Despite the recent defeat at the hands of Brazil in the Confederations Cup, Spain has been setting the benchmark in the world of football for more than 4 years now and their dominance revolves around their exceptional midfielders over the years. Oliver Torres joins a long yet impressive list of promising midfielders coming out of Spain.
English clubs Chelsea and Manchester City have both shown concrete interest in the player who is yet to establish himself in Atletico Madrid’s first team, having made only 7 appearances, most of which have come from the bench. Having been compared to legends, Oliver has been called the next Xavi as well as “Miniesta”, in what seems like a contradiction of sorts. But what it ensures is immense potential.
A complete midfielder with the knack to find a pass, Oliver is a natural playmaker who can dictate the tempo of the game and destroy the opposition with his passing. His range is impressive to say the least, with every pass in his locker: a one touch layoff, a long diagonal, a slide rule pass to set the attacker free and even an over the top hoof pass to the centre forward. Oliver’s composure only adds to his abilities to find a teammate, and his impressive passing percentages in last year’s U-19 European Championships mean he is in the right direction. At just 18, he will only get better.
When experts compare the young Atletico player to Xavi, it’s not difficult to see why. Like the Barcelona legend, Oliver has the uncanny ability to spot runs of players and has an almost 360 view once in possession. Making eye-of-the-needle passes comes naturally to Oliver, and more often than not, it’s he who rips open the defence with a splitting pass in the final third.
Oliver is capable of playing deep if need be, and that suits his game perfectly: with fewer players to confront, he can launch 40-60 yard balls to the attackers with almost pinpoint accuracy. Despite this, his assists tally has never been high up and has drawn criticism too. Oliver’s game is more about setting up an assist rather than setting up a goal, and if pre-assists were counted he would have a sizable number. Having said that, Oliver would like to get involved more directly, sooner rather than later.
Spain’s football in recent years has been all about possession, passing and movement. But pressing and defensive shifts put in by the midfield is the most elemental trick for all their successful sides, and Oliver Torres doesn’t impress in this one, albeit important area of the game. Often too casual to track back, being not attentive enough without the ball added to his already feeble physique means he could be a liability once dispossessed. It would be unfair to say the 18 year old has zero defensive work; he tries to close down spaces if and when possible, and his reading of the game makes sure he intercepts a decent number of balls. But there is a lot to improve for Oliver, especially his work rate, which isn’t anywhere close to top notch for now.
Though not his biggest strength, Oliver has good dribbling skills and this is one of the reasons he is sometimes called Miniesta. At the U-20 World Cup in Turkey this year, he floated between the lines and almost every move went through Oliver. Receiving the ball when surrounded by 2-3 players, the 18 year old often manages to get out of jail with his quick feet and wonderful movement. Without the ball too, the Atletico youngster looks to free himself space to receive a pass by getting off his marker. His movement in the box needs improvement, and that will with more playing time at the senior level.
One of the biggest attributes a manager looks for is goals from midfield. Oliver has a good shot in him but has often seemed reluctant to shoot, and as a result doesn’t have many goals to his name. Overall, his direct involvement with goals is quite low and that needs to be worked upon. Oliver gives an impression that he is content with making passes with accuracy, lacking any hunger for goals. His shooting from range isn’t up to the mark, but from in and around the box he has good shooting accuracy.
VERDICT: Oliver Torres is the typical Spanish midfielder, with a lot to improve upon
At 18 years old, Oliver has age on his side and with more involvement in the first team this season, we could see him mature into a more complete player. The comparisons with Xavi and Iniesta are obvious at different levels, but it’s important that Oliver looks to concentrate on developing his game under Simeone for now. The transfer interest has been flattering for someone so young, but he clearly has the talent, and Atletico won’t be able to hang on to him for much longer surely. Barcelona have had an eye on him, and might be looking at him as Xavi’s long term successor after the departure of Thiago. Whether he is ready just yet remains doubtful, but the future is definitely bright.