Who is Pau Torres? Ramos' heir linked with Real Madrid and Man Utd

  "I've been a coach in Sevilla, PSG, Arsenal, and I’ve never seen a centre back like Pau Torres." Unai Emery may have his cri...

 

"I've been a coach in Sevilla, PSG, Arsenal, and I’ve never seen a centre back like Pau Torres." Unai Emery may have his critics, but there is no denying he has managed some top centre-back talent in his career, so his praise of Torres is a ringing endorsement. 

 

Spain's next top defensive talent is on the radar of a handful of elite teams across the continent. Real Madrid are eying the Villarreal ace as their long-term successor for Sergio Ramos, who is out of contract in the summer and has his reservations at extending his stay at the Bernabeu. Given his age and huge wage demands, Los Blancos are perhaps more inclined to allow their captain to leave at long last, but there remains a gap to fill at the heart of the defence if Ramos' 16-year association with the LaLiga powerhouse does indeed come to an end this summer. 

 

Torres boasts the ball playing quality to follow in Ramos' footsteps at the Bernabeu with his average of 64.2 passes per game the fourth best of centre-backs in Spain's top tier this term, a metric topped by the iconic 34-year-old (75.5), and reinforces a WhoScored strength of 'passing'.  

 

The rising 24-year-old star doesn't have the same agressive nature by comparison to Ramos. Indeed, Torres has been booked just once in 26 LaLiga appearances this season, and commits just 0.4 fouls per game compared to Ramos' three bookings and average of 1.1 fouls per game from 14 league outings. However, this is no bad thing for Torres, whose measured approach to defending exudes a calmness at the back. It's for this reason, too, why Premier League duo Manchester United and Manchester City have been linked with a move for the Villarreal defender. 

 

United themselves have been credited with an interest in Ramos, and his current Real Madrid teammate Raphael Varane, as they seek to secure the services of a long-term partner for Harry Maguire. City, meanwhile, boast the best defensive record in the Premier League and have four quality centre-backs on the books already, but with Eric Garcia tipped to return to Barcelona at the end of the season, Pep Guardiola is wary about being caught short at the back. 

 

Nevertheless, with a €50m release clause on a contract that runs until 2024, Villarreal are under no pressure to sell their prized asset and it means interested parties will have to pay top dollar for Torres. Yet they'd be paying big for a centre-back who is not only one for the future, but a top performer in the here and now. 

A fully fledged Spain international, he played every minute of La Roja's impressive UEFA Nations League group campaign, and returned a pass success rate of 94.9%, that one of the best in League A as he didn't let the pressure of representing his country get the better of him. A series of assured displays saw his stock rise further and while Villarreal's form has seen them drop out of the European spots - the Yellow Submarine have won just twice in the league in 2021 and are mired on a eight-game winless run - Torres continues to excel. 

 

Given his style of play, there is an element of risk that comes with playing the ball out from the back, yet since establishing himself as a first team regular for Villarreal, Torres is yet to commit an error leading to a goal from his 60 outings, which suggests he has the mental qualities to know as and when the play the right pass, a trait that belies his tender years. 

 

An area of weakness, though, is perhaps his aerial dominance, or lack thereof. Standing just shy of 6'3", Torres doesn't maximises his physique and it's seen him return an aerial success rate of just 62.3%, but what he lacks in beating his opponents in the air, he makes up for in putting his body on the line for the good of his team. Only Gonzalo Verdu (27) has blocked more shots than Torres (22) in LaLiga this season and in throwing himself in the way of the ball to defend the Villarreal goal, it's seen him become a fan favourite and helped Emery's side concede just 29 league goals this season, that the sixth best defensive record in the league. 

 

Villarreal would be reluctant to let Torres leave, but their hands are tied by a release clause that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic affecting finances of all football teams, is still relatively affordable in the modern game. Real Madrid are the favourites to land his services in the summer, even if Ramos remains in the capital and given Ruben Dias' success upon his arrival from Benfica, City are unlikely to pursue their rumoured interest in Torres, which leaves United as Real Madrid's main rivals for the defender's services. 


With the Euro's looming, Torres' reputation will only increase if Spain go the distance this summer and that would undoubtedly boost the number of potential suitors and it's not undeserving for a centre-back whose career is very much on the up.

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