Lucas Torreira has joined Spanish side Atlético Madrid on a season-long loan, for a €2m (£1.8m) loan fee. It was initially thought that Torreira would join up with Marco Giampaolo at Torino, his former manager from his time with Sampdoria, however, Torreira instead opted for Atlético Madrid.
Torreira is the fourth player to leave Arsenal this summer, after the departures of Henrikh Mkhitaryan to AS Roma and Emiliano Martínez to Aston Villa for £20m and Mattéo Guendouzi’s loan to Hertha Berlin.
Torreira joined Arsenal in 2o18 for around £26m from Italian side Sampdoria, beating competition from Napoli for his signature. Torreira was initially signed for slightly above his release clause of €25m (£22m), as it allowed Arsenal to pay the fee in instalments and gave Sampdoria a guaranteed financial income.
The Uruguayan midfielder was initially discovered by former Arsenal Head of Recruitment Sven Mislintat, who discovered Torreira through Mislintat’s own statistical analysis platform Scoutpanel, by simply typing N’Golo Kanté’s name into the search bar and scouting any related players.
Arsenal had to initially delay announcing the midfielder to begin with as Torreira was still involved in Uruguay’s impressive 2018 World Cup exploits. Torreira’s performances for Uruguay were considered extremely impressive, playing in all five of Uruguay’s games, which prompted further interest in Torreira, but his arrival in North London was never seriously put in doubt.
Torreira’s start to life at Arsenal was slow to begin with as Unai Emery began to ease the midfielder in, before cementing his place in the midfield alongside then-captain Granit Xhaka.
Possibly the defining moment of Torreira’s time at Arsenal was his performance in the North London Derby against Tottenham Hotspur. Torreira was in spectacular form that day, throwing himself into tackles and capping off an impressive display with the team’s fourth goal, the reverberations of which have still not fully subsided from the Emirates Stadium today.
From there, Torreira’s form went from strength-to-strength as he scored an acrobatic overhead kick against Huddersfield Town and claimed his fifth Man of the Match award in as many games.
Though Arsenal’s season ended in heartbreak with defeat in the Europa League final against Chelsea, Torreira was considered to have been one of the bright sparks in Unai Emery’s disappointing first season.
However, his second season with Arsenal was not so straight-forward. Given Unai Emery’s public feud with Mesut Özil, Torreira was often deployed further up the field, away from the defensive midfield position that he was so accustomed to.
This often meant that Arsenal lacked any real steel in midfield and that Torreira’s rather lacklustre passing abilities were exposed as Arsenal struggled to create chances in the German’s absence. This led to Torreira’s confidence taking a rather staggering blow and he was subsequently dropped. Though Emery’s tenure soon came to an end, Torreira struggled to find much game time under new coach Mikel Arteta.
Torreira’s place in the team was thrown into further doubt when he was injured in Arsenal’s FA Cup tie against Portsmouth, which was thought to rule him out for the rest of the season, however, after the COVID-19 pandemic brought football to a grinding halt, Torreira was given time to recover and impress.
Under Arteta, Torreira still struggled to nail down a starting position, especially with the resurgence of Dani Ceballos’ form following the restart and though Arsenal reached the FA Cup final, Torreira was an unused substitute.
Torreira’s preference for playing in Italy has long been known, with the player and his agent Pablo Bentancur regularly citing Torreira’s apparent fondness for the country and missing the place he had come to call home.
It was thought that AC Milan, now led by former Arsenal Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis and now former manager Marco Giampaolo, were very interested in the midfielder, however, the Italian side were put off by Arsenal’s asking price.
Following Giampaolo’s dismissal from AC Milan, he moved to Torino, which is likely what ignited their interest in Torreira. Fellow Serie A side Fiorentina had thought to have been closing to striking a deal for Torreira, however, they were unable to meet Arsenal’s demands and subsequently dropped out of the running for the midfielder, leaving Torino’s path clear.
Torreira leaves Arsenal as something of a disappointment. Initially signed as the hard-working defensive midfielder that Arsenal had been craving ever since the days of Arsène Wenger, Arsenal’s poor form, changes behind the scenes, mismanagement at the hands of Unai Emery and a lack of consistent game-time under Mikel Arteta, meant that Torreira’s potential remains unfulfilled at the club.