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Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Federico Valverde: The rising importance of Real Madrid’s newest hero – scout report

Federico Valverde‘s performances to begin the season have dazzled Madridistas. The 24-year-old has been instrumental to Real Madrid’s perfect start to their La Liga and UEFA Champions League campaigns and has cemented himself as one of the first names on Carlo Ancelotti‘s team sheet.

The Uruguay international is a manager’s dream, capable of adapting to any position on the pitch. He is Real Madrid’s third attacker, fourth midfielder and fifth defender.

Valverde arrived to the Spanish capital in 2016 for a €5m fee, spending his first season in the Castilla before joining Deportivo La Coruña on loan for the 2017/18 season. Fede returned on the back of one of the club’s most successful periods in their history; to a Madrid side possessing the best midfield in the world, encapsulated by the holy trident of Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Casemiro.

Whereas the likes of Martin Ødegaard and Marcos Llorente have been offloaded, Valverde has patiently bided his time and has now become a regular for club and country.

What has most caught the eye in recent weeks is his involvement in front of goal, notching 4 goals and 2 assists in Real Madrid‘s last seven games in all competitions.

This tactical analysis and scout report will highlight Valverde’s growing importance in this Madrid side. The analysis dissects how the player is performing multiple roles across the pitch.

Position(s) and style of play

A glance at Fede Valverde’s bloodied shirt during the first half of the Madrid derby on Sunday night will give you a glimpse of the type of player he is. As ever, Fede left his blood, sweat and tears on the pitch.

Since his arrival at the club, he has been dubbed as the midfield successor to Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos. With the pair ageing like fine wine and the club still winning trophies, however, the midfield has been a tough area to break into on a consistent basis.

During the 2021/22 season, Ancelotti started deploying Valverde on the right wing. It suited the Italian’s tactics, especially in the big games. Fede had the responsibility of supporting a tiring midfield with an average age of 33 years, while also allowing Vinicius Jr. to remain high up the pitch and focus on attacking. Fede was capable of bringing balance to a team that has often proved so impressive in the final third but vulnerable further back.

Gareth Bale’s decline and departure, Eden Hazard’s inconsistency and fitness issues and Kylian Mbappe’s U-turn to remain in Paris also contributed to the team’s lack of depth across the front three. Rodrygo and Marco Asensio are the ones mainly providing competition for Valverde on the right side.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tacticsThe player’s heatmap so far this season demonstrates his capability of covering large areas of the pitch. In Real Madrid’s nine games so far this season, he has started and completed 90 minutes in all but one game. Out of his nine starts, seven have been from the right and only one has come from midfield. This also has to do, in part, with Karim Benzema being sidelined with a muscle injury.

From the right wing, he can get involved in the attack, tucking in regularly to support the midfield and at times dropping into the backline as an auxiliary right back.

In the battle with Atlético Madrid, Valverde won all 4 of his ground duels, 3 out of his 5 aerial duels, and completed 90% of his passes. He contributed to both goals, and as always, provided the intangibles: energy and fight.

Passing

Overshadowed in terms of passing ability by Modrić and Kroos, Valverde is an adept distributor as well. His short, crisp exchanges in the attacking third lead to some quick combinations allowing Madrid to gain the advantage.

He is capable of receiving the ball with the correct body position, almost always taking a positive touch going forward and protecting it with his body, making him a safe option in possession.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tacticsHe often attempts to advance outside of his opposing defenders and deliver a cross into the penalty area, most commonly crossing towards the edge of the six-yard box.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

His assist to Vini Jr. against Celtic was reminiscent of the winning goal in the Champions League final against Liverpool last May. The vision to spot Vinicius from this angle and pull off a cross of this quality is nothing short of superb. These balls can be very hard to defend as they cause indecision and unsettle the opposition defence.

Without the ball, Valverde makes intelligent runs to make use of spaces in the final third by providing a new passing option. He will either receive the ball or open up space for the likes of Benzema, Vinicius or Rodrygo to exploit.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

He makes a run towards the right channel to support Carvajal and dishes in a low cross for Rodrygo to finish. Assist.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

The 24-year-old has already provided 13 key passes this season, 4th in La Liga. It is not a simple task to impact the game as much as he does offensively while also being so important on the other end.

Dribbling

One of the key facets of Valverde’s game is his ability to carry the ball and drive the team forward.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Only Vinicius Jr. has carried the ball more times (78) into the final third than Fede Valverde (41) in the team.

Looking at the kind of carries the Uruguayan likes to make, we can mainly observe two types of carries. The first of which is his trademark long lung-bursting runs with the ball at his feet. A lot of his carries originate in Madrid’s own half where he is picking the ball up with space in front of him to run into.

His solo goal against Mallorca is a prime example. He receives the ball deep in his own half, uses his pace and power to seamlessly glide past a pack of Mallorca players and still has enough in the tank to launch an emphatic long-range effort into the top corner – with his weaker left foot, mind you.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Valverde’s dribbling and penetrating runs also played a crucial part in Los Blancos’ opener against Atlético. Madrid’s No.15  receives the ball on the wing, surrounded by three players. He makes a surging burst towards the middle of the pitch, attracting several defenders and creating space for Mendy/Rodrygo on the left flank.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

The other major type of carrying that Valverde likes to make comes from the wing where he hugs the touchline. These are short bursts that are usually followed with a 1-2 with another midfielder or Benzema in behind the fullback.

Below is a look at Valverde’s successful dribbles % vs progressive runs per 90 among midfielders/right wingers in La Liga so far this season.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

The Uruguayan averages 3.37 progressive runs per game, while having an 83% successful dribble rate.

Goalscoring

Federico Valverde has been involved in 7 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions (4 goals and 3 assists), as many as in his previous 95 games for Los Blancos.

It’s safe to say Carlo Ancelotti’s coaching badges are somewhat secure. “I’ve told Fede Valverde that if he didn’t score at least 10 goals this season, I will tear up my coaching license and leave!”

He has scored in his last three games, and come up with decisive moments – goals against RB Leipzig and Atlético Madrid when the team needed it most.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Here is a look at Valverde’s xG map so far this season.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

The midfielder has 4 goals from 14 shots, with an xG of 1.56. In 2021/22, Valverde attempted 44 shots but failed to score a single goal, having an xG of 0.03 per shot.

Valverde has already scored more goals after nine games in 2022/23 than he’s ever managed in a single season in his career.

Real Madrid like to attack from the left side, and the right side becomes a supportive side. As the focus of the opposition shifts towards Vini Jr. and Benzema, Fede often finds himself in space on the right side enabling quick switches of play.

Defensive duties

Valverde’s tenacious and tireless nature without the ball helps provide coverage for different positions and adds a much-needed balance to the side.

His defensive territory map showcases the amount of ground he covers without the ball with emphasis on the right-hand side.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tacticsFede is adept at protecting the defence and allowing his team to weather the storm of opposing attacks. Madrid have developed a pattern of absorbing pressure during big games and hitting teams when they least expect it. “We trick our rivals into thinking we are tired…” said Ancelotti before the Madrid derby.

Valverde is similarly valuable when Real are counter-pressing. He is quick over the ground and makes strong, well-timed and effective tackles. He is also adept at anticipating the opposition’s passes.

His pace allows him to close down opponents quickly and his engine lets him do that all game long, making him a valuable piece in Madrid’s pressing plans as well.

Here, he closes down Koke near the touchline. Fede puts his body in between man and ball and manages to win a foul for his side, setting the tempo early in a fierce encounter. He is averaging 1.35 interceptions, 3.91 recoveries and engaging in 3.23 defensive duels per 90 this season, albeit from the right wing.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Crucially, he consistently maintains a high level of concentration and performs an important role in covering for Dani Carvajal during the Spaniard’s many advances from right back. Valverde is often needed to retreat into a position to occupy the spaces Carvajal vacates.

Against Leipzig, he was often acting as a right wingback, with Carvajal tucking inside. This protected Madrid’s right defensive channel, where David Raum was dangerous. It also enabled Modrić to roam more freely, leaving Vinicius and Rodrygo up top to cause havoc on the break.

Federico Valverde at Real Madrid 2022/23 - scout report tactical analysis tactics

Conclusion

An integral piece in the first team, Fede Valverde’s reputation among Madridistas is one of a cult hero. He has been a part of some iconic moments in recent years that have made him a fan favorite.

The agile midfielder has never-ending stamina. Famous for bringing the ‘legs’ and passion to this Madrid side, the 24-year-old has added the quality and tactical intelligence to elevate his status to world class levels.

Don Carlo has even pipped the Uruguayan to become a future Real Madrid captain:

“One is a leader when he sets an example and Federico is very important for us. He’s doing very well and is still very humble. This can help you to become a terrific leader in the future. There are a lot of people who can be leaders by example and not by their words. That’s very important.”