Depending on who you ask, Casemiro is either Manchester United’s heir to midfield legend Roy Keane or a wrecked Real Madrid who couldn’t wait to offload.
The Brazilian’s €70m arrival at Old Trafford on Monday has divided opinion and raised questions about what transfer policy actually looks like at Old Trafford. Is giving a 30-year-old a four-year deal worth more than £350,000 a week a bad deal, or does it not matter when you get one of the best defensive midfielders in the world who also happens to be a series player? Winner? Ultimately, as with all transfers, only time will tell.
United didn’t start the summer with the assumption that they would sign players over 30 but sources have told ESPN that the deal for Casemiro was more of a timely opportunity. Much of the transfer window was spent signing 25-year-old Frenkie de Jong but while the Dutchman continued to pursue deferred wages from Barcelona, United decided it was becoming too complicated to pursue.
United boss Erik ten Hag made it clear to director of football John Murtough and the recruitment team back in March that his priority in the transfer market was to sign a No 6 to play at the base of his midfield. De Jong, once his Ajax player, was the top target but Casemiro was considered a viable alternative even then.
According to sources, it is an example of the club becoming “more agile” in the market. Sources close to United insist that Casemiro was always high on their list of options when a deal for De Jong wasn’t possible and that negotiations were moving quickly, not out of panic after a poor start to the season but because he was desperate wanted to move.
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Defender Raphael Varane joined for €48m last summer after being part of a Real Madrid side alongside Casemiro that won the Champions League four times between 2014 and 2018.
“I know exactly how he feels and why he comes here after living in Madrid,” said Varane. “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 that I’ve had, so obviously I wish him well.”
United have agreed to pay Real Madrid €70m with a further €11m in surcharges, making it the second most expensive transfer fee for a player over 30 after Cristiano Ronaldo’s €100m move from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2018.
Sources have told ESPN that Casemiro has instantly become one of the club’s highest-paid players and that his salary will increase “significantly” when United return to the Champions League. Club sources insist the expense will be worth it if Champions League football – and the revenues that come with it – return quickly, while Ten Hag have stressed there is an added benefit in signing a player with so much experience.
“He’s won so many trophies in his career,” he said. “He knows the street, how to win games and how to win trophies. We have more players who have already won trophies in their careers. That has to be a guide for the rest of the team so they know and understand how to win things.”
Leadership has become an issue early in Ten Hag’s tenure as captain Harry Maguire was dropped in the 2-1 win over Liverpool alongside the club’s most experienced player Ronaldo, who is still keen to leave.
Ten Hag accused his team of being “naïve” during the 4-0 defeat by Brentford and there is hope Casemiro’s arrival will help a relatively young squad to get a little bit better on the road. Sources have told ESPN that there is a feeling there will be tricky periods even after beating Liverpool this season and that Casemiro, along with Varane and Bruno Fernandes, is the kind of character who can be a stabilizing influence on weak runs .
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However, there is debate as to whether Casemiro is the right man for Ten Hag’s system.
De Jong is a passer and the type of midfielder who can help a team push high on the pitch. Casemiro, on the other hand, is more comfortable playing deeper, breaking up attacks and giving the ball to the more technically gifted attacking players.
It’s further proof that Casemiro is a compromise for Ten Hag, but one he couldn’t refuse. Sources have told ESPN that the question he asked himself and his assistants Steve McClaren and Mitchell van der Gaag was: would the Brazilian improve the team? The answer, which they, along with Murtough and Recruitment, reached was yes.
Regardless of age, salary and transfer fee, Casemiro United desperately needed in a position that was a problem long before Ten Hag’s arrival. For the Dutchman, it’s a calculated risk he believes he must take to start his first season as a coach. When Casemiro United does better on and off the pitch then it’s worth it.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/manchester-united-engman_utd/story/4729010/why-man-united-signed-casemiro-when-older-players-werent-in-their-transfer-plans Why Man United signed Casemiro when older players weren’t in their transfer plans