The Romanian Messi or the Porno Midget? What can Arsenal fans expect from Gabriel Torje
Football Spy has signed up some of the web's top foreign football experts to provide you with first-hand information on the latest Premier League transfer targets. Here's guest writer Mina Rzouki on prospective Arsenal signing Gabriel Torje.
Hailed as the most gifted Romanian midfielder of his generation, Gabriel Torje's tantalising technique, blistering pace and powerful shot left Udinese scouts captivated. He was identified as the future heir to Alexis Sanchez.
The Italian press salivated over the prospect of watching this explosive midfielder in action, aware of Udinese’s sensational eye for talent that has seen them make €46m from the sale of three players in recent years. Sold to the Italians for a fee the Romanian Press estimated to be €7m - a hefty sum when you consider Udinese’s most expensive purchase came in the form of Daniele Di Michele for £8.5m – the starlet arrived with high expectations.
When quizzed by journalists who had come to meet the man dubbed 'the Romanian Messi', an overwhelmed Torje admitted to feeling the pressure of expectation and immediately set out to explain he was not Alexis Sanchez. However, just like the dearly departed Chilean, the player is versatile in midfield and in his own words is a “trequartista who can go left, right or through the middle” while boasting the same agility and fluidity.
Torje was mentored and nurtured by the Romanian legend Gheorghe Hagi, who was immediately attracted to the player’s ability to surprise the opponent with his bursts of acceleration and his exquisite ball control as he dribbled down the pitch. However, more than a question of talent, Torje possessed that ambition that saw him eager to iron out the weaknesses of his game in order to reach the upper echelons of the footballing world.
Having lived in poverty for much of his childhood, Torje was born into a working class family of four whose parents strove to earn enough to provide food. Evicted from their home a reported four times, the family were briefly made to share only one room to survive in the rough economic climate before the father moved abroad for several years to earn a little more money whilst the mother worked three jobs to help provide for Gabriel and his sister.
Torje had no option but to be ambitious and could not afford weaknesses. A player who often complained of fatigue, the starlet spent nights improving his stamina and even more time to develop his weaker foot, aware that having only one good foot would hinder his potential. Yet despite all the hard work, Torje is still very much a rough diamond in need of polishing and far from glory.
Naive in his approach to football, his crosses are often mistimed, his movements are little erratic and his decision-making leaves his teammates frustrated. Against Milan, the player demonstrated his raw ability on the ball despite being tightly marked but in a league that demands intelligence, Torje’s poor judgement was consistently exposed.
Like many talents before him, the Romanian’s illuminating performances - such as the one against Lecce in which he won plaudits for his fluid movements and ability to shake off defenders as he delivered an assist - are likely to be accompanied by anonymous ones in which he offers little to the game. However as Luxembourg will testify when they faced Romania in the Euro qualifiers in September, when the boy is afforded space, his impact on the game is unrivalled.
Torje's poor decision-making has impacted his off field behaviour too, having been involved in several scandals in Romania, the most famous of which is when he drunkenly sang Steaua Bucharest’s anthem with friends despite playing for Dinamo Bucuresti, their rivals. Rumoured threesomes and late night partying made him a tabloid hit, earning the diminutive player the hilarious nickname: The Porno Midget. Asked about his sordid behaviour in an interview, a lot of which he denies, the played admitted that moving to Bucharest alone and without his family saw him indulge in excess.
However, having seemingly curbed his scandalous enthusiasm, the youngster showed great maturity when he turned down lucrative deals in order to join Italy’s Udinese side, explaining it was a club that would allow him to develop as a player.
Tracked by several teams including the Milanese giants, Arsenal are now said to be showing an interest . His versatility in midfield and eye for a pass could well soften the blow for a side that has lost its creative sparkle when they lost Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. Moreover, his pace and acceleration will prove lethal, making him almost impossible to defend against.
However, for a side that already boasts raw talent and little experience, Torje would simply be yet another starlet eager to fulfil his potential and a long way away from being the final product. Time is a luxury Arsenal can no longer afford and even Torje’s agent has called for calm. “Give him time to do well, to score 10-15 goals a season and then we can sit around a table with Udinese and whoever is interested.”