. We need to respect them because we know they have some great players, but respect them while playing our football, our happy football.