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Federico Valverde is ready for his new challenge

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has joined Deportivo La Coruna on a season-long loan deal and many at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu are interested to see how the 18-year-old Uruguayan will do in Galicia.

Valverde, who received the nickname ‘the bird’ due to his running style three years ago, cost Los Blancos’ five million euros back in 2015, as they wanted to ensure that he was in Madrid as soon as he turned 18.

“As a footballer, I think I am 100 percent better than I was a year ago, but especially as a person,” Valverde said, in regard to having spent a season with Real’s Castilla team.

“I have improved a lot in terms of my speed, my defending – something that used to cost me – and in linking up more with my teammates.

“Maintaining the pace of play in Europe is the most difficult thing.”

While some Real fans will dream that Valverde is the long-term replacement to Toni Kroos, he sees himself more as a Steven Gerrard-type player.

“I admire Kroos, but perhaps my game resembles something closer to Gerrard,” he continued.

“He constantly supports the team in defence and attack, and he’s very dynamic when he’s on the ball, always going forward.

“I have no problem what position I play, but there are some where I perform better, such as the No. 8.”

During his time at Penarol, Valverde was seen further up the pitch, but he believes that he feels most comfortable acting as the pivot.

“In Madrid they said to me that I should not play like [Luka] Modric,” he followed on.

“They played me as playmaker in the first two or three games, but [Castilla coach Santi] Solari asked me to play as the pivot in defensive-midfield and I felt comfortable there.”

Before coming to Spain, Valverde had caught the eye of Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger.

“I was in the Under-19s team at Penarol and my parents woke me in the night to give me the news that Arsenal had invited me to train with them for a week,” he said.

“I could not believe it.”

Ultimately he ended up in the Spanish, not the English, capital and Zinedine Zidane has since included the Uruguayan in some of his training sessions, something the midfielder clearly appreciates.

“When I saw him [Zidane], I could not believe that he was on the side [of the pitch],” said Valverde.

“He always greeted me with a smile and that’s incredible.

“During a practice game, he told me to show what I can do, daring me to look forward.

“I was impressed by Cristiano [Ronaldo] in training, for me the best in the world, along with Modric.”

For Deportivo, hopes are high for Valverde, especially after his recent performances for the Uruguayan Under-20s.

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