Real Madrid are on the hunt for fresh midfielders, as they phase out a generation of iconic figures in Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. The latter of course is already gone, having departed once his eventual replacement in Aurelien Tchouameni arrived in the summer.
Kroos remains something of an enigma as he keeps himself tight-lipped on whether he will retire at the end of the season and the end of his contract. Meanwhile Luka Modric continued to drop masterclasses before the World Cup, but there is the constant fear that any moment he could drop his level permanently.
Teenage sensation Eduardo Camavinga is already there. His impact on games can be remarkable, yet beginning in the starting XI continues to be a struggle for him. Fede Valverde seems destined to a play as an auxiliary midfielder, while Jude Bellingham has also been linked with a sensational move.
None of those options, Bellingham aside, represent true creative qualities though. All rely on their physical attributes to a certain extent, rather than their weight of pass and appreciation of timing.
Hence why Fichajes have linked Los Blancos with a remarkable move for Valencia’s Andre Almeida. The Portuguese arrived for just €8m during the summer from Vitoria Guimaraes, but has quickly become a crucial part of Gennaro Gattuso’s Los Che. According to their information, Almeida is already seen as a potential long-term successor to Luka Modric after just six months in La Liga – which is high praise in of itself.
Without him, Valencia tend to lack creativity and invention, stagnating their moves. The difference with and without him is so stark that a number of clubs are keeping an eye on him.
Since his first start in September, Almeida has begun all but two La Liga games for Valencia. In that time he has provided two goals and two assists in less than 1400 minutes.
As per Fbref, Almeida ranks well against his central midfield peers. The 22-year-old averages in the top 10% across 90 minutes for assists, shot conversion rate, shot-creating actions and passes into the penalty area, all of which evidences his creative nous.
It is something Real Madrid have seen with their own eyes. Almeida put in a stellar performance against Los Blancos in the Spanish Supercup semi-final last week. Constantly available, Almeida was not afraid to take the ball under pressure and launch counter-attacks.
So far, Almeida’s time in Spain has been almost exclusively positive. The question remains though, is it too soon to move for him?
At 22, Almeida is already into his fourth season playing top division football. Equally, the attribute that stands out is his composure on the ball, perhaps the most promising sign for him in assessing his ability to cope in the elite.
After six months, it is probably too soon to make a major offer for Almeida. The argument would be different for a side competing in the Champions League, but Real Madrid intend to be competing for the Champions League. By the end of the season, when a move would most likely occur anyway, they should see how he copes with a dip in form at some point. If he comes out of that well, that would also bode well for him.
Depending on the price, signing Almeida could be an astute buy ahead of time. However more important might be Real Madrid’s intentions with him. Los Blancos often recruit talented youngsters, but without a smart plan for how they will be used, it can cause their talent to stagnate. The likely outgoing Dani Ceballos is a fine example of that necessity.