A glance at Fede Valverde at the end of the first half during the Madrid derby perfectly embodied the Uruguayan. Shirt stained and bloodied, it was symbolic of how Valverde plays in royal white, by giving his literal blood, sweat and tears.
Valverde’s rise from prospect to superstar at Real Madrid has been steady, however it is his growth in importance from last season to now which highlights just how much he has developed as a player.
Whilst he may have initially plied his trade as a central midfielder, he has adapted to not only do a job on the right flank, but thrive in that role, to a standard that puts him amongst the very best in the league.
His incredible work rate was already well-known, a seemingly undrainable engine paired with his undeniable grit and fight make him a fierce competitor. Perhaps what is making him a more fearsome prospect this season is his newly found ability to consistently contribute goals.
Across his previous 5 La Liga outings, he has contributed to 4 goals – with 3 of them coming in the last 3 straight match days. Add to that his 2 contributions in the Champions League and he has a total of 5 in 7 games. To put into context why this is significant, he has already surpassed his tally in all competitions from last year of 3.
Bundle this in with the fact that his dribbling has been particularly incisive, with nobody completing more final third entries than him other than Vinicius Junior, something which was on show once again with his wonderful solo effort against Mallorca. His distribution has also been noteworthy, sitting atop the La Liga rankings for key passes.
An example of this was seen against Celtic in the Champions League, picking out Vinicius with a pin-point drilled ball, identical to that of the one we saw him provide in the final against Liverpool last season.
The jump in his effectiveness on the offensive end, whilst still making important contributions on the defensive side of the ball, has showcased the increasingly complete arsenal of the Uruguay international.
Valverde’s ability to be decisive at both ends of the field has unlocked tactical doors for Carlo Ancelotti, who knows that with Valverde’s presence on the field, there is a balance in the attack, midfield and defence.
Considering the rumblings throughout the summer in the transfer market at the Santiago Bernabéu, with the failure to sign Kylian Mbappé and the sense of angst when an alternative option wasn’t planned for nor signed, few would have expected Valverde to not only bridge the gap but thrive as much as he has done thus far.
His ability to not only be versatile, but to thrive in those respective positions is something few teams in Europe have – when you think of swiss army knife-style players, how many are genuinely world class across those positions?
The cliché ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is something that doesn’t apply to Valverde in that respect because thus far this season, he has mastered every task asked of him by Ancelotti.
“If I cannot get Fede Valverde to score ten goals this season, I will rip up my coaching badges” were the words proclaimed by the Italian in a presser earlier this campaign. His badges can feel secure in their no doubt ornate home, with Valverde well on his way to hitting that mark and continuing to solidify himself as pillar of this Real Madrid team.