Midfielder | Real Madrid | Uruguay
A busy, willing midfield operator, Federico Valverde endeared himself to short-lived Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui to such an extent that he was confirmed as part of La Liga behemoth’s first team squad ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. Without wishing to cast undue doubt on the Uruguayan’s ability, though, Lopetegui’s decision-making of late has been stupendously abysmal.
However, in this instance, the ill-fated manager may well have been on to something. Mateo Kovacic’s departure has left Los Blancos a little light in the middle of the park, and if called upon we suspect Valverde’s industry and drive would be a breath of fresh air for Real. ‘If’ really is the crucial word in that sentence.
Gritty. Determined. Uruguayan. Valverde’s dynamic, box-to-box style of play has led him to liken himself with Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. His tally of exactly zero goals and assists since his Real Madrid Castilla days does this comparison no favours though.
2018 has been…
…intriguing. He spent the first half of the year, and the second half of last season, on loan at Deportivo de La Coruna. He worked hard for the Galician outfit, and was a regular starter in the first half of the season before injury struggles set in. The club’s form improved in 2018 - albeit not enough to stave off relegation - and Valverde struggled to force his way back into the starting XI.
Valverde was largely solid throughout his time on loan, but did little to suggest he wouldn’t be shipped off on a temporary arrangement once again for the following season. At one point, he even stated he wished to remain with Depor for an extended spell.
In his own rendition of the American Dream, though, everything changed for Valverde in the States. Included in the squad for Real’s pre-season tour, the 20-year-old was so impressive during this run of matches in the incomprehensibly structured and grotesquely over-marketed International Champions Cup that he convinced his parent club to retain his services for the upcoming domestic campaign.
He made his senior debut for Real in October as a half-time substitute in a Copa Del Rey clash with Melilla. He was then introduced from the bench in Champions League meetings with Viktoria Plzen and Roma in November.
One potential boon in Valverde’s quest to make an impact at the Bernabeu is the presence of Santiago Solari in the dugout. The caretaker-turned-permanent coach was in charge of Real Madrid Castilla when Valverde was a star turn in the club’s junior outfit. Solari clearly has a soft spot for Valverde, once describing him as a player “who always generates a lot of football in midfield.” Which, we reckon, is probably a really great thing.
Now, Valverde has to really shine in a setting that isn’t a pre-season tournament.
He was thoroughly decent for Depor, but looked a player who still needs to play plenty of football in order to really progress. He’s unlikely to be afforded too many such opportunities with the capital club. Valverde’s rise through Real’s ranks could turn out to be a backwards step for his development.
If he wants to add to his already-impressive tally of eight Uruguay caps, he must force his way further into the reckoning in Madrid.
D Federico, how we long to truly get to know you