“Vinicius told me that I gave him a great pass in the final”

In an interview with the daily Marca, Federico Valverde takes stock of his progress and Real Madrid’s great season.

Did you ever imagine that you would win the Champions League?

We always dream and we want to succeed in football, but at the time, I saw myself far from achieving all that I have achieved this year.

Those who know you well have always told you: “Fede, shoot more. Fede, you have to score more goals”. Will we see an even more complete Valverde next season?

That’s the idea. At home I was told I needed to hit more on goal, at least three times a game, but sometimes I didn’t feel as confident as I do now. Now I’m mentally stronger and I’m calm. I have this confidence that I didn’t have 100% a few months ago. I feel capable of contributing to more goals, more assists and more success for the team. I have improved a lot in this area.

Admit it: it was worth a Champions League, but… was it a shot or a pass to Vinicius on goal in Paris?

[rires] It was an assist because the stats count it as such. Thanks to this pass, the goal arrived and we won the Champions League. Some will say ‘shoot’, others ‘pass’, but the important thing is that the Cup is in Madrid. This action was the most important of my career.

Did Vini say anything to you after the final?

We joked about it a lot and Vini told me it was a great pass. The important thing is that with this action I left a mark in the history of Real Madrid and I have to appreciate it because it is something magnificent.

Did you manage to sleep after the ascents?

I tell you how I did it: I went home, I enjoyed my family and we talked about the game. I went to bed with great relief and pleasure knowing that something unique had happened. It is very rare for such things to happen in a career. I enjoyed it with my loved ones back home, quietly chatting about life and football. But, this is Madrid and the next day everything was forgotten. We had to keep winning.

Madrid fans love you for two things, your quality and your courage. Do you feel this?

The affection I feel from the fans is spectacular. Even when things were going badly, the madridistas were there to support me and give me a smile to keep fighting to start. I will always be grateful to Madridistas. When I went to pick up Benicio (his son) from school, there was always someone who encouraged me: Come on Fede, you can do it, we love you!

And, apart from that, the club has shown its support for you: you are the player with the longest contract (2027).

The club has always shown great confidence in me and I appreciate that. It motivates me to make the most of my luck here. When they came for me, I couldn’t believe it. Juni Calafat (the club’s head of recruitment and the man behind your signing) has changed my life and not just in terms of football, but also the help he has always given me and my family since my arrival in Spain. I arrived alone and Juni was still there. Today, I’m not a star, but I’m someone more important than when I arrived, and when I was nobody, Juni was the first to listen to me. I will always be grateful to him.

Would you give the Ballon d’Or to Benzema?

I would give it to the eleven players in my team, but I think Karim has earned it and proven himself to be the best throughout this season. He is a reference in Madrid, in France and throughout the world. I don’t know what more he needs to do to win the Ballon d’Or.

You share a friendship with Luka Modric, is he a better footballer or a better person?

The two go hand in hand. Everyone can see quality with the ball, but few of us know his human side, only his teammates. He’s a great captain, he’s always available for everyone and he conveys his ambition to win and that gives us a plus to keep moving forward.

What do you think of the signing of Tchouaméni?

It is spectacular. I haven’t seen him play much, because now, since Benicio was born, I watch football on TV less. I play with my son more than I watch football (laughs). I try to make the most of the time I spend with my son. But he’s a great player and he proves it with France in every game.

What did Florentino tell you after the victory in Paris?

He said to me: “Uruguayan!” It’s good that people identify me with my country, it underlines the importance of Uruguay in football.

Your mother sacrificed a lot for you to reach the elite. How did she experience the final?

I saw her a bit because the UEFA people wouldn’t let her on the pitch, but when she saw me, she gave me a big hug, tears in her eyes. That embrace only lasted a few seconds, but thousands of things went through our minds about everything we had fought for together, with my dad, to get here. When I was nobody, the three of us went everywhere together, in the cold, in the rain, in the heat. They were always there with a smile and the desire to take me to training. It’s me who plays, but my support is my wife, the happiness of my son and the encouragement of my parents.

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