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Decoding Fede Valverde: The perfect modern midfielder

The burden of a Real Madrid shirt can be heavy.

We have seen players like Antonio Cassano, Javier Saviola, and, more recently, Eden Hazard struggling to cope with the astronomical expectations that come with the glorious white of Los Blancos.

But that has not been the case for Federico Valverde.

He arrived as a young player, honed his craft, and established himself as a first-XI essential.

The 24-year-old developed his profile to meet the flagship standards one would need to control the midfield for Real Madrid.

Valverde is a box-to-box midfielder by trade, but if you closely study his heat map, you will see he pops up in all areas on the pitch.

You will find him dropping deep to nullify an opposition attack; he will roam the left flank only to immediately switch to the right a few minutes later. Sometimes, you will mistake him for a striker. Valverde is omnipresent!

But you will be surprised to hear that Valverde was not much keen on running and having a fluid presence on the pitch during his formative years.

Valverde is an Atlético Peñarol academy graduate. He joined the academy of the Uruguayan giants as a 10-year-old.

As you can imagine, Peñarol scouts were impressed to see his attributes and identified him as a potential future star.

But their judgement was put in question when Valverde failed to impress in the first few years at the academy.

Valverde failed to make a mark initially because of his lean physique and unwillingness to press.

Valverde wanted to be a traditional 10, who sits behind the striker and feeds him with nifty passes inside the box.

But it was a dying art in football. In recent years, we have seen the rapid decline of classic playmakers like Mesut Özil and James Rodríguez.

Modern football has moved past the textbook number ten role.

Valverde realised this and decided to take on a more versatile approach.

He added more body mass and became a more dynamic player.

Valverde turned over a new leaf and became a relentless presser. At the age of 18, he was rewarded for his effort with a place in the Atlético Peñarol senior side.

But Real Madrid had already gotten wind of the player, and they came knocking on Peñarol’s door for Valverde.

After joining Madrid, Valverde would play in the reserves and go out on a loan spell at Deportivo de La Coruña.

He made it to the Real Madrid senior team in 2018, and since then, he has been a staple in the first team. Under Carlo Ancelotti, Valverde added new dimensions to his game, which helped him become a complete midfield package.

Valverde is an elite progressor of the ball.

Over the last 365 days, he has ranked in the 98th percentile for progressive carries. He clocks 7.92 progressive carries per 90, which puts him in the premium bracket among midfielders.

Valverde’s pressing, positioning, and work rate are his strongest qualities.

This season, he has been showing signs of overcoming one of his biggest weaknesses. Before the World Cup break, Valverde scored six times for Real Madrid. His tally includes goals against Atlético Madrid and Barcelona.

Carlo Ancelotti has been using Valverde like a Swiss army knife.

The youngster has been asked to play as a wide attacker and in several midfield positions.

He is a player who has a lot to offer to Real Madrid and he has a long future at the club.

Hopefully, this is just the beginning of Federico Valverde’s illustrious Real Madrid legacy.

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