If Barcelona has had any luck in recent years, it’s been in discovering young talent in the midfield, and giving them the opportunity to take on big roles.
First it was Pedri, who Barcelona already depends on to a fault. Being overused in his rookie campaign caused him to struggle with injuries in his second. But not without putting his mark on the season by leading the team up the table and safely into the top four in just a few months of action.
Then it was Gavi, who injected much-needed toughness into the team, and showed his versatility and ability to make an impact in a variety of positions.
Sticking with the new pattern of going outside of La Masia to find the best young midfield talent in Spain, Barcelona signed Pablo Torre from Racing Santander in March for €5 million plus variables. The total price could rise to €20 million if every condition is met.
Xavi met with Torre to seal the deal over Real Madrid, and it seems that the manager himself was a factor in the final decision.
Very little is transparent with Barcelona these days, but with all the talk of selling Frenkie de Jong, who just had an outstanding game for the Netherlands, it seems like the club may be strategically looking to rebuild the team with young players, while finding opportunities on the market to get a cash infusion for their most valuable assets.
With the emergence of Gavi, and the signing of Torre, Barcelona may feel they have an insurance policy if Frenkie does go. It’s still a big risk, but hearing Frenkie describe it, Barcelona never built the midfield around him the way they probably should have to get the most out of their investment.
Xavi’s midfield will likely continue to depend on Sergio Busquets as the deepest player to pick up the ball, with Pedri as the playmaker up the field. The third center midfielder, whether it’s Frenkie, Gavi, or maybe Torre, will have to find a way to best complement the other two.
With Frenkie, you are asking for a hard-working number eight to fill in the gaps on the field. Frenkie would embrace this role, but he may be getting frustrated that he isn’t given the freedom to be more creative.
Gavi excelled the most in the absence of Pedri. It will be interesting to see what kind of tandem they develop into, but for now it’s a work in progress.
Torre, however, will be eager to make a claim for himself early in the preseason that he is the man to round off the midfield. And you can believe he will be given every opportunity to do so.
So what do we know about Pablo Torre?
Last season, he had 10 goals and 10 assists for Racing Santander in the Spanish third division, helping them achieve promotion.
| Pablo Torre's overall season stats with Racing Santander:— infosfcb (@infosfcb) May 1, 2022
️ 10 Assists
⬆️ Promotion to the second division
Torre is an attacking midfielder who is progressive on the ball, and willing to take defenders on the dribble.
He also has a good shot from distance, and is known as a set-piece specialist. He took all the free-kicks and corners last season, and recorded several goals and assists in these areas. Last season, Barcelona looked lost on free-kicks and are in search of a solution.
It’s in an interesting contrast with Pedri, who had to be encouraged to take more shots, and responded empathetically, and is appreciated for his ability to control the flow of a game in possession.
Torre is naturally more direct, and isn’t afraid to choose dribbling over passing to cut through the midfield, and will take a shot from outside the box, or play a ball over the top.
Will Xavi’s 4-3-3 function well with two attacking midfielders, or will he miss the work rate that players like Frenkie or Gavi provide?
And that’s assuming we’re ignoring another new signing in Franck Kessie who helped lead AC Milan to a Serie A title. Franck is in the prime of his career, and will be motivated to earn the position outright.
In my mind, the greatest threat to Busquets, or maybe just a plan for life after him, is if Xavi tries a 4-2-3-1 and plays Frenkie and Franck together as a double pivot. That would put Torre behind Pedri as the attacking center midfielder.
In the midfield, Xavi will be spoiled for options, but losing Frenkie would still be a huge risk.
The manager will be looking for a resolution soon to know whether the Dutchman is in his plans for next season.
If he is, Frenkie will be a focal point of the midfield, in which case Xavi would be wise to study the Dutch national team, and discover new ways to get the most out of him. Heck, while he’s at it, might as well take a look at Memphis Depay as well, who continues to thrive in an orange shirt.
But if Frenkie is sold, Pablo Torre will be the big winner.
He was brought in with the “intention” of playing for Barca B, or Barca Atletic as they will now be called, but everyone will be looking to see if he is made of the same stuff as Pedri and Gavi, and fights for a spot in the first team.
Safe to say Xavi has good problems to solve in the midfield.
For culers, this preseason will be an opportunity to watch yet another promising young midfield talent in action, with the hope that he could be a player to build a future around.