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Farewell Pau Torres: Tribute to a Villarreal legend as Aston Villa confirm transfer

The popular defender has left the club

Villarreal CF v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final
Torres - a Villarreal legend
Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Villarreal hero Pau Torres has followed Unai Emery to Aston Villa, bringing a lifelong association with the club to an end.

Now a 26-year-old Spain international, and one of the most coveted defenders in Europe these last few seasons, the Yellow Submarine could have hardly asked for any more from their local star.

Pau was born and raised in Villarreal and rose through the academy ranks before making his first-team debut in 2016.

An impressive loan spell at Malaga in 2018-19 earned him a place in the Villarreal squad, and he grabbed this opportunity with both hands.

Overall, Pau made 173 appearances for Villarreal under a number of different managers, scoring 12 times, but this barely tells the whole story when it comes to him.

His first full season saw the team finish fifth under Javi Calleja, as he formed an excellent partnership with veteran Raul Albiol, and this partnership would become the cornerstone of the team when Emery arrived in 2020.

As a young Villarreal fan, Pau had watched the heartbreak of the 2006 Champions League semi-final, as the side crashed out of the competition at the hands of Arsenal. 15 years later, he played a crucial role as his side beat the same opponents to finally reach a cup final.

The Europa League final in Gdansk saw the centre-back deliver a fantastic display as Villarreal shocked Manchester United on penalties and lifted the first major trophy in the club’s history.

Pau had lifted silverware with his boyhood club, and no one will have begrudged him for departing that summer. An offer was accepted from Tottenham, but there was delight when he chose loyalty over the temptation of playing in the Premier League.

Torres made it clear that he wanted to experience Champions League football with Villarreal, and he did exactly that.

The Yellows went on one of the most remarkable runs in the history of the competition. The last-16 saw the team go to Juventus with an aggregate score of 1-1 from the first leg, and against all the odds, they returned to Spain with a magnificent 3-0 victory.

Torres even scored against the Old Lady, sparking wild scenes of celebration as a quarter-final tie against Bayern Munich was set up. Pau was yet again excellent at the back as the Yellow Submarine kept the likes of Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski quiet, and yet again, they had upset a European giant on their own turf, with Samu Chukwueze’s late winner sending Villarreal to the semi-finals.

Villarreal CF v Manchester United - UEFA Europa League Final
Torres winning the Europa League
Photo by Michael Sohn - Pool/Getty Images

Pau was living the dream with his boyhood club, delivering consistent outstanding performances at the back. Although the semi-finals went Liverpool’s way despite a dramatic second-leg tie, Torres had established himself in Villarreal folklore throughout this run.

This last season was a turbulent time for the club, with Emery’s departure mid-season causing disruption on and off the pitch, and despite a late recovery to finish 5th, returning to the Europa League, the club are going through a rebuild on the pitch, and Torres looks to be one of the main stars who will move onto pastures new.

His move to Villa has been greeted with some surprise, given the previous interest from the likes of Bayern and Juventus, but if anyone knows his quality, it’s Unai Emery.

Pau has helped Villarreal reached heights previously thought impossible, and his passion for the club has been clear throughout his time in the first team. He departs as one of Villarreal’s finest defenders and leaves a big legacy at the club.

Someone who grew up within a stone’s throw of the Estadio De La Ceramica had lifted a European trophy with the club and competed in the latter stages of the Champions League. Whilst it is unclear how Villarreal can move on from such a talent, there will be no hard feelings towards him.