Saturday’s LaLiga victory at Éibar was an unforgettable occasion for one Real Madrid player in particular.
Los Blancos’ thumping 0-4 win at Ipurua continued their improving form and sent them top-of-the-table, albeit temporarily ahead of Barcelona’s match against Celta Vigo at the Camp Nou.
For one man it was more than three points, however. Fede Valverde bagged his first official Real Madrid goal in the Basque Country, capping a superb few months for the Uruguayan international. The night at a rain-soaked Ipurua was an unforgettable one for the 21-year-old.
In more ways than one, too. The midfielder’s celebration brought public the news that he is expecting his first child with his girlfriend. The 2019-20 season is going from strength to strength for Valverde both on and off the pitch.
The goal was a just reward for the fine season the energetic midfield man is having at Madrid. His performances have made him a firm fans’ favourite at the Santiago Bernabéu and he is knocking on the door to be a regular first-team starter under Zidane.
Valverde replaced Toni Kroos in Saturday’s starting XI but whether Zidane will put faith in the youngster in the biggest of matches is still unclear. With Casemiro and Toni Kroos all-but cementing their roles in big matches such as the Clásico, one midfield spot remains up for grabs with Valverde and Luka Modric in the box seats.
Zidane opted for Valverde in the derby against Atlético Madrid, a surprise selection at the time. That was the performance that really shot Valverde in to the hearts of madridistas, however. He proved he can do it on the big stage and he is ready to prove it again.
Indeed, Valverde has only suffered defeat once in ten appearances for Los Blancos this season, in the 1-0 reverse at Mallorca. He stood out in the derby match and also the two Champions League matches against Galatasaray. Now he has given his coach a welcome selection headache for the forthcoming matches.
Valverde’s emergence is timely given Madrid’s ageing squad. While young attackers such as Vinicius Jr., Rodrygo and Luka Jovic have bolstered the attack, an injection of energy was needed in midfield and Valverde has provided that injection. A true box-to-box man, the Uruguayan offers as much in attack, showcased by his goal this weekend, as he does helping out at the back.
That energy was honed at his first club Peñarol, something which caught the eye of Madrid back in 2016. It was nursed and developed under Santiago Solari at Real Madrid Castilla and during a tough loan spell with Deportivo. Now all that work has come to fruition at the highest level and Valverde shows no signs of slowing down.
While the big money has been spent on the stars of the future, it is one relatively cheap deal that is set to give Madrid the biggest payback. In Valverde we trust.