Federico Valverde has been getting a lot of attention from many this season. The Uruguayan, 21, indeed has impressed in the heart of the park. It is probably time that he becomes a first-team player ahead of some others.
Valverde was excellent in Real’s dominating 6-0 win over Galatasaray in the Champions League. It was a look into the club’s bright future. Valverde’s performance showed that he is well and truly part of that future.
Playing in a midfield three, Valverde impressed on the ball with how he kept the play ticking. With a passing percentage of 96.1%, he played the fourth-highest number of passes in the game – 77. For a midfield player, that is a very impressive number.
Sergio Ramos also had a similar passing percentage with 96%, but those numbers are not new for a defender. But for a creative midfielder like Valverde, it shows huge promise.
In the second half, he played as the defensive midfielder, with Luka Modric playing slightly further forward. The fact that Zinedine Zidane actually tried him in another position says something about how much he plans to trust him.
Rodrygo Goes did grab a hat-trick, but Valverde’s near spotless performance did not go unnoticed. Toni Kroos told Standard Sport:
“He has been amazing. He is on great form. When I speak about Rodrygo and say that he is very clear, I think Fede has been doing this since the first day. He’s fighting, he’s helping a lot in defence. He’s not losing balls, he’s very good on the ball. I really love this player.”
Not just this game, but Valverde has also impressed in some league games as well. Against Granada, Valverde was Real’s second-best player on the pitch, only behind Modric, warranting a 7.94 rating according to Whoscored . In that game too, he played in a midfield three alongside Casemiro and Kroos, helping Real win 4-2.
The game saw Valverde complete three dribbles, win two aerial duels and three tackles. He got one assist in what was a thoroughly complete performance from the 21-year-old (via Whoscored).
In the away game at Galatasaray, Valverde played two key passes and won four aerial duels while also completing one tackle. That was another impressive game, which saw him play in place of Modric on the right side of the midfield three.
It is crucial to note that Valverde is already a regular for the Uruguayan national team. He has played all four of the country’s international games and is expected to do the same in the upcoming international break.
It is obvious that Modric isn’t the player that he used to be. Physically, he isn’t as good as he was. This season, the Croatian has already missed six games due to injury. Zidane is wary of those issues and hasn’t been using him as often as he did two years ago.
Valverde is in the inch-perfect physical condition. He’s a better physical specimen than Modric too, as he can use his bulkier body very well. He has made 1.3 tackles per game this season in La Liga, as compared to Modric’s tally of 0.8.
But numbers also show that Modric is still a more intelligent player. The former Tottenham man has played 1.2 key passes per game in La Liga, while Fede’s number is still at 0.4. Modric also dribbles it forward more than Valverde does with 0.8 vs 0.4 dribbles per game.
Those differences will be obvious, considering Valverde is still 21 and very much improving. Modric is on the decline and the younger midfielder can only learn from his predecessor.
Valverde is doing enough to warrant a first-team spot, but he needs to take more risks when going forward. He is good on the ball, but just needs to take it forward to the next level. But as things stand, he is well on his way.
He should draw inspiration from the Galatasaray game as Rodrygo will. It provided the perfect template for how things could be five years on.