Javi Sánchez has been on Real Madrid’s books since 2005 when he was just eight years of age. Then, last Tuesday, suddenly he wasn’t. Real Valladolid released a statement to explain that the loan agreement which brought the centre-back to the White and Violets last summer had been made permanent.
Many loan arrangements end like this, but in the case of Sánchez this was particularly bewildering because he’d only registered two LaLiga minutes for the club all season. Must have been a spectacular two minutes, right?
Taking a closer look at this case, there are many factors explaining why Real Valladolid made what seemed from the outside like yet another dud loan arrangement into a permanent transfer. The first is that rising star Mohammed Salisu is on his way out of Real Valladolid. It’s likely that he’ll join Rennes, but no matter where he goes he’ll leave behind him a hole in the centre of defence. The coaches and directors at the Estadio José Zorrilla strongly believe that Sánchez can fill that role.
While he hasn’t played much at all for Real Valladolid this season, this is because the Salisu and Kiko Olivas partnership has been so strong that it simply didn’t make sense to break it up. On top of that, Sánchez started the season with constant injury struggles. It’s logical, therefore, that he hadn’t played much at all and Real Valladolid even pointed this out in their statement confirming this week’s news. “Although he hasn’t played much due to physical issues and the good play of his central defensive colleagues, he has convinced us with his good conditions and his potential,” the Pucela statement on the transfer read.
This is true. All season long, and especially in recent months, reports have been coming out from Real Valladolid circles about just how well Sánchez had been doing on the training ground. The problem is that Real Valladolid have the seventh best goals conceded record in LaLiga of just 1.17 per game, a huge achievement for a club with such a small budget. It would be foolish to mess with a back line that was this finely tuned in the middle of a season.
That said, it was strange that the 23-year-old didn’t have a single LaLiga minute under his belt by the time of the coronavirus pause. In the Copa del Rey, he’d played 90 minutes against Tenerife, but Real Valladolid lost 2-1 and that left no more cup opportunities either. In the mid-season Trofeo Ciudad de Valladolid friendly tournament, he did play against Romanian side Gaz Metan Mediaș, but competitive LaLiga minutes remained off limits.
After the return and after it was becoming clearer that Salisu was on the way out of the club, Sánchez was thrown into the fray in the first game back, the 2-1 win over Leganés. Coming on in the 88th minute, the stat sheet would tell you that he played just two minutes and that’s what provoked some jokes on social media when his permanent signing was confirmed three days later. However, the reality is that he actually played seven minutes that day, after including the five minutes of stoppage time.
Since then, Sánchez also played 83 minutes against Atlético Madrid in the 1-0 loss for Pucela on Saturday night, featuring in a heavily rotated XI that actually performed really well and that made life difficult for Atleti. It’s clear that Real Valladolid are starting to think about next season at the same time as they search for those final few points to confirm survival this term. They’re looking to the future and it is a future that includes Sánchez.
Real Valladolid expert Martin Devlin, the founder of Pucela Escocia, explained to Managing Madrid: “If Salisu leaves, and in all likelihood he will, Sánchez will have the chance to play a lot and I’ll give you a couple of reasons why. Firstly, it is a permanent signing and this is something that has been extremely rare over the past few seasons. Real Valladolid are a loan market team. As a rule, Real Valladolid don’t spend a lot of money on players, so for them to make this commitment to signing him on a four-year deal means that they have seen something in him that they really like. Secondly, manager Sergio has shown faith in sticking with a centre-back pairing that works. Everyone expected Real Valladolid to suffer when Fernando Calero left for Espanyol last summer, but in walked Salisu and the rest is history. If Sánchez can make a good impression on the field immediately, he could be locked into being a starter for quite some time as Sergio is conservative and defensive and does not tweak the system too much at all.”
That sounds very positive for Sánchez and for Real Madrid fans who have watched his progress and rise through the ranks over the years and who want him to succeed. He may not have played much at all this season, but that’s not because he wasn’t good enough. Real Valladolid truly believe he is good enough to become a starter in that position and they’re about to give him the opportunity to prove it.