It takes a lot to get into El Cholo’s good books but the 20-year-old Spain hopeful has returned from a strong loan spell at Porto in favour, writes Jon Radcliffe...
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- Date of birth: November 10, 1994
- Place of birth: Navalmoral de la Mata, Spain
- Position: Central midfield
- Height: 5ft 10in
- Current club: Atletico Madrid (35 apps, 2 goals)
- Former club(s): Porto, loan (40 apps, 7 goals)
- International: Spain U21 (14 caps, 3 goals)
Spanish football is in transition. At last year's World Cup la Roja were humiliated by the Netherlands before being easily beaten by Chile, taking only a relatively meaningless victory against Australia from the tournament as they dropped at the group stage. Star players such as Carles Puyol and Xavi have left the national set-up since, and while others like Andres Iniesta remain, the need for new blood to revamp the side has been recognised by Vicente del Bosque ever since.
Fortunately for him, there’s no lack of up-and-coming talent in a nation that has become so used to success. Fans will be more familiar with the likes of Koke and Isco who have already started to feature regularly for Spain, and there are many more who are showing huge promise.
One of the most highly rated is Koke's Atletico Madrid team-mate Oliver Torres. The fresh-faced 20-year-old has been around for a couple of years, but it was while on loan at Portuguese giants Porto last term that he truly established himself.
He made 41 appearances in all competitions, scoring seven goals and providing six assists as Julen Lopetegui’s side reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League and ran Benfica close for the title.
Now back at Atletico, Torres has featured in all but one match this season in all competitions, and looks ready to play a vital role as the Rojiblancos fight for success on four fronts.
Why you need to know him
After the departure of Arda Turan to Barcelona, Atletico were suddenly short of creativity in midfield. But rather than spend that money on a star attacking midfielder, Diego Simeone decided to give Torres a starring role in his side's midfield. He has started seven of Atletico’s 13 games, but made an impact off the bench too – particular at Eibar in mid-September, which earned the youngster praise from his manager.
Torres is easy on the eye to watch; comfortable on the ball, and very much used to the Spanish style of play. Although yet to receive a senior call-up for the national team, his performances at junior level have been impressive, especially for the U19s with whom he won the European Championship in 2012. Should he continue to impress in La Liga, it shouldn't be too long before he forces his way into Del Bosque's plans.
Torres is everything you would expect of a young Spanish midfielder: technically gifted with the ball at his feet, making him an able passer. The 20-year-old circulates possession quickly, and despite only recently starting out on his journey as a professional footballer, his vision and calmness on the ball is already better than some who have been in the game much longer.
He has also already proven to be versatile, having played right across Atletico’s midfield this season. It all contributes to a player who has the intelligence and ability to read the game well beyond his years, and it’s no surprise that Simeone has shown his trust.
Torres could certainly improve physically, as he is somewhat lacking in the defensive department – last season with Porto he averaged only 1.6 tackles and 1.3 interceptions per game; this year in La Liga he’s only hitting 1.8 tackles and 0.8 interceptions. It’s partly because of his slender 5ft 10in frame, but mainly due to the fact he hasn’t completed more than 70 minutes of a match this season. While the former may not have been a problem for players such as Xavi, Torres still has a way to go reach their level on the ball.
He must also try to become deadlier in front of goal. While he netted seven times in the Primeira Liga for Porto last season, Torres failed to even take a shot in the Champions League for them, although he did break his European competition duck this season for Atletico against Astana last week.
Against stronger opposition, meanwhile, he doesn't seem to play with the same freedom offensively. This was evident against Barcelona earlier this term, where he offered little creatively as his side lost 2-1.
He stands out because he always wants the ball. He is ambitious and intelligent
Having impressed in Portugal last year, it is no surprise that Porto manager Lopetegui was willing to heap praise on Torres. “He stands out because he always wants the ball,” said the former Real Madrid Castilla boss. “He is ambitious and intelligent. How far can he go? That is up to him. There is no limit to his potential.”
Former Atletico striker David Villa has got in on the act too, saying: “He has a huge future, everyone loves him. The fans have years and years ahead to enjoy this kid. He has everything to be exceptional.”
Did you know?
Torres was meant to be called Hugo, his parents’ choice, but his brother was such a fan of Japanese football anime Captain Tsubasa that he persuaded mum and dad to name the future starlet after the Spanish version’s (Oliver y Benji) star.
What happens next?
First, Torres must establish himself under Simeone anyway and then focus on his next team: most likely the Spanish national side
He has been compared to Xavi more than once, and a move to Barcelona seems like a predictable career choice. After all, he is a childhood fan of the club, citing Brazilian Ronaldinho as a huge influence growing up, and it has also been reported that the Catalan giants have first option on the player as part of the deal that took Villa to the Vicente Calderon in summer 2013.
Nowadays, though, Atletico are a huge club in their own right: there may be no need to move on from a team capable of challenging for trophies themselves.
First, Torres must establish himself under Simeone anyway and then focus on his next team: most likely the Spanish national side. Another good season for the youngster could mean he’s included in the squad for Euro 2016, where Spain will be looking to defend their title from 2012.
By that point, he may be ready to replace Xavi. A tough ask, of course, but Torres is steadily looking the part.