Casemiro, who's he? That will be the reaction of countless football fans should Real Madrid manager José Mourinho throw a curve ball by allowing the São Paulo loanee to feature in the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg vs. Borussia Dortmund.
Two years ago when Tim Vickery projected the future of São Paulo's Lucas duo—Moura and Piazón—the South American football corespondent mentioned their teammate Casemiro (via Sports Illustrated): "Even more impressive was big, all-round midfielder Casemiro."
Fast forward to the present, Moura was involved in a blockbuster €45 million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea snatched Piazón from Juventus, in a move that their sporting director described as "unethical" (oh, the hypocrisy).
But, what about that midfield commando Casemiro?
São Paulo loaned him to Real Madrid—well, not really.
Casemiro was going to be a temporary player for Real Madrid Castilla—Los Blancos' reserve team—and it showed you how far his transfer stock had dropped.
What went wrong?
Jerrad Peters documented Casemiro's drastic fall from grace (via the Score):
São Paulo president Juvenal Juvencio summed up the situation best when he said Casemiro had become “dazzled by fame.”
Casemiro has worked with five different managers since he starred at the South American Youth Championship, and his clashes with Emerson Leão were especially detrimental to his reputation.
An article reporting the move to Spain in Brazilian outlet Globo claimed the São Paulo board had become increasingly “agitated” with the player.
La Liga Debut vs. Real Betis
For Casemiro's name to be on the first XI team sheet against a Beticos team that were unbeaten in their last three league games was as unexpected as the Special One starting then-Inter Milan youngster Victor Obinna against Roma in a 2008 Serie A game.
First impressions of Casemiro: reliable in possession (completed 87 percent of his passes), read the Betis players like a book as he constantly cut off their passes and formed an imposing double pivot partnership with Pepe, who came on as a 63rd minute sub for Luka Modric.
Casemiro may be a liability when defending set-piece situations—he jumps way too early when trying to win a header.
Could Casemiro Feature vs. Dortmund?
Even naming Casemiro on the bench against BVB would raise eyebrows, let alone giving him playing time or even starting him.
Having the courage of his convictions isn't something José lacks because in what at the time was his most important game of his fledgling managerial career, he started 19-year-old Carlos Alberto in the Champions League round of 16 first leg against Manchester United.
92 days later in the Champions League final vs. Didier Deschamps' Monaco, Alberto—who started ahead of the more prolific Benni McCarthy—scored his one and only UCL goal during the 3-0 triumph.
As the footballing world watches on, could we see Casemiro at the Westfalenstadion?