Fans of Los Blancos have quickly fallen in love with young Federico Valverde. The Uruguayan leaves his soul out on the pitch and has infused a once lethargic Madrid midfield with his never-say-die attitude and his relentless engine. Not only are fans enthralled, but Zinedine Zidane as well; the French coach has trusted the 21-year-old in some of the biggest games of the season. In an interview with Uruguayan magazine, Túnel, Valverde revealed the keys to his breakthrough.
“I live for football one hundred percent. At the beginning it was hard for me to adapt to Real Madrid, it was hard because it is not easy to get to a dressing room with Modric, Casemiro, Ramos, Bale, and Benzema. Today I speak face to face with them, but I do so because I earned my space with my football and I demonstrated that I belong,” he explained.
Fede acknowledged the fact that his adjustment took time as he was afraid of making a mistake and wanted to respect the space of the more established stars in the team. Though, today he feels as just “one more player in the squad” and is grateful for all the advice he gets from his teammates and coaches.
When asked about who he has learned from the most, he acknowledged that Zidane came first because he gave him the confidence to start. “It’s not easy to put a 21-year-old with little experience in tough games. Especially when the team wasn’t doing well and there was a lot of criticism,” he added. “He asks me to work for the team, to show what I can provide to the team with each ball I win or receive. He tells me to do the same as I do in training. Distribute with quality. To take care of the pass, which for Zidane is fundamental. ‘Let it go, let it come’ that’s what he [Zidane] tells me. He also tells me that I have a good shot from midfield, that I need to score goals” he said.
On the position in which he has felt more comfortable, he confessed that the interior right midfield spot , with more freedom to attack, or simply put as an ‘8’: “In Madrid they are putting me as an ‘8’, ahead of Casemiro, with more arrival, accompanying the strikers almost, but always sheltering, I can arrive, but I also have to know that a rebound can filter out to me on the right, thus I prefer to wait for that chance and to hit them”, he indicated.
Finally, the Uruguayan acknowledged his desire to score more goals: “I have this need to find the goal and try to reach the goal, I think that there I can better exploit my characteristics and Zidane is giving me that space. I have that desire to score goals, sometimes being 6 in Casemiro’s place slows me down a bit, so if you ask me in which position I like to play best, whether in Real Madrid or in the national team, my preferred is the ‘8’,” he concluded.
Valverde is expected to start the biggest match of his young career in 2 days time, an away trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona in El Clasico. If any of his previous matches are to be used as evidence, the Uruguayan should feel right at home in El Clasico.