With the substantial amount of emerging young talent coming through the youth ranks in Spain – Gerard Deulofeu, Thiago Alcântara and Cristian Tello to name a few. One player, who could well be the most talented of the crop, has seemingly slipped under the radar. Him being none other than Atlético Madrid’s Oliver Torres.
Oliver Torres Muñoz, widely known as simply Oliver, was born on the 10th of November, 1994 in Navalmoral de la Mata, a municipality located in the Cáceres province of Extremadura in Western Spain. Oliver grew up with an fierce passion for the beautiful game – from a young age, it was evident that all he wanted to do was to become a professional football. In 2008, at the tender age of 13, he got his wish, enrolling in Atlético Madrid’s famed youth academy. The next four years would see him drastically mature and improve, rapidly rising through the youth ranks at Los Rojiblancos.
Oliver continued to impress at youth level, with his consistent eye-catching displays eventually grabbing the attention of then recently appointed manager Diego Simeone. This saw the 17 year-old called up to regularly train with Atlético’s first-team, this in itself testament to how highly he was and still is regarded at the club. In April 2012, after several months of training with the first-team and continuing to impress on the youth stage, Oliver was named in the 22-man squad that travelled to Seville in Atlético Madrid’s clash with Real Betis, in the process earning a place on the bench, despite ending the game as an unused substitute.
Following his exploits in the first-team and some top-notch performances with Atlético’s youth team, he received call-ups to Spain U18 and U19 teams respectively, again impressing. In the process he proved to be pivotal in the latter’s triumph in the 2012 U19 UEFA European Championships held in Estonia, featuring in every game for the Spain U19s. He was included in their clash with Greece in the final (which they won 1-0), which proved to be, in my eyes, his best performance yet for La Rojas.
Talent Radar Accolades
Named in 100 to Watch in 2015 feature
On the 20th of August, 2012, on the opening day of the 2012/13 campaign, just a month after helping Julen Lopetegui’s men to their European success, Óliver Torres was dully handed his senior debut. He came off the bench in the 64th minute for Adrián López in their 1-1 stalemate away to Levante. His next appearance would only come 6 months later, this time, in Atlético’s 2-1 defeat to Rayo Vallecano at Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas.
Since making his debut at the start of the 12/13 Liga BBVA campaign, Óliver Torres has made a mere 7 appearances for the first-team to date. A vast majority of those being short cameos, preventing him from stamping any real authority.
Styles, Strengths and Weaknesses
If I were to compare Oliver Torres to a certain player, it would without a doubt be Juventus maestro Andrea Pirlo. Similar to his Italian counterpart, Óliver is blessed with exceptional vision and possesses an impeccable range of pass. Both being predominantly deployed at central midfield, they both boast of a similar style of play, always keeping themselves available, retaining possession when required with simple, well-placed 4-6 yard passes. The 18 year-old is also capable of 20, 30, even 40 yard long balls with pin-point accuracy, more often than not finding his teammates with ease.
One of his most remarkable attributes would be his first-touch and positional awareness in a game. As I mentioned before, he always keeps himself available, sounds like something your run-of-the-mill midfield enforcer pulls off with minimal effort, doesn’t it? I assure you, it isn’t. It requires a great deal of intelligence and vision, qualities of which Oliver possesses in abundance. He uses the pitch effectively and efficiently, making himself available to receive a pass from a teammate in a position where it can be pulled off with the least difficulty, effectively playing the team out of trouble. On the other hand, when he is faced with tight-marking and or pressure from the opposing player, he takes his first-touch carefully, intelligently and efficiently, taking the ball away from the opposition and spreading the ball, setting the team off.
Perhaps disimilar to Pirlo, Oliver also boasts off a good turn of pace, showing a large amount of pace when running at the opposition. His pace coupled with his quick feet and touch of trickery makes him a very potent threat with the ball, showing all these qualities when attacking gaps in midfield or defence should an opportunity arise.
Of course, he has his weaknesses too. His defensive work-rate is, simply put, poor. On several occasions, I’ve noticed that he fails to track his man and fortunately for him, this has not to my knowledge led to any goals conceded. With Spain’s expansive brand of football, where absolute dominance of possession is integral, a great deal of pressing and hassling of the opposition is vital; it is a team effort all round, where every player is required to push the opposing team back and regain possession of the ball.
Oliver has to add to this aspect of his game should he want to break into the Spain and Atlético teams alike in future, who employ a similar style of play.
Should he overcome these drawbacks, I’ve little doubt that he’ll become one of the best midfielders in Spain in future.
With the 18 year-old’s rise to prominence in recent years, Óliver Torres was always going to attract attention. Over the past few months or so, it has been widely reported that the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool had sent scouts to watch the midfielder in action. Chelsea’s interest in the youngster is understood to be the most longstanding and concrete, with them reportedly having made what was described as a ‘dizzying offer’ in the summer of 2012.
Manchester City are supposedly the latest club to join a host of European clubs to register interest in Óliver. According to the Daily Mail, City sent their scout David Fernandez to Spain to watch him in Atlético’s goalless draw with Deportivo earlier this month.
Oliver has a contract keeping him at the Vicente Calderón until June 2017, and for now, it appears he’ll be staying there for years to come, despite the overwhelming interest expressed in him.
No doubt Atlético Madrid will find it harder and harder to retain the services of the midfielder as the years go by, but one thing’s for sure – no matter where Oliver Torres ends up, we can expect to see some great things from him.