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Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric faces several weeks on the sidelines after suffering a leg muscle injury during Croatia’s draw with Wales. The 34-year-old Ballon d’Or winner hobbled off the pitch in Cardiff towards the end of Sunday night’s Euro 2020 qualifier after colliding with a Wales player. A medical update published by Real on Tuesday night said Modric had been diagnosed with a bruised quadriceps on his right leg. It’s probably bad news as the El Clasico was only 10 days away but it’s comforting that a youngster in name of Federico Valverde will probably get more game time and look to make a further impression early on.

This injury typically demands a recovery period of at least two to three weeks while more moderate damage could require a six-to-eight-week layoff.

In a statement, Real Madrid said:

‘Following the tests carried out today on our player Luka Modric by the Real Madrid medical department, he has been diagnosed with a contusion to his right quadriceps.

‘His recovery will continue to be assessed.’

After Saturday’s trip to Real Mallorca in La Liga, they will travel to Galatasary in a UEFA Champions League group stage clash, a game in which have Real Madrid as clear favourites to win at 1.67. Madrid are considered by most leading bookmakers to be fourth favourites to win this season’s Champions League with Liverpool and Man City joint-favourites in the betting.

One player who may now likely benefit from all of these is Federico Valverde. The 21-year-old has quickly risen to fame due to his performances with Real Madrid Castilla and Deportivo de La Coruña, as Julen Lopetegui was the man who decided to promote the midfielder at the beginning of last season. Not many knew what he had in store, but after just a few performances, the Uruguayan proved that he can genuinely be an asset to the team whether as a starter in the “smaller” matches or off the bench when Los Blancos would need a little more control in the centre of the pitch.

The 21-year-old still has a long way to go, but he has already proven himself to three separate managers at the club as Lopetegui, Santiago Solari and Zinedine Zidane all depended on him to a certain extent. Having said that, the most surprising part was him winning over Zidane, who has clearly put a lot of dependence on the ‘old guard’. Therefore, seeing this slight change is definitely good news for everyone who has been witnessing a midfield trio that has, in all honesty, been declining for quite some time.

So far during the current season, the midfielder has been able to make five appearances, and he registered his first assist of the season during Real Madrid’s latest match against Granada (Whoscored). He has appeared in most of Los Blancos’ games so far, coming on as a late substitute against Villarreal and Sevilla while he was a starter in the games against Osasuna, Atletico Madrid and Granada. Expect to see a lot more of him in the coming months, too.

It’s worth noting that his 262 minutes in the La Liga only is more than Isco (105) and James Rodriguez (251) have seen so far (Whoscored). Showing how highly rated he is by Zidane already. With Modric out for a while, those minutes are set to go up even further.

One of his most shocking inclusions this season was against Atletico Madrid, but Zidane’s decision to play him was quickly justified when it was clear that he wanted a more compact midfield. This allowed Real Madrid to control the match and stop many of Atletico’s attacks from going forward.

With a little extra focus on the latest match against Granada, Valverde was positioned a little further up in the midfield than he’s normally used to and was able to give what was easily his best performance so far in the Real Madrid shirt.

The midfielder seamlessly took Luka Modric’s place in the squad for the game and never once seemed uncomfortable or unsure what his role required of him. This move has suggested that Real Madrid have finally found a replacement for the Croatian after years of wondering who will be the “chosen one” to take that place when Modric’s time comes (which, let’s be frank, has already arrived).

It may not seem so at first, but Valverde possesses speed and strength that other Real Madrid midfielders aside from Casemiro can’t boast of. His ability to fight off his opponent without causing a foul proved useful against Granada and will do so again in his future matches.

It’s clear that Valverde has a “football brain” which, in general means that he’s able to read the game and prepare for upcoming scenarios before they actually happen. At 21 years of age, this isn’t something many players have and the fact that he’s able to do this at a young age only goes to show how valuable he can be for the club in the coming years.

Mateo Kovacic, Isco and even Dani Ceballos all tried and failed to win the manager’s trust, while Valverde kept his head down and waited for his opportunities on the pitch to show exactly what he could do. And he has done it time and time again.

It’s still early days, and it’s not a smart move to over-hype a player. But with the way things are looking, it seems like Real have finally found Luka Modric’s replacement. Better yet, they did not have to pay a major amount to bring him in.