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Fede Valverde has earned his stripes

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The 21-year-old rose to the challenge against Valencia and playing for 90 minutes consistently is the next goal.

Valencia v Real Madrid - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

As the core of Real Madrid’s squad continues to age, the club continues to prepare younger talent to soon take the place of the veteran players.

One of those is up and coming defensive midfielder Fede Valverde, who shows a glimpse of the future at the Santiago Bernabeu during a post-Casemiro era

Since transferring from Deportivo La Coruna in June of 2018, he has shifted between being a substitute and starter. But now, the 21-year-old has finally earned his stripes at the club and should be a consistent contender for the starting XI for the rest of the season.

Valverde has been working to get consistent playing time under multiple managers and now his hard work has paid off. So far in the 2019/20 season, he has put on convincing performances which have gained him the nod from Zinedine Zidane, his teammates, fans, and critics.

Most recently, the Uruguayan finally played for a full 90 minutes in two back-to-back LaLiga games against Espanyol and Valencia and proved he is a player the club can rely on.

Now, he has done this once before during the 2018/19 season against SD Eibar and CD Leganes, but achieving the same feat this season is much more important in terms of fighting for a place in the starting lineup.

With Casemiro holding four yellow cards to his name and El Clasico coming up, Valverde was given the opportunity to show his quality as Real’s starting defensive midfielder in a very, very important game against Valencia at the Mestalla. He did great over 90 minutes.

During yesterday’s game Valverde was partnered alongside Real midfield legends, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric. Despite the swap for the Brazilian, you couldn’t tell the Uruguayan has started less than 50 per cent of the matches this season (in all competitions).

The trio played together so seamlessly over the course of the match and Valverde proved himself to the coaching staff as a contender for the starting position.

Individually, he was all over the pitch, contributing to both the offensive and defensive duties of the team. Was being in the right place at the right time on multiple occasions just pure luck? Not at all.

Fede Valverde’s heat map against Valencia.
WhoScored.com

Of course, most of his placement on the pitch was around the halfway mark, but he was also constantly hustling to get into any position the team required. There were times he was in the box and other times he was in his own end working alongside the defence. This is an example of his dedication to the team.

His fluid movement on the pitch was also paired with lots of time on the ball.

Fede Valverde’s pass map.
WhoScored.com

Valverde recorded 92 touches on the ball (third behind Kroos [117] and Dani Carvajal [102]) and completed 82 passes (again third place behind Kroos [113] and Carvajal [90]). His average pass completion rate sits at 87 per cent with 0.8 key passes per game.

These numbers are testimony to how the team used either him or Kroos to restart their attack and the pair, much like the Kroo-Casemiro dynamic, does well to maintain Real’s possession and fluidity.

In terms of attack, Valverde does well when he can for his team and tends to be a surprise threat for opponents. He has already recorded two goals and three assists in LaLiga this season across 12 games.

Against Valencia, he was the first player to have a shot on target for Real as he thumped one towards Jaume Domenech’s net though the shot was saved.

But don’t let these numbers confuse you. Even though Valverde finds himself with lots of time on the ball and moving forward, he knows where his duties lie.

When it comes to defensive capabilities, the number 15 is good with dribbling and ball interception and registers 1.5 tackles, 1 interceptions and 1.5 aerial duels won.

In Valencia, the best example was when he shut down Dani Parejo.

Parjeo found a loose ball and broke away after a fortunate bounce created an open lane but Valverde sped in from a different area of the pitch to make the interception.

Though he drew a foul in the process, it was his pace and quick thinking that helped Maadrid’s defence shut down the attack. Without his interference, Parejo would have had all the open space in the world to take a crack at the ball.

Valencia CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Xaume Olleros/Getty Images

In terms of quality, Valverde is a diamond in the rough for Madrid (especially since he only cost 6 million euros). He knows how to adapt when necessary, is determined, and puts his heart and soul into every match he plays.

With such good showing like the one against Valencia, Zidane needs to continue to push the youngster to be consistent with his performances on the pitch. Allowing him to play more matches to the full 90 is the way to get the ball rolling.

When it comes time for Casemiro to move on, Real Madrid are in good hands with Valverde being next in line as a versatile and committed defensive midfielder for the future. Him and Martin Odegaard should form quite the dynamic-duo.