Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro has laughed off criticism from ex-Barcelona playmaker Xavi Hernandez over his lack of Blaugrana “DNA” by pointing out he will be playing for a fourth Champions League winners’ medal in five years this weekend.
Speaking earlier this year, Al-Sadd midfielder Xavi — who won four Champions League titles at Barca between 1998 and 2015 — pointed to Casemiro’s inability to “dominate space-time” as a reason that Madrid could never play football as beautifully as those brought up at the Camp Nou’s La Masia academy.
“Madrid break apart, seven players attack and Casemiro stays back on his own to cover the centre,” Xavi told El Pais in January. “[Barca midfielder Sergio] Busquets cannot do that as even I am faster than he is. Casemiro is super fast, but he has trouble with everything else as he has not worked on it.
“He has other characteristics, is more defensive, makes more tackles, covers more ground, but he does not dominate space-time. If you had started with Casemiro aged 12, 13, 15, then he would have that.”
When that interview was mischievously brought up to Casemiro on radio show El Larguero during a preview of Saturday’s decider between Madrid and Liverpool, the 2014, 2016 and 2017 competition winner joked that although that meant he could never sign for Barca he was happy enough where he was.
“Everyone says what they want, but I’ve been here four years, and heading into my fourth Champions League final…” Casemiro said. “I couldn’t sign for Barca, as I can’t play football the way Xavi wants. I am with Madrid until death.”
Barca’s record of not having passed the Champions League quarterfinals in any of the last three seasons was not mentioned, but did not have to be.
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan