Football Features

Fede Valverde: Why Diego Simeone was full of praise for the Real Madrid player who screwed Atletico

By Muhammad Butt

Fede Valverde tackle v Atletico Madrid analysis

Published: 13:16, 13 January 2020

A 10-man Real Madrid side won the 2019 Spanish Super Cup, beating Atlético Madrid 4-1 on penalties following a 0-0 draw after extra-time. Yet after the match, most of the praise went to the man who had been sent off, Fede Valverde.

Even Diego Simeone came out in praise of the young Uruguayan midfielder after the match, which is not something you would have expected of such a fiercely committed coach and symbol of Anti-Madridismo as ‘Cholo’ is. But nevertheless, the Argentine coach was indeed one of the chorus of voices speaking positively about Valverde.

“It was the most important moment of the match because if the play had continued it could possibly have led to a goal,” Simeone said, adding: “I told him not to worry anyone would have done what he did in his place, he did what he had to do.”

These are quite incredible quotes from a defeated manager. But what exactly did Valverde do to earn such compliments and assurance? Well, it’s pretty dramatic and sure to turn him from an underrated cog in Real Madrid’s midfield to a social media superstar.

So what happened?

With 114 minutes on the clock and a game rife with tension, Los Blancos had pushed forward for a set-piece when the ball was cleared. Dani Carvajal was chasing the clearance down around half-way and completely botched controlling the ball, it slipped between his legs and fell to Saúl who, without hesitation, fired a left-footed pass straight into Madrid’s half to release Alvaro Morata.

The Spaniard was now sprinting full-speed at Madrid’s goal with no one ahead of him but Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian had been in great form during the game but this was a situation that wholly favoured the attacker. Morata could shoot with his right or left, he could go early or wait for Courtois to move, he could chip him or go around him – every option was available. Courtois and Madrid were in big trouble.

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But like some mad War Boy on a souped-up pick-up truck, Valverde was steaming behind Morata. He knew what was about to happen. And so, to quote Simeone, Valverde “did what he had to do” and lunged in from behind, kicking Morata’s legs out from under him. The Spanish striker hit the turf and Valverde was red-carded seconds later.

The reaction to Valvdere’s ‘professional foul’

It was a massive moment, because it preserved the clean sheet (there was little chance Atleti would score the free-kick) and meant the match went to penalties where Madrid’s greater mental strength was always likely to prevail (just as it did in the 2016 Champions League final). Valverde clearly felt bad for his lunge, and said after the match: “I apologised to Morata. What I did is not good but it was all I could do. I’m happy to win the trophy but I feel a small sense of regret for that.”

That apology won’t stop him becoming a hero to Madridistas and neutrals the world over. Already you can see the clip being chopped up and replayed all over social media. The sheer selflessness of it. You can almost hear him screaming “Witness Me!” right before he lunges in to scythe down Morata, sacrificing himself for the greater good of a Real Madrid victory.

The last word, as always, should go to Zinedine Zidane: “Fede won the prize and it belongs to him.”