Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro says he is happy to be repaying the faith that coach Zinedine Zidane has always shown in him -- even before he took charge of the first team.
Casemiro arrived at Madrid in 2013 but started in the Castilla youth side before spending the 2014-15 campaign on loan at Porto, only earning a regular starting spot when Zidane took charge in January 2016.
The Brazil international, set to start a second consecutive Champions League final on Saturday against Juventus, told El Pais that even when Zidane had been assistant to former Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, he had always been supportive of him.
"Zidane won me over, not the other way," Casemiro said. "When he was Ancelotti's assistant he was very good to me. One of the most important things in my first year here was how close and friendly Zidane was. It is not easy to come here, not play much, then go out and play a good game.
"Xabi [Alonso] and [Sami] Khedira were doing well, and I wasn't playing. But Zidane was key, he helped me, spoke with me, told me to wait on my moment, keep working. So I was relaxed. Then when I got a chance I took it, and things have turned out well."
Casemiro says Zidane has had a similar effect on the rest of the Madrid squad.
"Zidane knows what a dressing room is, the mentality," he said. "He knows that a player is also a human being. Some days you are sad, some days angry and he knows how to talk to a player if something is going on. That is his strength -- he knows how to connect inside the dressing room."
Casemiro added that Zidane's advice has never included a warning to control his tackling when on a yellow card.
"He has never said that to me," he said. "It does not bother me. I have more than 100 games here, and never been sent off. This is my style of play, and I am not going to change."
Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said this week that Casemiro is less talented than some of his Madrid teammates -- comments that have not bothered the midfielder.
"Everyone sees football in their own way, and I respect that," Casemiro said. "Of course Casemiro does not have Isco's magic, or Cristiano's [Ronaldo] goals, but he works hard. Casemiro is hard work. I do not worry about it. If I am a starter in this team it is because the coach knows my importance.
"I know what I bring, and I feel just as important as all of them. I love scoring goals, giving assists, but what I like most is to steal the ball and give it to a teammate. I feel comfortable and happy doing this job. I love it. For me a goal is stealing the ball."
The Sao Paulo-born player also said his style does not fit so well with the traditional Brazilian philosophy of the game.
"It's true, I do not feel like a Brazilian player," he said. "Some have quality, others magic, others hard work. And no doubt I am the latter, with humility and motivation to win always. I have learned many things in European football, adapted well here. Maybe I look more like a European footballer than a Brazilian."