“I’ll never change,” smiled a young Lucas Torreira, surrounded by family and childhood friends while enjoying a few days back home in Fray Bentos during January’s winter break.
He may be the same, but everything around the Sampdoria and Uruguay midfielder is changing. A summer move could be in the offing as Arsenal are in talks with Sampdoria over a deal for Torreira .
Torreira is one of several players identified to improve Arsenal’s spine this summer,
“It’s true, people recognise me more now,” he told Ovacion . “In Uruguay I was never known as I left so young.”
Twenty-two-year-old Torreira left home at 17, packing his bags for Italy to join Pescara before having even kicked a ball in his homeland.
A tricky no.10, he’d impressed since moving to the capital to join Montevideo Wanderers in 2013 and was immediately snapped up by the Italian club, who themselves didn’t see much of him before Sampdoria came calling.
Torreira agreed to join Samp in July 2015 but remained at Pescara for a second season, which would prove the making of him. In an increasing trend in European football, Torreira followed in the footsteps of the likes of Leandro Paredes as he was converted from an attacking midfielder into a defensive one.
“It was pre-season training and the club told me to take a look at him and said, ‘If not, we’ll send him back to Uruguay’,” then coach Massimo Oddo told La Repubblica . “I saw in him a football intelligence, personality, physical strength… but he always wanted the ball at his feet. So, I told him, ‘Why don’t you play as a defensive midfielder instead of the playmaker?’ I put him in the first team immediately.”
Operating deeper, Torreira found the space he needed to conduct the play and led Pescara to promotion, immediately earning comparisons to a former alumni, Marco Verratti.
Torreira barely has an inch on 5’5″ Verratti, and has shown the same poise, strength and creativity that earned the latter his big move to PSG.
And, at Sampdoria, Torreira picked up where he left off, stepping up to top-flight European football with what Sampdoria sporting director Carlo Osti labelled ‘ridiculous ease’. A mainstay of the side last term, he’s added a defensive grit and tactical discipline to his game that has made him the complete midfielder.
He’s in Serie A’s top five for tackles this season, making a hugely impressive 2.8 per game. He’s also in the league’s top 15 for passes per game with an average of 61 and has created 36 chances for his team-mates.
Only five players in Italy’s top flight have drawn more fouls than Torreira, who is using his body impressively to earn the free-kicks that he can then hammer towards goal. Two of his four strikes this season have arrived direct from set-plays, including one of the goals of the season with a remarkable curling, dipping drive from 30 yards against Chievo.
“If Torreira were 1.8 metres tall, he would already cost €100million and would be considered among the strongest playmakers in the world,” Sampdoria coach Marco Giampaolo told Corriere dello Sport. “He can play it short or long, wins the ball back, restarts play and always seems to know where the ball will be. He’ll go to a big club that does not care so much about his stature.”
With the likes of Atletico Madrid, Inter, AC Milan, Juventus and Liverpool all reported to be showing major interested in the Uruguayan who made his senior international debut in March, Samp are already facing a fight to keep him.
It appears time for another change. And little Lucas Torreira will command a giant transfer fee when the time comes.