Federico Valverde recently showed his class in full flight against Alaves in La Liga. In those 90 minutes, he was all over the opponents like a rash. Whether it be accurate passes, tackles, interceptions, recoveries, key passes, dribble, or shots, Valverde ticked the box in each department. That being said, this was just another testament or teaser of how good the Uruguayan midfielder is. He brings the contagious energy and intensity in the gameplay that uplifts the morale as well as the standard of the side. With his vertical actions, work rate, quick interchanges with his teammates, he displayed what Real Madrid was missing against PSG.
Lack of Opportunities
Real Madrid is sitting pretty at the top of the table in La Liga. Also, they are still pretty much alive in the Champions League. So, Carlo Ancelotti has done quite a good job as a manager so far in that regard. However, many pundits and fans are still critical of him for not optimizing the resources at his disposal. He has often gone with the same template of players and similar strategies irrespective of the opponents. It’s frustrating and disappointing the Madrid fans the most. Real Madrid is blessed with a plethora of talents in their squad. However, Ancelotti seems to incline towards the same group of players. That is not sitting well with other players while also burning out those same sets of players. Valverde is one of those players suffering the most from the strategy, alongside Camavinga, Jovic, Hazard to name a few. The risk with such a strategy is that players can get injured or fatigued. When that happens, it can leave you shorthanded as a manager. Benzema was nowhere near his 100% as far as fitness was concerned. Meanwhile, the midfield looked exhausted and not at their best.
Bring in Valverde
PSG outplayed Real Madrid on every department in the first leg of the Round of 16 fixture in the Champions League. They were neither good on the attack nor in the defense. The Spanish Giants were also unable to control the game with PSG having 57% of the possession. Real Madrid looked out of options and out of gas on the pitch. Honestly speaking, they were quite lucky to walk away with just a 0-1 deficit in the end. With Casemiro ruled out for being booked, this could be the blessing in disguise for Real Madrid and Ancelotti and a perfect excuse to start Valverde. Ancelotti also admitted they needed to press higher, and Valverde could be the perfect solution. He is a pressing machine. It feels like he has a couple more sets of lungs in store when he plays. Having said that, even the players of high quality like Valverde require match practice and miles on their legs while playing and gelling with their teammates to perform at the highest level. So, playing him in the run of fixtures ahead of the PSG duel would help him get in a rhythm.
Big match Player
When Real Madrid played PSG in the Champions League in 2019, Valverde had an excellent field day. He had 65 touches, had 87% pass accuracy, created 2 chances, succeeded in 3 out of 4 dribbles. Won 7/10 duels, had 7 defensive actions while covering the most distance whilst on the pitch, had most progressive carries, and 3rd most progressive passes. PSG likes to play on the front foot, which means they will leave spaces for the opponents to exploit if they are good enough. Valverde tends to step up his game while playing against the big teams. And this is what suits his game. He is more attacking than any of the preferred trio of Kroos, Modric, and Casemiro in Real Madrid at the moment. He will get in those pockets of spaces in the final third that will allow him to either create a chance or have a shot at the goal. Valverde’s acumen in transitional play will keep Real Madrid in better stead to face PSG in the second leg.
Play Valverde to win
Real Madrid should be wary of Valverde and his stance with the club. While being at a club as big as Real Madrid gives players a chance to be part of big occasions, big tournaments consistently, and possibly win them, quality players want to be in the thick of things. Valverde is certainly one of them. He is a complete midfielder gifted with technique, stamina, strength, and vision; a Rolls Royce midfielder, so to say. Any top side in the world would take him in a heartbeat because he is just that good and has age on his side at 23. Real Madrid has already lost the services of Mateo Kovacic for not giving him enough opportunities, they won’t like to repeat the same mistake with Federico Valverde, for sure. A while ago, Real Madrid won every game Valverde featured. Real Madrid won’t win every match he plays in the future. However, if they play him, they keep him, which is a win-win situation in the long run.