Depending on who you ask, Casemiro Either it’s Manchester United’s heir to midfield legend Roy Keane or Real Madrid can’t wait to unload him.
The Brazilian’s €70m arrival at Old Trafford on Monday has divided opinion and raised questions about the shape of Old Trafford’s transfer policy. Is giving a four-year contract worth over £350,000 a week a bad thing or does it matter when you get one of the best defensive midfielders in the world who also happens to be a winning streak player? In the end, like all transfers, only time will tell.
United did not start the summer thinking they would sign players over the age of 30, but sources told ESPN that Casemiro’s deal was more than an opportunity to present itself at the right time. Much of the transfer window was spent trying to land 25-year-old Frenkie de Jong, but while the Dutchman continued to chase deferred wages from Barcelona, United decided it had become too complicated.
United boss Eric Ten Hag made it clear to director of football John Murtaugh and his recruitment team early in March that his priority in the transfer market was to sign the No. 6 to play at the base of his midfield. De Jong, his Ajax player, was the first goal 2, but Casemiro was, until then, considered a suitable substitute.
It is an example, according to sources, of the club becoming “more resilient” in the market. Sources close to United insist Casemiro was always at the top of their list of options if a De Jong deal wasn’t possible and that negotiations moved quickly, not out of panic after a poor start to the season, but because he was eager to move. .
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Defender Raphael Varane moved to €48 million last summer after being part of the Real Madrid squad, along with Casemiro, who won the Champions League four times between 2014 and 2018.
“I know exactly how he feels and why he came here after what he lived in Madrid,” Varane said. “He needs a new challenge, I know exactly how he feels, and I know exactly why he chose this club. It’s a similar process for which I obviously wish the best.”
United have agreed to pay Real Madrid 70 million euros with an additional 11 million euros in add-ons, making it the second most expensive transfer fee paid to a player over 30 after Cristiano Ronaldo moved 100 million euros from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2018.
Sources told ESPN that Casemiro immediately became one of the club’s highest-paid players and that his salary would rise “significantly” if United returned to the Champions League. Club sources insist the expense will be worth it if Champions League football – and the revenue that comes with it – returns quickly while Tin Hag was keen to stress that there is the added benefit of signing a player with plenty of experience.
“He has won many titles in his career,” he said. “He knows the way, how you win games and how you win titles. We have more players who have already won titles in their careers. This should be a guide for the rest of the team so they know and understand how to win things.”
Leadership became an issue early in the Tin Hag era as captain Harry Maguire fell to a 2-1 win over Liverpool alongside Ronaldo, the club’s most experienced player, who is still eager to leave.
Ten Hag accused his team of being “naive” during the 4-0 defeat to Brentford, and there is hope that Casemiro’s arrival will help a relatively young team become wiser on the street. Sources told ESPN that there is a feeling that even after beating Liverpool there will be difficult periods this season and that Casemiro is the type of personality, along with Varane and Bruno Fernandes, who can make a constant impact during periods of bad cycling.
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However, there is debate as to whether Casemiro is the right man for the Tin Hag regime.
De Jong is a bystander and the kind of midfielder who can help the team press high on the pitch. Meanwhile, Casemiro feels more comfortable playing deeper, breaking up attacks and giving the ball to the most talented and attacking technical players.
It’s yet another proof that Casemiro is a compromise to Tin Hag, but he can’t refuse it. Sources told ESPN the question he and his assistants Steve McClaren and Mitchell van der Gag had asked himself, was the Brazilian going to improve the team? The answer they came up with, along with Murtaug and the recruitment department, was yes.
Regardless of age, wages and transfer fees, Casemiro has filled a desperate need for United in a position that was problematic long before Ten Hag arrived. For the Dutchman, it’s a calculated risk he thinks he needs to take to start his first season in charge. If Casemiro makes United better, on and off the field, it will be worth it.