Federico Valverde: Zidane’s Man

Valverde Zidane

Federico Valverde joined Real Madrid in 2016 as part of their ‘’Zidanes y Pavones’’ policy. The Central Midfielder was then loaned to Deportivo La Coruña in order to make him used to Spanish/European football and also play more minutes in order to guarantee his growth as a footballer.

He was promoted to the first team in the summer of 2018 by Julen Lopetegui and did not fail to impress neither Julen nor his successors Santiago Solari and Zinedine Zidane. As a matter of a fact, Zidane started counting on him ever since he came back to Real Madrid for his 2nd spell as the head coach of the team.

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Last summer, Zidane had the urge to sign a box-to-box midfielder. Paul Pogba was the man he wanted but Manchester United would not even negotiate with Los Merengues. Therefore, Zidane could not get his Pogba and Florentino Perez failed to sign another Galactico.

One man’s misery is another man’s joy, right?  Well, Valverde certainly cannot deny that. Pogba staying at Manchester United meant Real Madrid’s Little Bird (Valverde’s nickname in the team’s changing room) will now have more playing time especially that Real only had 6 midfielders for the season (Casemiro, Kroos, Modric, Isco, James, Valverde) and also because Zidane is known of being a coach that likes to rotate his players, making all of them play and feel important.

Valverde did start to feel important and he slowly became Zidane’s man in the midfield. Federico is a box-to-box midfielder. He is a hard worker football player and Zidane never fails to mention it.

Valverde’s box-to-box work

Defensive role

El Pajarito (Spanish for Little Bird) is in charge of engaging the defensive duals in Real Madrid’s midfield. His high work rate while covering the flanks allows the fullbacks to go play in a higher position to support the attack. This also relieves Casemiro a little bit since he would go position himself between the 2 center backs or go cover the gap left behind by either Marcelo of Carvajal.

This season, Valverde has recovered 80 balls, making only 17 fouls with an average of 1.1 tackle per game and 0.9 interceptions per game.

Valverde’s heat map in La Liga this season (SOFASCORE)

When it comes to pressing, Valverde goes the highway. His energy and grinta make him always want to win the ball back for his team, ready to do anything it takes to help his teammates.

As soon as Real Madrid lose possession, Valverde is one of the very first players to drop back in order to win the possession. His energy and space make things complicated for rivals. His speed and strength allow him to quickly win duals and start a counterattack while helping the team during the build-up process.

Valverde does not only drop back quickly but he also does his best to kill the opposition’s offense as soon as they win back the ball by reading their game and anticipating their moves.

Offensive role

Federico is the key to Real Madrid’s transition from defense to attack. He is never afraid to carry the ball up to his partners with a 86% ratio of accurate passes in the opponent’s area. His incredible runs open space for his teammates since he drags defenders with him.

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Valverde has also the ability to take long range shoots in a dangerous way. His dribbling ability is decent, he is no Iniesta, but he does his best, he has a 71% ratio of successful dribbles this season in La Liga.

Once again, his pace and strength are useful for him. He is very helpful in counterattacks which makes his team even deadlier in that phase since it has been quite a long time since Real Madrid had a midfielder with enough pace to carry a counterattack.

Valverde’s talent is obvious to everyone. He brought a lot of energy to Real Madrid’s midfield making the team stronger in defense. As a matter of a fact, Real Madrid have the best defense in the league and their personal best over the last 10 years.

Expect more of him over the next years.

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