When Zinedine Zidane arrived at Real Madrid, Nacho Fernandez was seen as nothing more than a rotation player, yet the Spanish defender is as good as a captain now that the Frenchman has got to know his squad
Obviously Sergio Ramos’ place as the official club captain of Real Madrid is safe, but at every elite club there is a player who can do what his coach asks of him right down to the most miniscule of details and that makes them invaluable.
Nacho fits the bill at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with Zidane always able to call on him no matter the situation or the role required.
If there is a single issue in Los Blancos’ defence then Nacho can plug the gap and since August 21, 2016, the 27-year-old has played 29 LaLiga matches – the exact same number as Ramos.
Therefore, in Sunday’s clash with Valencia the academy graduate will surpass the official club captain in this regard.
Upon completing the 90 minutes on Sunday Nacho will then sit just 98 minutes behind the former Sevilla defender with regards to total domestic minutes played in the club’s last 40 matches.
The French coach will again turn to his trusted defender for the clash with Valencia given that Los Blancos are suffering a crisis of availability.
Ramos is suspended after his red card in the LaLiga opener against Deportivo La Coruna, whilst the match has come too soon for Raphael Varane, who failed a fitness test on Saturday.
Nacho is the only natural central defender available, with Jesus Vallejo also absent through injury and there are only two options to partner him.
Marcos Llorente represents one such option, with his experience playing at the heart of defence for Castilla likely to stand him in good stead, even if throwing him into a first-team fixture against Marcelino’s team is far from ideal.
Dropping Casemiro into defence is the second option and appears to be the most likely given his level of first-team experience, added to the fact Zidane trusts him completely.
Normally you would suspect this would leave the midfield weakened, but such has been the quality of his performances thus far this term that Mateo Kovacic could seamlessly slot into the role alongside Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Isco.