From the UEFA Cup Final to Ingolstadt Away – The Journey of Marc Torrejón

This summer has seen many German clubs look towards the Spanish market to strengthen their squads. The most prominent signing of course was Javi Martínez ‘s 40m€ move to Bayern München.  Elsewhere Joselu, Carvajal and Dominguez are starting to settle and impress for their clubs but one of the many that may have gone under the radar was Kaiserslautern’s signature of former Espanyol and Racing Santander centre back Marc Torrejón.

 Many may not have heard the name but if we go back just over five years ago, this Barcelona-born defender was in the starting XI for Espanyol against Sevilla in the UEFA Cup Final at Hampden Park, missing the decisive penalty in the shootout that saw Sevilla take the trophy in the penalty lottery. At the age of just 21, Torrejón had just enjoyed a very successful second season at Barcelona’s ‘other’ club, being ever-present during their successful campaign.

He made his professional debut whilst on loan to Málaga’s B side in the Spanish Second Division, where he spent the whole 2005-2006 season. Due to Espanyol’s successful youth policy, he was brought into the team by manager Ernesto Valverde the following season, and partnered the late Dani Jarque in defence for most of it, being a key part in their European fortunes and their solid mid-table finish in the league. Valverde kept faith with his defensive duo, with Torrejón even earning 11 caps for Spain’s U21 side, but it was with the departure of Valverde to Olympiakos that Torrejón’s fortunes started to turn for the worse.

With the arrival of Argentinian centre-back Nico Pareja from Anderlecht and club captain Jarque being untouchable, new managers Tintín Márquez first, José Manuel Esnal Mané second and Mauricio Pochettino third (all three managers of Espanyol that season), gave Torrejón limited chances in the team, as he managed to play only six games throughout the whole season.

Seeing that his chances looked slim at the club, he left for Racing Santander in the summer and signed a 4-year contract for the Cantabrian side, as they paid Espanyol a measly 1m€ for him. Considering that he was still a regular for Spain’s U21 team and was considered one of Spain’s hottest defensive properties just 12 months before, this was definitely a strange move that baffled many fans.  Moreover, club captain Dani Jarque had passed away tragically just a few weeks before, leaving the team short of cover at the back.

Pochettino signed Juan Forlín and Facundo Roncaglia from Boca Juniors and Víctor Ruíz emerged from the youth team to cover the position but it was still a strange move for a club who prided itself for bringing up players from the youth team straight into the first team instead of signing them.  At El Sardinero he was a regular feature and successfully battled relegation in his first year and achieved a respectable mid-table finish in his second. However, the club struggled the following season and were looking at life in the Spanish Second Division for the first time in eleven years, Torrejón was once again out through the back door.

Despite reports claiming he had signed for Real Valladolid, Torrejón followed the footsteps of quite a few of his fellow Spaniards during the summer and accepted FC Kaiserslautern’s three year offer as he signed for them for an undisclosed fee in late August. He didn’t play until week 5 but he has been ever-present since as Kaiserslautern are on an unbeaten run with him in the side, a run that sees them lie third in the table and one of only two sides yet to lose a match.

It has obviously been a tough adaptation process for Torrejón, who has not only had to go from playing in front of almost 100,000 at the Camp Nou in the Barcelona derby to just 7,000 at Ingolstadt, but also a different style of play, where defenders are not usually encouraged to play the ball out of defence but to be solid and physically strong against powerful and uncompromising strikers. However, still only 26 years old, one cannot help to think that Torrejón’s best years are still ahead of him and if Kaiserslautern can enjoy a promotion-winning season, Bundesliga football might just be the perfect chance for the former Spain U21 defender to put his name back on the footballing map.

Header courtesy of & dpa

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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