Pablo Torre & Álvaro Leiva: Primera RFEF’s teenage sensations – scout report
Last summer, the Spanish football pyramid suffered a big revamp. The former third division (Segunda B), composed of over a hundred teams divided into five groups, was divided in Segunda RFEF, the current fourth tier with 90 teams in four groups, and Primera RFEF, the current third tier with 40 teams (39 after Extremadura went out of business last week) in two groups.
In the new Primera RFEF, we find teams like Deportivo La Coruña, the team that beat Arsenal, Man United, Juventus or PSG among others in the early 2000s, alongside new projects like Gerard Piqué’s Andorra or some top teams’ B sides like Real Madrid Castilla and FC Barcelona B.
This new league has some of the best talents in Spain in it, mostly because of the eight B sides that compete there but also thanks to smaller clubs that are producing excellent talents outside La Liga’s setup.
In this scout report and tactical analysis, we’ll have a look at two of the U18 talents who are catching everyone’s attention: Pablo Torre and Álvaro Leiva. While Torre signed yesterday for Barcelona, Leiva has been linked with Real Madrid for some time now. We’ll also see how they could fit into the Spanish giants’ tactics too.
Pablo Torre (2003, Racing de Santander)
Pablo Torre is an 18-year-old Spanish midfielder who plays for Racing de Santander in Primera RFEF Group 1. Born in Santander, he came through the club’s academy and his father Esteban Torre is a former Racing Santander player so he has a good example to look upon.
Torre made his first-team debut last season aged just 17 and since then, he has played 49 games for the club in all competitions, scoring 10 goals and providing 12 assists. He’s currently part of the Spain U19 squad after featuring for the U18 side too.
He usually plays as an attacking midfielder in Racing Santander’s 4-2-3-1, much like Pedri did in Las Palmas before signing for Barcelona. In a 4-3-3, he would be the most offensive of the midfield trio or the left winger coming inside to his strong right foot.
Standing at just 1.73m / 5’8’’, Torre is a rather small player but he still has some very impressive physical characteristics. He’s extremely agile and mobile, which allows him to accelerate, stop and turn very quickly and accurately in tight spaces. His top speed is quite good, not fantastic but not slow at all. He makes lots of long efforts as he’s always on the move and can be seen making long runs to consistently be in the right position in attack.
As we just said, Torre is a very dynamic midfielder who is always offering new options and solutions to his team. He moves very well to receive between the lines but also attacks space with deep runs as soon as rivals leave any spaces. He never stops moving so he becomes very difficult to mark. His work rate in attack is excellent, he can initiate the play receiving from the centre-backs but always tries to finish them in the box and into scoring positions, participating in the attacking plays at all heights.
Technically proficient, Torre combines very well with his teammates, easily finds small pockets of space to play in and his excellent technique allows him to play in just one touch under pressure. He can play out pressure with nice backheel passes and other quality details that catch rivals off guard. With his overview of the pitch and technical ability, he becomes very difficult to press as he will often find a way to surpass players before they can even challenge him. This forces rivals to foul him if they want to stop him, which can be seen in the 2.03 fouls he suffers per 90.
He usually plays short passes and advances with combinations, keeping a very high passing accuracy of 86.89%. Moving with quick passes and one-twos, he doesn’t stand out in progressive passes per 90 but once he’s in advanced positions, he shows all his passing quality, ranking above every other attacking midfielder in the league for shot assists (2.07 per 90), xA (0.28 per 90) and assists (0.32 per 90).
He carries the ball forward at a very high speed and is very agile to accelerate and stop, which is evident in his 2.26 progressive runs per 90. Torres manipulates the ball with quality in tight spaces and is very press resistant. Even if he can still develop more physicality to resist challenges when his quality isn’t enough to escape pressure, he does quite well against tough rivals like the ones he faces in Primera RFEF.
Torre also creates danger when he runs at defenders from wide. He’s skilled in 1v1 and can dribble to either side as he feels comfortable with either foot. His relatively low dribbles success of 50% is because he attempts dribbles in very dangerous positions in and around the box where every successful dribble is very valuable and can create a scoring opportunity.
Can hit great inswinging crosses and create chances with very intelligent passes. He’s aware of rivals trying to block his passing options and uses it in his favour, attracting them with feints and then releasing the ball to a better-positioned teammate, usually the overlapping left winger or the left-back.
A standout feature of Torre’s style is his scoring ability. He has scored 6 goals so far this season, which is 0.36 goals per 90 from 0.2 xG per 90. He has excellent timing and movements to get into scoring positions, getting lots of shots around the six-yard box with late runs into the box. He manages to find space between the rival defenders very easily and doesn’t need to be big or strong to anticipate and score with his head (0.09 head goals per 90). As part of his passing style, he likes to play the ball wide and then attack the box and there are plays in which he takes the ball from a defender, gets it forward and ends up receiving a cross, which shows his great work rate.
Another source of shots for Torre are his quick dribbles at the edge. It doesn’t take much time for him to shoot so he just needs to create a yard of space to have a shooting opportunity. His finishing from the edge of the box isn’t very consistent at the moment but it seems as if it could become very good as he strikes the ball well and just needs to decide better and be a little bit more accurate.
Finally, Torre also stands out as a great set-piece taker. He has scored some nice direct free kicks this season and creates danger from wide and difficult positions with unexpected powerful and accurate shots. He also creates a lot with great crosses for wide free kicks and corner kicks.
The map above shows Torre’s shots so far this season and we can see what we’ve just described. He has scored four goals from very good positions thanks to his good late runs into the box, he shoots a lot from the edge of the box and has managed to score from difficult wide positions thanks to his ball-striking ability.
According to our xGold tool, the most statistically-similar Barcelona or Real Madrid players to Torre are Frenkie De Jong (91%), Luka Modric (91%), Pedri (91%) and Toni Kroos (90%). Below, we have his comparison with the Dutch Barcelona midfielder in which we can see how similar they are but also how Torre shoots more, progresses less with passes and is worse in the air than De Jong.
Barcelona have just announced Torre’s signing for around €5,000,000 and he could soon become a bargain at that price. He has proven he’s a dominant player at a quite high level like Primera RFEF, the same league Barcelona B play in, aged just 18. He has also performed when he has been with Spain U19, scoring 3 goals in 6 appearances.
The normal step would be for him to start playing for Barcelona B next season until a first-team opportunity appears. However, with the antecedent of Pedri adapting so quickly to a much higher level at such a young age, I wouldn’t rule out Torre immediately getting first-team minutes next season.
Álvaro Leiva (2004, Algeciras)
Álvaro Leiva is a 17-year-old Spanish winger who plays for his childhood club Algeciras in Group 2 of Primera RFEF. He made his senior debut last season aged 16 and since then, he has played 27 games and scored 3 goals.
He made his Spain U18 debut earlier in 2022 and has been recently called up to the Spain U19 team, where he’ll join Pablo Torre.
Leiva usually plays on the left side of Algeciras’ 4-4-2 but can also play on the right or behind the striker, making him a player who can adapt to different tactics.
Like Pablo Torre, Leiva stands at 1.73m / 5’8’’, which makes him a rather small prototypical winger. Naturally right-footed, he possesses excellent levels of acceleration, agility and speed that allow him to glide past players easily both in small and big spaces.
Apart from his pace, Leiva has a lot of flair and skill to get past players in 1v1 and this is his best attribute and the one that sets him apart from other young wingers. He can get past players through the tiniest spaces thanks to his excellent skill but is also capable of outpacing rivals and beating several rivals while progressing towards the goal.
Leiva is among the wingers with the most dribbles attempted (9.01 per 90) and completed (4.96 per 90). His success rate in dribbles of 55.03% is above-average and very good for a winger who attempts that many dribbles. His ball-carrying ability leads to having one of the best progressive runs figures in the league with 3.31 per 90.
As soon as he receives the ball, he turns and tries to dribble very quickly. He reads space very well and like the best dribbles, he just seems to run into empty spaces, leaving rivals behind with ease.
Leiva reaches the goal line very easily and from there he puts the ball into dangerous positions. He does this very automatically so he depends on his teammates understanding him to create chances. He could improve by raising his head more often and aiming at his teammates instead of just putting the ball into good positions and hoping for a teammate to attack that zone. At the moment, he’s providing a decent 0.11 assists from just 0.05 xA per 90 but he doesn’t stand out in shot assists (0.43 per 90) or key passes (0.21 per 90).
When he cuts inside from the left instead of dribbling on the outside and crossing, he displays some quality and vision to play through passes and stands out in this with 0.85 through passes per 90.
However, Leiva’s passing is quite inconsistent, especially when he passes the ball quickly after dribbling. He attempts just 20.53 passes per 90 and completes only 65.45% of them. He’s not accurate in combinations and often puts the wrong weight on his passes or just misses them.
While a low passing accuracy isn’t necessarily bad, in Leiva’s case it will go up massively if he can slow down a little bit before passing the ball and not always play at a very high speed. It’s normal for a 17-year-old winger to play in a very accelerated way so it should improve naturally with time.
In terms of scoring himself, Leiva is just ok. He scores 0.15 goals from 0.14 xG per 90, which is decent but not outstanding. Both his shot selection and finishing technique have a big margin to improve. He takes lots of very speculative shots from far and wide as we can see in the map below with all his shots so far this season. Those shots are mostly off-target or blocked (just 30% of his shots are on target) and the rest are inconsistent despite some good finishes.
Leiva stands out as a very hard-working player. At such a young age, he’s already very involved in defensive duties and very effective at them. He gets into 7.62 defensive duels per 90 and wins 60.84% of them. His willingness to press and block passing lanes is clear in his 4.46 possession-adjusted interceptions per 90 too.
According to our xGold tool, the most statistically-similar Barcelona or Real Madrid players to Leiva are Ez Abde (79%) and Gareth Bale (78%). The radars below show his comparison to Barcelona’s Ez Abde. We see both of them are very good dribblers and work very hard in defence but Abde creates more and better chances than Leiva even if he doesn’t get the ball forward that often.
If Torre fitted Barcelona’s classical playing style, Leiva seems to fit more into Real Madrid’s. His dribbling ability and pace would be massive assets at a team that looks to counterattack more often like Real Madrid. In some way, Leiva reminds us of the early Vinícius Júnior as an excellent player in 1v1 who still hasn’t found his way to create chances and score goals.
As soon as Leiva adds some end product to his game, he’ll be ready to play at the highest level. A player of his age with his speed, flair and directness is a rare commodity, especially nowadays when his kind of wingers are more and more scarce. Wherever he goes, he’ll surely become Algeciras’ most expensive transfer ever, a record currently held by Biri with his transfer to Sevilla for €90,000 in 1979.
Even if B teams have most of the talent in Spain thanks to them being able to play senior football until the second division, there are still some clubs who are capable of producing talents and keeping them until they feature for the first team.
Torre and Leiva are the clearest examples at the moment but Deportivo, for example, are also doing a great job producing great players, with their U19 team winning the league last season and having an excellent run in the UEFA Youth League too this season. Lots of those players have already played for the first team and are part of different Spain youth national teams.
Scouting in Primera RFEF is a very interesting focus for clubs all around the world as salaries aren’t high but it’s still full of talent. Even the B teams are a great market as it’s impossible for all the players to make it into the first team and lots of good players are released every year, especially when they turn 23 and are no longer eligible to take one of the mandatory U23 spots in the squad.