He was one of the success stories of Real Madrid’s season before the 2019/20 La Liga campaign ground to a halt due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, Fede Valverde made quite the impression over the course of 2019, earning himself a starting place in Zinedine Zidane’s first choice starting lineup.
It got to the point where Toni Kroos and Luka Modric were being rotated in and out of the Real Madrid side in order to make space for Valverde. The young Uruguayan’s form was so strong he just couldn’t be dropped. He was a big reason why, when the shutters temporarily came down on the season in March, Real Madrid found themselves in the thick of a title race with Barcelona.
Since the resumption of the Spanish Liga season, though, Valverde hasn’t quite been himself. While Casemiro, Kroos and Modric have all found top form, all playing their part to take Real Madrid to the top of the table, the Uruguayan has been very passive in a number of games. So what has happened?
Part of the problem Valverde has encountered is the role he is being asked to play by Zidane. Before lockdown, he was playing in a central position as the natural successor to Modric. But now, Valverde is more often than not being asked to play alongside Modric rather than in the place of.
Zidane has taken to using Valverde on the right side of his midfield in order to compensate for the lack of a true right-sided attacker. It’s a role the Uruguayan is capable of performing, but he can go missing in games out on the wing when he is far more effective at affecting things through the middle.
Of course, the number of games Real Madrid have been made to play over the last few weeks means Valverde has still started a number of games and the standard of his play before lockdown means he has still enjoyed an exceptional season. But Zidane must be careful not to dilute what he offers.
Valverde’s emergence this season eased Real Madrid’s need to enter the transfer market for a new midfielder. Paul Pogba’s escape route from Manchester United to the Santiago Bernabeu was closed off because of the performances of the 21-year-old over the first half of the season. He remains a talent with a very bright future, but the past few weeks have exposed his vulnerabilities.
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