- Vallejo on loan at Frankfurt from Real Madrid.
- The Eagles boast the Bundesliga's second-best defensive record.
- Coach Kovac lauds the Spaniard's impact.
Eintracht Frankfurt's Jesus Vallejo has a wise head on young shoulders. Much like his side, the 19-year-old Spaniard, on loan from European champions Real Madrid CF, has been one of the revelations of this Bundesliga season, commanding an Eagles' back line that has conceded with a maturity beyond his tender years.
Vallejo has integrated seamlessly into the hustle and bustle of Bundesliga life: the centre-back has not missed a minute of action since replacing Guillermo Varela after seven minutes of a 1-0 defeat to local rivals SV Darmstadt 98 on Matchday 2.
Things have improved since then, with Frankfurt – who only avoided relegation through the play-offs last season – sitting fourth during the winter break.
"You can never plan how a season will go up to the winter break," Vallejo told Spain's leading sport daily Marca recently. "I wanted to give it my all and play as many games as possible. Apart from that, I had no other plans."
Vallejo is quick to credit his Frankfurt team-mates for helping him to adapt so smoothly to a new country and a new league. "One of the key things to settling in so quickly has been that the team has been working well," he said. "I'm also in very good shape physically at the moment."
It is not just physically that the 19-year-old has stood out this season. Vallejo has also won plenty of admirers for his calm, unflustered defending. "I've never seen such a player, neither as a player nor as a coach," said Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac after Vallejo put in another flawless display in Eintracht's 3-0 win against Hamburger SV on Matchday 8.
Watch: click the video below to enjoy full highlights of Frankfurt's win against Hamburg:
"The lad is crazy good. Honestly, I really have to describe him in superlatives. Jesus is so calm. It's the sort of calmness and maturity you usually only have when you're about 30. He can be as good as he wants to be."
Such maturity is evident in Vallejo's training and off-the-field life in Germany (the defender also does not use social media). "I'm approaching things in a very disciplined fashion and am learning a lot every day," he said. "I'm like a football Erasmus student!"
Indeed, much like his contemporaries in Germany to study, Vallejo's language skills have also come on leaps and bounds. "'Raus' means 'out'," he explains. "I always say it to get the team to clear it. I'm lucky enough to play with [David] Abraham, an Argentinian who has been here for far longer than I have. He's the boss! I'm learning from him."
With his newfound language skills has come an appreciation for the Bundesliga, and its quicker, more rough-and-tumble style of play than Vallejo's previous loan spell, with hometown club Real Zaragoza, where he was made captain at the age of 18, in the Spanish second tier.
"The different thing that I notice in the Bundesliga is the transitions," said Vallejo. "The second phases are usually crazy and you have to be very well prepared because it demands everything from you. You're absolutely exhausted at the end of a game."
Given his cool character, it will not come as a surprise that Vallejo already has plenty of well-reasoned opinions on Germany's top flight.
"This year everything is very even [in the Bundesliga]," Vallejo said. "We're seeing Leipzig, who are very good, while Schalke or Leverkusen haven't started as well as they'd have liked, but I'm sure they'll be there or thereabouts given their potential. That's the great thing about the Bundesliga: everyone can beat everyone or lose against anyone else."
As for his own high-flying Eagles? "I think the aim has to be to keep this up, or even to improve."