Eden Hazard might have been Real Madrid’s marquee signing over the summer, but he wasn’t their top target, at least according to reports. Instead it was Paul Pogba who Zinedine Zidane wanted above all others, so when the summer window closed and the French midfielder remained at Manchester United discontent swept through the Santiago Bernabeu.
This was, after all, reminiscent of the way Zidane was treated in his first spell in charge of the club, when Perez refused to deliver the transfer targets his manager wanted. Now, though, Real Madrid look to be in better shape for not securing the signing of Pogba. It has certainly benefited Fede Valverde.
Valverde is the Uruguayan who has made himself a key part of Zidane’s Real Madrid team over the past few weeks. He is the 21-year-old who is ensuring Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are having to fight for one starting spot between them, the midfielder who has given Real Madrid much of what they were missing earlier in the season.
Quite simply, Valverde makes Real Madrid a better team. He is good on the ball, possesses strong positional awareness, shows leadership qualities beyond his years and seems to be adding more of a goal threat to his game, demonstrated by his Kroos-esque finish in the 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday.
“Zidane helps to get the best out of me and for me not to hide away and to go and prove why the coach plays me,” Valverde explained in a recent interview. “I thank him for the advice he gives me, just as I do the rest of my teammates. I’m delighted that he has good things to say about me.
“My target is first and foremost to continue to grow as a person and a player. When you play for this badge, you can’t rest on your laurels. I’ve won a Club World Cup and want to win all of the competitions going. There’s still a long way to go.”
Real Madrid are still a work-in-progress under Zidane, but there is a growing sense that they are getting closer and closer to being the finished article. Valverde is becoming a big part of that finished article, at least on the basis of his recent performances. It turns out Pogba wasn’t what Real Madrid needed after all.
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