Real Madrid: Who has been the most impressive young player so far this season?

Real Madrid (Photo by Visionhaus)
Real Madrid (Photo by Visionhaus) /

In Takefusa Kubo and Brahim Diaz, Real Madrid have two young loanees playing at a high level, but have they been more impressive than the first-team stars?

Real Madrid are in the midst of a youth “Revolution”. Over the past few transfer windows, Florentino Perez has signed the best young players in world football, such as Vinicius Junior, Fede Valverde, Luka Jovic, Takefusa Kubo, Reinier Jesus, and  Rodrygo Goes. Some of these players are already fixtures on the first team, but a couple of others, such as Reinier and Kubo, are trying to make names for themselves on loan.

It’s more important than ever for Madridistas to closely monitor the progress of their young standouts, because every season is crucial. Real want to give their young stars a chance to develop, but the expectations are high at this club. They are always looking for even brighter stars to sign in future transfer windows, such as Erling Haaland and Eduardo Camavinga.

If we only count players under the age of 23 as young players, we can narrow down the most impressive of the group so far in the 2020-2021 season.

Villarreal’s Takefusa Kubo and Milan’s Brahim Diaz have played well for their current clubs on loan, and both teams are either first or second in their respective leagues. Brahim and Kubo have been great in the Europa League, though they are still finding consistency in their leagues.

So while they’ve been quite good to start the season and seem ready to take more steps forward as the season continues, the best young player on Real Madrid’s books is a familiar first-team standout who has already become an indispensable part of the squad. In fact, we are going to see just how valuable he is to the team over the next two months, since he won’t be available due to a serious injury.

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images) /

Fede Valverde is Real Madrid’s best player under 23 right now

Yes, I am talking about Fede Valverde. The 22-year-old Uruguayan was arguably Real Madrid’s best young player in his breakout 2019-2020 season, perhaps sharing the honors with second-year left winger Vinicius Junior.

But now, there is no disputing Fede’s spot as the most impressive young player on the team. Vinicius has had his moments this season, but he’s been inconsistent lately – or even invisible in some matches. Rodrygo hasn’t played enough to merit serious consideration, though his goal contributions are quietly impressive. And while Brahim and Kubo have done well, they don’t measure up to Valverde.

Look at the numbers. Valverde has scored three goals in La Liga as a box-to-box center midfielder, including delightful finishes in back-to-back weekends against Huesca and Barcelona. A goal against La Blaugrana in a 3-1 win at the Camp Nou? It really doesn’t get better than that.

Whereas Kubo and Brahim have benefited from boosting their stats against second-rate competition in the Europa League, Fede has been playing against the best of the best in the Champions League. Shakhtar Donetsk, Borussia Monchengladbach, and Inter Milan are decidedly not pushovers, as we have seen all too clearly this season.

Real Madrid, Fede Valverde
Real Madrid, Fede Valverde (Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images) /

Fede Valverde is dominating both La Liga and the Champions League

Per, Valverde has completed 89.7 percent of his passes in La Liga and 88.3 percent of his passes in the Champions League. He is averaging a key pass per game in the Champions League. In both competitions, Valverde has more than one dribble completed.

Defensively, Valverde has worked hard as ever in La Liga with 1.4 tackles per game and 1.5 interceptions per game. But take a look at the numbers in the Champions League. He has three tackles per game and 2.7 interceptions per game through three full 90s in European football’s premier competition!

You’d expect a 22-year-old to be the most impressive young player in the side, because Valverde has more physical maturity and game experience than his peers. But it’s the way Valverde has dominated the midfield in ALL phases that is so striking. It’s really not even a contest.

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In fact, Valverde is so ahead of the other young players right now that it’s more of a debate whether or not he has been Real’s best player overall. And that’s a debate that is fought amongst Valverde, Luka Modric, and team captain Sergio Ramos. Meaning so far this season, Valverde has been so good that the other top performers are literally two the best players to have ever played the game. Not bad company, right? And it’s another sign that Valverde is an absolute gem of a midfielder who will rule the Santiago Bernabeu for years and years to come.