Arsenal‘s defensive midfield position has been a problem ever since the departure of Gilberto Silva in 2008, but new manager Unai Emery is closing in on a solution.
The club are close to signing Sampdoria’s Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira, who has impressed in Serie A and earned a spot in his national team’s 23-man World Cup squad.
So who exactly is the 22-year-old who could be the new anchor in Arsenal’s midfield?
ONCE DUBBED THE NEW CARLOS TEVEZ
Torreira arrived in Italy as a striker, drawing comparisons with Carlos Tevez for his combative style up front. But then-Pescara manager Massimo Oddo, who had won the World Cup with Italy in 2006, saw that the youngster’s abilities were better suited in midfield.
The Uruguayan thrived in his new role, earning a move to Sampdoria and soon earning a reputation as one of Serie A’s best defensive midfielders. Arsenal may have finally found the answer to their problems at the position.
Interesting fact about Torreira: He arrived in Italy as a striker and was described as the new Carlos Tevez. What a talented young player. I haven't been this excited about a player in a long time.— danny (@dannyftbl) June 12, 2018
OOOOO LUCAS TORREIRA pic.twitter.com/fZNVrgNZFl
LUIS SUAREZ DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS URUGUAYAN
The first time Luis Suarez encountered his compatriot Torreira was when Barcelona were playing Sampdoria in a pre-season friendly in 2016. At the time, Suarez didn’t know Torreira was a fellow Uruguayan – in fact, he had no idea who the defensive midfielder was at all.
“I was surprised by the youngster who had been in the middle of the park for the whole match,” Suarez told Telemundo earlier this season. “After that evening, I learned he was Uruguayan, and from that moment, I started to follow him a bit in Serie A.”
Lucas Torreira: "When we played Barcelona, Suárez didn't know I was Uruguayan. I didn't want to say. After the game, I asked for a photo." pic.twitter.com/GtO38zS7n9— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 15, 2017
PRODUCT OF THE FAMED PESCARA PRODUCTION LINE
Recent stars to have spent formative years at Pescara include Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile and Mattia Perin. It’s safe to say that the club based on the eastern coast of Italy has been a good finishing school for some bright young talents.
Torreira, then, is the latest in a long line of promising players to come out of Pescara with an enhanced reputation.
BETTER THAN VERRATTI?
Roberto Druda, the scout who brought Torreira to Sampdoria, told Calciomercato last year that Pescara manager Oddo believed the Uruguayan could be even stronger than Verratti.
Apparently, he wasn’t alone, as Druda said “many others” were “convinced” of this notion. Now, Torreira has a stage where he can prove them right.
Torreira often presented as a Verratti-type and there is some justification for that given shared background at Pescara and switch of position. Less sexy but as important IMO is his overlooked ability as a ball winner. Helluva shot on him too when he ventures forward— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) June 12, 2018
A 22-YEAR-OLD VETERAN
Lucas Torreira already has 71 Serie A starts under his belt – but his time as a first-choice player goes beyond that. Those starts came for Sampdoria, but he also made 29 for Pescara in 2015-16 as he spearheaded their promotion from Serie B.
Put together, that’s 100 starts in three seasons in Italy. For reference, Paul Pogba made 108 in four seasons for Juventus. It’s a comparison that flatters the Uruguayan.
Torreira's 2 seasons at Sampdoria:— P.I.M.P. (@PoznanInMyPants) June 13, 2018
Basically started every game since he arrived / is never subbed off.
35 and 36 starts in Serie A.
More than 3000 mins both seasons. 6233 total in Seria A.
For us, only Sanchez was playing that level of mins over those 2 seasons.
The Senegal international scored in last month’s Champions League defeat to the Spanish club and speculation almost immediately suggested he was a target for them – before Zinedine Zidane’s shock resignation.
But Mane, preparing for the start of the World Cup in Russia, insists he feels at home at Anfield.
“I am very happy in Liverpool and my contract will last for three more years,” the 26-year-old, a former Red Bull Salzburg player, told Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten.
“But you never know what will happen in the future. I want to win trophies, especially the Champions League.”
Mane said it was tough to put the heartbreaking final defeat behind him but he has now turned his focus to Senegal’s tournament in Russia.
“To be honest, this defeat was not easy to put away. The whole club worked hard for this Champions League title, but Real Madrid were the better team that day,” he added.
“We lost to the best team in the world. The defeat is ticked off. Now it is time to play with Senegal (and have) a good and successful World Cup. That’s my whole focus.”
Liverpool launched their ‘deep violet’ away kit on Thursday and defender Virgil van Dijk said: “We have the best travelling support in football and I’m excited to run out in front of our fans wearing this strip.”
It is the second successive summer that Griezmann has been the subject of speculation over a big-money switch away from the Rojiblancos.
Find out what he had to say ahead of the big tournament.