Lucas Torreira has been a revelation under Marco Giampaolo at Sampdoria ever since joining them following the completion of his loan at Pescara in July 2016. Giampaolo has moulded the young Uruguayan into one of the best defensive midfielders in Italy which has seen Torreira linked with a move to the likes of Atletico Madrid in the future.
Torreira joined Pescara permanently as an 18-year-old when leaving Montevideo and changing Uruguay for Italy. After a season in the academy and on the fringes of the first team, Sampdoria purchased the youngster but loaned him back to Pescara for the 2015/16 season. Torreira’s position changed at Pescara, from an attacking midfielder into a defensive midfielder. He starred at Pescara in 2015/16 from the base of midfield as Massimo Oddo’s brilliant side which won promotion to the top flight. Oddo lined the team up in a 4-3-2-1 formation where Torreira sat in the centre of the midfield three and constructed the attacking play with his passing. As the loan ended, Torreira went to Sampdoria for the first time and joined up with a highly talented team and the new coach Giampaolo.
From the beginning of Giampaolo’s tenure, Torreira has been given the trust of the coach. Initially, Luca Cigarini rotated with Torreira but as the season grew so did Torreira’s involvement. Towards the second half of the campaign, Torreira was the undoubted choice as the defensive midfielder of Giampaolo’s 4-3-1-2 formation, appearing in 35 Serie A games in total. This season, Torreira’s development has continued, he’s started every single one of the eleven league games and now he’s one of the very best defensive midfielders in Italy.
In this image you can see Torreira’s position at the base of Giampaolo’s diamond midfield in front of the back four.
Torreira is an extremely physical player. Sometimes it’s hard to believe he used to play as a number 10 when seeing how strong and physical he is. His tackling is really strong and his strength is a clear asset in his battling performances when defending. The main trait of Torreira though is the classic case of the Uruguayan “garra”, their grit and determination. Torreira’s mentality is probably his biggest strength. He seems to approach every single game, every single minute on the pitch like it is his last. He fights for everything and if you’re up against Lucas Torreira you know you’re in for a proper fight. He averages 2.9 tackles per game as well as 2.1 interceptions, highlighting his intelligence in the defensive phase. The clips below highlight his quality when tackling to break up play. He’s strong, uncompromising and relentless. Simply put, he has “garra”.
Torreira isn’t the normal elegant type of regista many Italian times deploy. Still, he’s a very efficient passer of the ball who moves it quickly and simply. When in possession, his intelligence and spatial awareness are important parts of his game. The video below highlights how he reads the situations and identifies the space he has around him and the way he quickly turns out of pressure. This suggest sublime spatial awareness and confidence in abundance given the tight situations he often finds himself in.
Torreira averages 64.5 passes per game at a completion rate of 86.5 % for Sampdoria so far this season. In Giampaolo’s setup, short passing combinations is key in the way they try to progress the play. Their formation, 4-3-1-2, means triangles and diamonds automatically appear simply through their positioning, but you still need to be able to move the ball quickly to make it effective. Torreira is key in this approach as he moves the ball quickly and well and helps Sampdoria stabilize their positional play. Torreira and his fellow midfielders in the midfield three are stationed quite deep and receive passes from the back four to attract pressure from the opposition’s second line of pressure and then exploit the vacated space behind the opposition’s midfield from where they attack quickly. You’ll see an example of this in the video below. Giampaolo’s positional play is further analyzed here.
Torreira isn’t by any means a great goalscorer. He’s managed five goals in total for Pescara and Sampdoria. Last week, Torreira scored his first goal for Sampdoria. And what a goal it was. Watch this insane free-kick below and enjoy. Evidently Torreira knows how to strike a ball.
From his time at Pescara I found this delicious finish. Now we understand why he used to play as a number 10.
Torreira’s development under Giampaolo has been remarkable. He now stands up there with the very best midfielders in Serie A. Realistically, Torreira won’t be at Samp next season. He combines excellent passing with strong tackling, a terrific positional sense and superb spatial awareness. He’s already been linked with Atletico Madrid, Juventus will likely be interested and Roma could also be an option as he’s a perfect replacement for Daniele De Rossi. For now though, Torreira will continue to develop under Giampaolo and impress at the base of Sampdoria’s midfield. Try to watch Sampdoria the next time they play. You’ll be impressed by them and their play under one of Europe’s best coaches. You’ll also be impressed by their defensive midfielder, the superb Uruguayan Lucas Torreira.