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Ivan Fresneda: Spanish wonderkid being chased by Europe's elite after shutting down Vinicius

15:00 EAT 20/01/2023
Ivan Fresneda NXGN GFX
The 18-year-old has fought his way into the Real Valladolid first team after leaving Real Madrid's academy, and now seems primed for a big-money move

Vinicius Junior, fresh off World Cup disappointment with Brazil, was back in La Liga action and primed to rebound against relegation-threatened Real Valladolid. Instead, the Real Madrid winger barely got a kick, played out of the game by a relentless right-back.

Ivan Fresneda turned in a magnificent performance against one of the world's best on December 31, 2022, rendering Vini anonymous over a memorable 90 minutes.

Though he was far from unknown at the time, that showing displayed exactly what the 18-year-old right-back is capable of, and the kind of player he could someday become.

Aggressive in defence yet composed on the ball, Fresenda has the basic traits of a top-level full-back, and is both young and talented enough for some of Europe's biggest teams to be watching closely as the end of the January transfer window approaches.

But who is Fresenda, and why is he so highly-rated? NXGN takes a closer look at one of Spain's most promising youngsters...


    Where it all began

    Fresneda was born in Madrid in 2004, and after playing for local clubs EMFO Boadilla and CF Quijorna, was snapped up by Real Madrid's La Fabrica at the age of 10.

    Though clearly a talent, he left the academy four years later to join nearby Leganes, a team struggling in La Liga but fresh off a miraculous Copa Del Rey semi-final run. There, he found more opportunities in the youth system, soon becoming a regular at full-back in their academy.

    But bigger moves appealed, and Ronaldo Nazario-owned Valladolid snapped up Fresneda in 2020 as the Brazilian legend aimed to flesh out his club's youth ranks.

    Fresneda was an immediate success, and worked his way into the Under-19s side at just 15 in July 2021.

  • Fresneda-Vini-Madrid-Valladolid

    The big break

    After a litany of full-back injuries in the Valladolid first team, manager Pacheta, then just four months into the job, invited Fresneda to join the senior squad's training sessions in December 2021.

    Still just 17, he was handed his first-team debut not long after, playing 79 minutes in a Copa Del Rey loss to Real Betis. Fresneda was one of few players to impress in the 3-0 battering.

    The Madrid native then played his first full 90 minutes three days after, winning three tackles as Valladolid squeaked out a 1-0 win over Burgos.

    They proved to be his only two appearances of the 2021-22 campaign, but this season he has begun to hold down a regular starting role after breaking back into the team in early September, and has started seven of the last nine Liga matches that he has been available for.

  • How it's going

    Watching Fresneda, it's easy to forget that he only celebrated his 18th birthday in September. The right-back is composed on the ball, strong in a tackle, and remarkably positionally mature for his age.

    The Spanish international showed as such against Real Madrid when he locked down Vinicius in an immense performance. He frustrated the Brazilian winger for 87 minutes, allowing him to complete just one of nine dribbles.

    That performance has only led to more transfer speculation, however, with a number of Europe's top clubs now showing an interest in signing Fresneda during the January transfer window


    Biggest strengths

    Fresneda is rapidly developing into an all-round full-back, but he tends to lean on his defensive attributes. If nothing else, Fresneda is a fantastic tackler and one-on-one defender.

    The Spaniard is in the 99th percentile among full-backs for tackles and 96th for clearances, per FBref. He's also a good reader of the game and is in the 91st percentile for interceptions.

    Going forward, Fresneda is something of a mixed bag. Although he likes to make overlapping runs into the final third, Valladolid's lack of attacking production has made his statistical contributions limited. Still, his 17 shot creating actions suggest that there might be a real talent there.

    The eye test suggests much of the same. The Madrid native has a notable composure on the ball, and never shies away from a duel. He's eager to get forward, too, and has a real burst of pace.

  • Room for improvement

    As with many young players, especially at the full-back position, Fresneda's distribution isn't quite there. He's not a particularly high-volume passer, especially because Valladolid don't keep the ball much. But if he is to join a more possession-heavy team, his passing needs to improve.

    Accordingly, Fresneda tends to be a low risk player. He only attempts 2.2 progressive passes per game, and although he glides nicely with the ball, isn't an eager dribbler.

    The caveat to all of this is Fresneda is part of a rigid system. Though Valladolid can be adventurous going forward, manager Pacheta seldom encourages his full-backs to be expressive. It's fair to wonder, then, what Fresneda might achieve when he's given more freedom.

  • Kieran Trippier Newcastle 2022-23

    The next... Kieran Trippier?

    It's perhaps a bit lazy to compare Fresneda to the player Newcastle - one of those clubs interested in Fresneda - are hoping he will eventually replace, but there are some real similarities between the two.

    They're of the same physical profile, both tall and athletic, and they are similarly solid defenders who enjoy a tackle and read the game well; the kind of player a manager can trust to mark top wingers.

    The key difference is what happens at the other end. Trippier has a wonderful right foot and is one of the best crossers in Europe. Fresneda, so far, hasn't shown that sort of technical quality. But if he gets into the right positions, and plays for the right team, he could certainly develop into a true attacking threat.

  • What comes next?

    Fresneda isn't long for Real Valladolid. Pacheta admitted that the youngster will likely leave the club in the coming months, such is the interest of major European clubs.

    Real Madrid and Newcastle were the first teams to be linked with him, while the likes of Barcelona, Arsenal, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund are also said to have reached out to Fresneda's representatives in the hope of striking a deal.

    “He would be a fantastic acquisition, his numbers are fantastic and, although I want him to stay here, I understand the club and I am aligned with him in everything he does,” Pacheta said in recent a press conference.

    "It’s good for the player that he can continue playing, but I’m sure he will play wherever he goes because he is a good right-back, who also played a brilliant game against Real Madrid.”

    Reports suggest Fresneda could cost anything up to €30 million (£26m/$32.5m), but given what he has produced in his short career so far, it's an investment that has a real chance of paying huge dividends.

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