Jesús Vallejo is out on loan again. The centre-back has made his fourth temporary transfer away from Real Madrid, this time joining Granada until the end of the season after a disappointing spell at Wolves where he played in just two Premier League matches. Having turned 23 this month, the Spaniard needs playing time at this point in his career and he’s hoping to find it at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes.
But will he? Granada have been excellent in 2019/20 and a major reason for the newly promoted side’s success has been the top centre-back play of Domingos Duarte and Germán Sánchez. It would be a bold move from coach Diego Martínez to break that partnership up.
“That’s the key question surrounding his move to Granada,” says Granada fan and expert Heath Chesters. “Duarte and Germán have been excellent this season, while José Antonio Martínez has also provided good cover when needed. There’s also Neyder Lozano, but he’s constantly been crocked with injuries. That’s why Diego Martínez wanted another centre-back. I think Vallejo will get playing time, although he’s already indicated he may have to be patient and will have to compete like everyone else.”
“It’s about working and helping and being able to offer something in other systems,” Vallejo himself said at his presentation. “It’s about coming in in situations where colleagues may be suspended. It’s a long season and we’ll all be important.”
As Chesters mentioned, Antonio Martínez, the third-choice centre-back so far this season, really has been excellent. He is on loan from Eibar, just as he was last season when Granada finished second to clinch promotion. That year, he formed a brilliant partnership with Germán, before being displaced following the arrival of Duarte from Sporting CP in the summer. Initially, Vallejo will be competing with him just to be considered the third-choice centre-back.
Part of the reason behind this transfer, though, may be the club’s long-term outlook. “It’s worth noting that Granada apparently have an option to extend the loan of Vallejo for another season, even though ‘officially’ it’s just until the end of the current campaign,” Chesters reveals. “This is potentially important ahead of next season, as [33-year-old] Germán isn’t getting any younger, Duarte is attracting lots of interest and could move on, while Antonio Martínez will return to Eibar and Neyder is pretty much a lost cause with his injuries.”
So, Vallejo’s next six months may not be packed with playing time, but he could be a starter at the back for the Andalusian club in 2020/21.
With Granada still in the Copa del Rey, facing third-tier Badajoz in the next round, Vallejo could also enjoy some minutes in the cup competition over the next few weeks. He has already made his debut for the club, coming on for the final five minutes in last weekend’s 2-0 loss at Sevilla, a match for which Germán was suspended. “It’s difficult to judge Vallejo on his substitute appearance at Sevilla,” adds Chesters. “He was solid enough holding his position and his passing was fine, with a 100% completion rate from just 9 passes. He seemed comfortable on and off the ball. Overall, the general reaction here is positive. Vallejo is still highly regarded from his time at Real Zaragoza, therefore he is seen as a player who can make a solid contribution to the squad.”
We’ll have to wait to see how this loan spell goes. There could be a lot of time spent on the bench at first, but in the long-term Vallejo may have found a new home at this club that’s on the up.