August 12, 2022

Luca de la Torre is used to betting on himself and coming out on top in the end. At 15, he left San Diego to join the academy of the English side of Fulham. He rose through the ranks and eventually broke into the first team, but when playing time proved limited, De la Torre joined lowly Dutch side Heracles Almelo in 2020.

It could have been seen as a setback, but he got the regular playing time he was looking for and became a regular contributor there, which allowed him to work his way into the manager’s calculation. US Men’s National Team Gregg Berhalter. De La Torre has seen his stock soar in 2022; now he’s making his biggest bet yet, completing a move to Spain and joining La Liga side Celta Vigo on Friday for a bargain transfer fee of just over $2 million.

The 24-year-old midfielder is heading to arguably the best league in the world, one that will test him like never before. But it’s a decision he welcomes.

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“It’s the type of progression I wanted, to a really good league and a team that kind of matches my style of play,” he told ESPN by phone from Vigo. “They like to keep the ball. They like to play really attacking football. Also the manager demands a lot of work ethic off the ball which I think kind of describes me as a player so that really is a good place to be.”

Perhaps the biggest risk for De la Torre is the impact of this decision on his prospects for the United States national team. Had he stayed with Heracles, he would almost certainly have had guaranteed playing time, albeit in the Dutch second division after the club’s relegation. This scenario was unlikely to improve his chances of making the USA squad for Qatar. But now he will try to break into a Celta side who finished 11th last year, just four months from the World Cup.

In a translated report from Spanish outlet Marca, De la Torre was described as a player ‘to raise the level of competition in the team, but not to initially be a starter’. This characterization is not necessarily flattering, but the situation is one that De la Torre does not find daunting. After all, he’s been here before.

“I think the way I see myself, whatever change I have to make in my career, it will always be ambitious and a step up in the competition,” he said. “I welcome that, really. That’s why I succeeded with the national team, because I kind of embraced that situation. So I’m happy to have him here. And I had to win as well. my place with Heracles. . It’s always the same in football. I think it’s going to be really nice here, with some really good players.”

The move will come with the usual demands in terms of adapting to a new culture and a new language. De la Torre holds a Spanish passport through his father, but whatever his Spanish skills were, he was long gone. “I’m going to have to take lessons,” he said.

There’s also the adjustment to the team’s style, although De la Torre believes his passing and ability to move the ball on the dribble fit well in his new surroundings. “I think a lot of people would say I’m kind of a stereotypical Spanish player, you know, really technical,” he said. “So I think I’m going to fit in well here.”

De la Torre’s ambitions for club and country have long been linked, and his move to Heracles was made with his international aspirations in mind. Playing weekly in the Dutch league has boosted his confidence, and De la Torre says he knows more about himself as a player now, how hard he can work with the ball and how much he can help his team. “It really allowed me to blossom,” he said.

He experienced the same progression with the American team. It wasn’t until the end of 2021 that De la Torre found himself called up with the full squad and as World Cup qualifying progressed his responsibilities increased, including departures in games. criticism against Honduras and Panama, which the United States won.

“I think it was just about trying my luck when I was playing for the national team,” he said. “I kind of had this feeling that every time I played I had to be one of the best players on the pitch or do some really good deeds if I got a few minutes off the bench. [Otherwise], it would be difficult to get another chance. I think I really kind of embraced that feeling and I’ve been pretty consistent, I think, in the chances I’ve had.”

De la Torre’s progression has been such that he’s not just aiming to fly to Qatar, but to work his way into the starting lineup. With Berhalter continuing to tinker with his midfield and injuries still being a factor, that target is within reach. To seize it, it will be necessary to make the most of his time at Celta. De la Torre said Berhalter gave his blessing to the move given that it matches the player’s skill set.

“I have to adapt to a new club, and that usually takes time, but I want to get there as soon as possible, get minutes, really show my quality here so I can make an impact with the national team,” did he declare. said.

De la Torre’s last bet has been made. Now is the time to see if it will pay off.