In what probably could be the steal of the transfer window, Óliver Torres is expected to join Borussia Dortmund within the next few days, according to Italian transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio. Who is this 21-year-old midfielder?
Spain doesn’t have a shortage of highly talented players who are a promise for the future. Born in Navalmoral de la Mata in the province of Cáceres, Óliver is in the mix for the discussion about who could carry the Iberian football nation in five or ten years. Unfortunately for him, his run at Atlético de Madrid, his home club, might come to an end, as he has not been convincing in the eyes of coach Diego Simeone.
Óliver joined the Rojiblancos in 2008 at the age of 13. He spent four years progressing through the youth ranks before being introduced to the first team by Simeone. The 2012/13 season opener saw Óliver making his first appearance in a senior match, coming on as a substitute for Adrián López in the 64th minute of a 1–1 away draw against Levante UD.
In January of 2014, Atlético loaned him to fellow top-division side Villarreal CF until the end of the campaign, and a season later to Portuguese powerhouse FC Porto.
Under the guidance of coach Julen Lopetegui, Óliver experienced a break-out year. After returning to the Rojiblancos last summer, he played not less than 45 minutes in every match until mid-October, but struggled to even make the squad in recent weeks. That fact has fuelled rumours that he could leave Madrid once again, and this time permanently.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Even though Óliver looked like a boy among men at the beginning, he has earned the respect of team-mates and opponents over the years. The 2014 Golden Boy Award nominee is respected for his skills when having the ball at his feet.
Óliver comes from the Spanish footballing education, where technique is rated higher than physical superiority. His small stature combined with a rather upright running style make him unique on the pitch.
The 21-year-old provides a versatility that is curse and blessing at this point in his career. Watching him fighting for a spot in Atlético’s starting XI over the last couple of months, he ranges between a deep-lying playmaker and a half-space-orientated winger. Óliver can do it all in midfield, yet he still has to find the most fitting position.
Óliver’s lack of dynamic within the first few yards affects his mobility when playing out wide. Rather, he should stick to his playmaking abilities in the middle, although he does not have the most strategically sound passing play.
His strength lies in his desire to overwhelm the opposing defence by consistently penetrating open spaces without getting caught due to his remarkable elusiveness. Particularly, Óliver’s positional awareness, as he frequently looks over his shoulders to scan the field, gives him the edge over opponents.
He has a feeling for the spaciousness of a football pitch, which widens his passing and moving options. Óliver often reconsiders the obvious short-range passing option, which, in his eyes, does not help to continue a play effectively, before releasing the ball. His wide-range balls have a decisive influence on the design of his team’s attacking plays.
He aims to be influential; although that means that he can become pushy within the group. At times, he is intelligently positioned in the half-space, demanding the ball to just get involved as quick as possible. He has yet to find the right balance between reticence and pertinacity.
“[Óliver] stands out because he always wants the ball,” said Julen Lopetegui, his former coach at Porto. “He is ambitious and intelligent.”
As mentioned above, his real strength, however, comes in play when he drags the ball through central zones or takes on defenders near the penalty box.
The 21-year-old tends to open his body towards the potential next pass receiver, turning away from the rolling direction of the ball. It shows you that, on the one hand, Óliver offers a very special combination of movements and, on the other hand, he is able to have clear control over situations.
Moreover, he can vary his stances, often keeping his feet close together, which, for instance, enables quick left-right combinations with his right sole and the inside of his left foot. Or Óliver shields the ball by using a wide posture.
There are plenty of other tricks he has in his repertoire – for example a feinting move by changing his balance to his front foot and immediately to his lead foot afterwards, while the ball simply rolls by untouched.
But make no mistake about it, Óliver is everything but a dallying young gun who wants to showboat.
Even at a young age, he is already dead serious as far as the effectiveness and the influence of his actions are concerned. Yet, as stated, that can become a problem. For example, when he identifies an open man in open space, but doesn’t have the right posture to play the ball accurately, he makes hasty decisions, trying to force the pass, which, of course, does not work most of the time.
As for Dortmund, signing Óliver could extend Thomas Tuchel’s options in filling the midfield positions. In particular, the Spaniard’s long-range cross-field passes from one half-space to the wing could fit Dortmund’s system of constantly overloading one side to set up quick shifts to the other side of the field. If he joins the Black and Yellow, he will probably play a Kagawa or Gündoğan role in midfield.
As Óliver’s playing style mostly lacks runs behind opposing back-lines and as he is not really prolific in terms of end product, the 21-year-old is barely qualified for a winger role in Dortmund’s starting eleven. Even if he played as winger on paper at Atlético, he more or less behaved like centre-midfielder.
Overall, you can hardly criticize the (potential) signing of such a talented and young player. A reported transfer fee of €24 million does not seem to be exorbitant, even if we take his recent problems at Atlético into consideration.