The latest jewel to emerge from Spanish football may be about to leave La Liga. He is 18 years old, his name is Ivan Fresneda and he has dazzled in a position where it can be difficult to find stars.
He is a right-back and his current club, Real Valladolid, would be open to selling him this January for an amount close to €15million ($16.2m; £13.1m). He has a release clause in his recently improved contract — which runs until 2025 — worth €30million.
Many European clubs have been tracking Fresneda and, at this stage, Arsenal, Newcastle, Borussia Dortmund and Rennes are the most likely to make a bid for him.
Dortmund’s chief scout is expected to be among those present at the Civitas Metropolitano on Saturday when Valladolid play Atletico Madrid. After the match, interested parties are expected to table their offers.
Scouts from Newcastle and Arsenal have already seen the player in person and have met with his representatives.
Newcastle’s head of recruitment Steve Nickson flew over to watch Fresneda play against Real Madrid in late December and sat next to his agent. Fresneda played the full 90 minutes as Madrid won 2-0 with two goals in the final 10 minutes from Karim Benzema. Fresneda was praised for his defensive work against Madrid’s Vinicius Junior.
Fresneda fits the profile of player Newcastle’s recruitment team is keen to pursue and terms are thought to have been discussed with his agent and Valladolid. Newcastle want to bolster their youth ranks with more players, like the signing of 18-year-old Garang Kuol, and are tracking a lot of youngsters globally, especially those in Spain, France and South America.
The club have wanted to sign a young right-back since the summer. West Ham United’s Harrison Ashby almost joined on deadline day in September and is still of interest. Leeds United’s Cody Drameh has been watched as well.
However, right-back isn’t a priority position for Eddie Howe. Newcastle’s manager would like a backup to cover Kieran Trippier – given Emil Krafth’s anterior cruciate ligament injury will keep him out for most (if not all) of this season – but would prefer to see funds spent on strengthening his midfield instead.
Arsenal have also shown interest in Fresneda, but are also seeking to add a wide forward and a central midfielder. They already have strong options at right-back with Ben White, 25, and Takehiro Tomiyasu, 24. As a result of White’s reinvention at full-back, Cedric has dropped out of the side and looks to joining Fulham. The 31-year-old has made just three substitute appearances for Arsenal this season.
In terms of younger options for Arsenal, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, 19, who signed a new deal in the summer, has been gaining first-team experience for the past year. Loans at Lincoln City last season and Rotherham United this season came before he was recalled and sent to Coventry City earlier this month — although his Coventry debut did come as a right winger. There’s also Reuell Walters, 18, who was Arsenal’s only academy player to travel on their pre-season tour of the United States in the summer and is also able to play at centre-back in a three-man defence.
For his part, Fresneda wants to make the step up to the game’s elite level and will be looking for a destination that will allow him to achieve that goal.
According to a source close to the player, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Liverpool, Wolves, Everton, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth have all been tracking Fresneda’s progress.
Fresneda joined Valladolid’s youth teams in 2020 and has played only 12 times for the Spanish club’s first team: nine La Liga appearances and three in the Copa del Rey. He’s also represented Spain’s Under-19s.
But this season, in his breakout campaign, he has displayed a confidence that goes beyond his years. A full-back who relies a lot on his technical qualities, he stands out for his good ball control and his aptitude in attack, while rarely showing weakness in his defensive tasks. This is why he has started Valladolid’s last four league games.
He still has a long way to go, but he is a talented player excelling in a position that is very much in demand.
(Other contributor: Art de Roche)
(Top photo: Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
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