PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Pau Torres?
Pau Torres’ rise in Spanish football took time, but accelerated quickly once in motion. In the summer of 2018, Torres sealed a loan move to Málaga – recently-relegated from La Liga – putting an end to his days playing in the youth and reserve ranks at Villarreal, and pushing him into senior football for the first time.
Though he had debuted as a 19-year-old for his hometown club prior to the Málaga switch, only a handful of appearances followed and were mostly limited to cup competitions.
Villarreal had finished in the top six of La Liga every season between 2013/14 and 2017/18, the club’s competitive nature meaning opportunities for a rookie defender to emerge were logically diminished. In the modern game, when players are starring in their teens and getting their breaks increasingly early, 21 marked a relatively late start for Torres in terms of exposure to the senior level.
The 2018/19 season would change Torres’ prospects dramatically, however. Playing in a Málaga team that went on to reach the Segunda play-offs, the youngster demonstrated himself to be a rock at the back in every sense. Torres was elected as a starter from day one under Juan Ramón Muñiz and held the role across the whole season, playing 93 percent of all possible minutes and starting 40 of Málaga’s 43 league games, before they were eventually denied promotion in the play-offs.
In the 12 months after beginning his loan spell at Málaga, Torres returned to become a firm fixture in Villarreal’s team and even played (and scored) for the senior Spanish national side. Having waited patiently to hear the starting gun in his senior career, a season of opportunity in the second tier of Spanish football had changed the narrative of his career – instead of when his opportunity would come, now many were asking how long he would stick around at Villarreal.
Pau Torres' Style of Play
Given that Pau Torres has been a part of the Villarreal setup since before his 10th birthday, it comes as no shock to learn he is at ease in possession. The Yellow Submarine are notorious for developing the technical proficiency of their youth players, and Torres is no exception, despite his 6’3” frame.
In-keeping with the trend of the modern game, the 23-year-old belongs to the new-wave of young defenders who have grown up and into the professional ranks with a strong emphasis on their work in possession. Torres is comfortable playing in a team who look to distribute and keep possession from the back while fighting through opposition pressure – mixing up his passing range to find solutions in these situations. Indeed, Torres has completed more long passes from within his own half than any defender in La Liga this season, with 52.
The 23-year-old’s ability in possession comes as part of a naturally cerebral approach to the game. Torres makes his mark across all his duties by acting with intelligence and utilising his strong fundamental qualities.
He is not able to rely on any standout physical attributes to bail him out of difficult circumstances. This can often be seen in how well the Spaniard judges attacking situations, in terms of anticipating passes beyond the defensive line or stepping out to close down players and make interceptions that end the sequence.
The young centre-back consistently makes good decisions that limit breakdowns in Villarreal’s wider defensive scheme, with his positioning rarely forcing dangerous consequences on the back line. In addition to his impressive tally of completed long passes, Torres has also made the third-most ball recoveries of any centre-back in the competition this season, behind only Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Djené Dakonam of Getafe.
This speaks to the consistency in that defensive positioning, allowing him frequent opportunities to secure loose balls and regain control for his side, despite Villarreal being one of the seven teams averaging more than 50 percent of possession in La Liga this term.
Given how far Torres is from his prime years as a centre-back – which usually arrive towards the late 20s and early 30s – there is understandably plenty of room for improvement. One area in which he can progress is in his aggression in individual duels and defending inside the box.
Torres has won just 47 percent of his aerial duels in La Liga this season: one of the lowest success rates among central defenders. Given his long, 6’3” frame, the young defender does not lack the height needed to prevail in these situations, but can at times be guilty of not committing to aerial challenges with enough strength or tenacity. The youngster must find a way to continue playing with his natural composure whilst also being more aggressive in these duels.
Forecasting Pau Torres' Future Prospects
Given that he is only part-way through his first full season at top-flight level, Torres has already gathered significant credit towards his future prospects. The youngster has played every minute of Villarreal’s 20 games in La Liga this season, debuted and scored for the senior Spanish national team, and also signed a new contract extension which could keep him at the club until 2024 and extend his 13-year association with Villarreal. At his current trajectory, the odds of him seeing that contract out seem unlikely.
Torres’ demeanour should ensure that he does not get too far ahead of himself, specifically in the sense of his timeline regarding leaving Villarreal in pursuit of bigger goals. When considering the context of the environment at his hometown club, La Cerámica provides a near-perfect setting for him to continue gathering experience without taking on too much, too soon.
Despite their relative success since the turn of the Millennium, Villarreal are still a modest club from a small town – their stadium holds under 25,000 people, which is still roughly half the population of Villarreal. Because of this, Villarreal represents a fairly guarded environment for players to be a part of a team who are competitive in La Liga (and sometimes Europe), while also playing without the pressure of a demanding fan base and expectations of tangible success every season.
There’s little doubting that Torres has the projection of a player who could one day go on to feature at an established European force, but consistent playing time should be the order of the day for the foreseeable future.