Ferran Torres: Breakout season convinces Man City to return for Valencia's latest prodigy

By Sports Desk August 04, 2020

When Ferran Torres scored the fourth and final goal of Valencia's 4-1 Champions League win over Lille in November, he further enhanced his burgeoning reputation and announced himself to another mass of admirers.

While the goal mattered little in the grand scheme of the match, and it was hardly a contest likely to draw in all of the indecisive neutrals, it gave him his own slice of history, becoming the first player born in 2000 to net a Champions League goal for a Spanish club.

His cool, top-corner finish after an incisive run into the box will have been met with nods of approval from those being alerted to Torres' potential.

While the skilful and direct winger wasn't exactly an unknown quantity at that point, it was an early landmark in a career that looks set for many, and now he is headed for the glamour of the Premier League and Manchester City.

CITY'S DECISIVE SWOOP

Torres and his sister Arantxa have a tattoo in common. "An anchor. It was a reminder for us not to let ourselves be sunk by anything or anyone," she told OTRO last year.

Perhaps that should have served as a portentous warning to Valencia during their ultimately unsuccessful contract negotiations, with Torres' future long dominating headlines in the local media – he was due to become a free agent in 2021.

That, in a nutshell, is how City have managed to pull off such a coup with respect to paying a reported initial fee of £21.1million (€23m). Even with variables, the most they'll pay is thought to be in the region of £32.2m (€35m), a massive reduction on his €100m (£92m) release clause.

Local sports paper Super Deporte had remained optimistic for a while, some might say naively so, but with Champions League qualification proving well beyond Valencia, a departure long seemed unavoidable.

Even a club run as poorly as Valencia could not risk losing such an asset for nothing, yet City will certainly consider themselves to have struck a brilliant deal.

With Barcelona, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus all noted as keen admirers of Torres, City officials will be patting themselves on the back – it did not take them long to fill the space left by Leroy Sane.

THE EXPLOSION

Despite only being 20, 2019-20 was Torres' third season in the Valencia first-team squad and he already has 71 LaLiga appearances to his name – 26 of which were as a starter in the campaign just finished.

He had only played 12 times for Valencia's B team in the third tier before Marcelino Garcia Toral promoted him permanently to the senior side in December 2017, his LaLiga debut as the fifth-youngest player in the club's history a rare ray of sunlight as he came off the bench in the rain during a 2-1 defeat at Eibar.

"All of us within the club were sure that we were looking at a very high-level footballer," Marcelino told Panenka magazine. "It was only a matter of time before he exploded, because it was clear this player had to play. He still has a significant margin for improvement, but along with [Martin] Odegaard, for me, he is one of the revelations of the season."

His form for Spain Under-19s during last year's European Championship further highlighted his potential as he scored both goals in the 2-0 final win over Portugal to earn a spot in the Team of the Tournament.

He then established himself in Valencia's starting XI, taking full advantage of Goncalo Guedes' injury absence. While still somewhat raw, Torres has been a joy to behold with his fast dribbling and direct style.

NOT THE FINISHED ARTICLE

There's no doubting the ability Torres has to excite – after all, only five midfielders in LaLiga attempted more dribbles in 2019-20 than his 112, and when in full-flight, his combination of pace and upper-body strength make the leggy winger a formidable weapon.

Similarly, Torres is nimble and very agile, capable of jinking out of situations that appear one-sided in the defence's favour.

But he certainly hasn't hit his ceiling. Torres has many areas in which he can improve, particularly with respect to increasing his chance creation frequency.

His record of 25 opportunities crafted this term is not particularly great and is way behind Lionel Messi (89), Sergio Canales (80) and Jose Campana (73) out in front in LaLiga.

His dribble map suggests a potential reason for this, highlighting that many of his ball carry attempts are made outside of the pitch's final third.

The greater awareness he requires should come with experience. After all, it would be a bigger problem if he was struggling to ever find dangerous positions, and that simply is not the case.

He has touched the ball more times (64) in the opposing area than any of his midfield team-mates in 2019-20.

And while nine goal involvements (four goals, five assists) may not sound remarkable, that is only one fewer than Martin Odegaard – a standout performer until his injury – and no one with more than nine is younger than Torres.

He may need a little time to settle in the Premier League, but the potential is undoubtedly there and he shouldn't be plagued with suggestions of being too small, like David Silva was when he made the same move 10 years ago.

Whether Torres can have a similar impact to Silva is another matter, but the 34-year-old's success at least sets a strong precedent for talented Valencia-developed technicians leaving their mark at City.

Related items

  • Gabriel Jesus adds to Manchester City's injury woes Gabriel Jesus adds to Manchester City's injury woes

    Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is set to be sidelined until at least the middle of next month after he was withdrawn from Brazil's squad to face Bolivia and Peru in their opening 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

    The nature of Jesus' injury has not been disclosed, although the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) confirmed in a statement that City informed them of 23-year-old's setback on Wednesday.

    "The English team contacted the doctor of the Brazilian National Team, Rodrigo Lasmar, reporting the athlete's injury detected after the game against Wolves on Monday in the Premier League," the statement read.

    Hertha Berlin forward Matheus Cunha has been added to Tite's squad, earning a first senior call-up after top scoring for Brazil's Under-23s in the CONMEBOL Pre-Olympic Tournament earlier this year.

    Jesus completed the scoring in an impressive 3-1 win at Molineux and looked set for an extended run in Pep Guardiola's starting XI, especially as Sergio Aguero continues his rehabilitation from meniscus surgery.

    As it is, the City boss will now be without a specialist senior centre-forward for Sunday's visit of Leicester City, with an EFL Cup tie at Burnley and a Premier League trip to Leeds United to negotiate before the international break that Jesus will miss.

    Teenage striker Liam Delap marked his senior debut in Thursday's cup tie against Bournemouth with a well-taken goal and gives Guardiola an intriguing option in up front, although it is more likely Raheem Sterling will revert to a central attacking role in the league, with Phil Foden and Kevin De Bruyne among the options who could be deployed as a false nine.

    After overcoming Bournemouth 2-1, Guardiola bemoaned the fact he might only have 13 senior players fit to face Leicester.

    Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva and Oleksandr Zinchenko all returned from the previous international break with injuries and Nicolas Otamendi missed out in midweek due to "niggles", although the Argentina centre-back has since been touted as a makeweight in a reported deal to bring Ruben Dias to City from Benfica.

    Ilkay Gundogan contracted coronavirus last week and Aymeric Laporte is yet to feature this season having only recently returned to training after his own positive test for COVID-19.

  • Foden building Euros case after England ignominy - An Opta-powered look at the Man City star Foden building Euros case after England ignominy - An Opta-powered look at the Man City star

    Phil Foden has put off-field issues behind him to make a superb start to what could come to be seen as a definitive season for the Manchester City youngster.

    The attacking midfielder was used with increased frequency by during the 2019-20 campaign by manager Pep Guardiola, who handed him his debut as a 17-year-old in 2017.

    Foden was named man of the match as City won a third consecutive EFL Cup with a 2-1 win over Aston Villa at Wembley on March 1 and, after lockdown, he took on a more prominent place in the first team.

    Injury and illness problems have complicated the early days of this season at the Etihad Stadium, with Guardiola claiming he only expects to have 13 fit senior players for the visit of Leicester City on Saturday.

    The former Barcelona boss can therefore be thankful he has Foden in prime form.

    The 20-year-old crowned a sweeping team move during Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves before scoring decisively in Thursday's 2-1 win at home to Bournemouth, where Foden also laid on the opener for City's latest bright young thing, Liam Delap.

    MORE THAN A CUP SPECIALIST

    The perfectly weighted pass for centre-forward Delap meant Foden had assisted in each of his past three starts in the EFL Cup, with no player creating more chances from open play in the competition since the start of last season than the England international's 14.

    Against Bournemouth alone, Foden carved out five openings for his team-mates.

    His adeptness in both the main aspects of attacking football is underlined by the fact that among all Premier League players since the beginning of 2019-20, only Kevin De Bruyne (eight matches) and Mohamed Salah (six matches) have scored and assisted in the same game more often than Foden, who has done so on four occasions.

    Overall, Foden has been involved in 24 goals in his 34 starts for City in all competitions. Those 13 goals and 11 assists are not simply a matter of him "padding" against inferior opponents - just look at a crucial winner against Tottenham during the 2018-19 title run-in and his strikes as City claimed convincing wins over Arsenal and Liverpool earlier this year.

    ENGLAND'S CREATIVE HOPE

    Of course, given Foden made headlines at the start of the month for breaching coronavirus self-isolation protocols in the aftermath of his England debut in Iceland, it is worth pondering whether Gareth Southgate will decide a player he sent home in disgrace alongside Manchester United's Mason Greenwood is worth the hassle.

    After his alleged antics in Reykjavik, the City favourite might have to make a compelling case when considering the other creative midfielders jockeying for position ahead of next year's European Championship.

    In terms of goals and assists since the start of 2019-20, Foden is comfortably ahead of his contemporaries. Across 40 appearances, his 10 goals and 10 assists give him one more goal involvement combined than Jack Grealish.

    The Aston Villa captain, who made his long awaited bow against Denmark in Foden's absence this month, has one more goal and two fewer assists over the same period, but has played 3,730 minutes to reach those figures, compared to the City man's 1,921.

    The high-quality of team-mates Foden benefit from here are obviously a factor, but he is also considerably more efficient than Mason Mount and James Maddison, who starred with Chelsea and Leicester City in the upper echelons of the Premier League last term.

    Mount has played 56 games - compared to Foden's 40 - and 4,008 minutes across all competitions and accrued eight goals and six assists.

    Maddison has three goals and nine assists in 41 appearances (3,206 minutes).

    UNDER-21 KING

    Looking beyond his position, since his City debut in 2017, Foden has outperformed all English players under 21 in terms of goals and assists.

    Including his contributions when featuring as a substitute, he has scored 17 times and set up 13 more. Counting matches up until he turned 21 last October, Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold is next on this list with 22 goals involvements - bolstered by a phenomenal 19 assists.

    Foden's partner in escapades Greenwood is next with 18 goals and four assists, while Callum Hudson-Odoi has laid on 11 and scored eight despite his injury woes for Chelsea.

    Greenwood (2,767) and Hudson-Odoi (2,817) have played fewer minutes than Foden (3,258) over the period in question, as has Arsenal's Bukayo Saka (four goals and 13 assists in 3,085 minutes). Burnley's Dwight McNeil is the sixth on this list of Englishmen with bright futures, having scored five goals and set up 12 more in 5,592 minutes spanning 69 appearances.

    The past week suggests Foden is back on track after a very public fall from grace, with the wider numbers suggesting the sky is the limit for club and country, as far as the 'Stockport Iniesta' is concerned. He might even get a better nickname soon.

  • Pulisic nearing return but Lampard wary of 'overcooking' Chelsea winger Pulisic nearing return but Lampard wary of 'overcooking' Chelsea winger

    Christian Pulisic is nearing a return to action for Chelsea but Frank Lampard is wary of "overcooking" the winger and leaving him prone to injury. 

    United States international Pulisic struggled with muscle issues in his first campaign at Stamford Bridge and missed two months at the start of the year with an abductor tear. 

    The 22-year-old was impressive upon his return after lockdown, contributing five goals and two assists in all competitions. 

    Pulisic is yet to feature this term after going off in the FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal with a hamstring injury in August, but Lampard said on Friday that a return is on the horizon. 

    "No, Christian isn't ready for the squad, nor is Hakim Ziyech, but they're both training with us now, which is good news," he told the media ahead of Saturday's Premier League meeting with West Brom. 

    "We hope to have them with us in proper match contention over the next week or two."

    Lampard is keen to bide his time with Pulisic in particular, aiming to avoid any further injury setbacks when he eventually returns to action. 

    "There's always a concern about a player's fitness when the history says there's been some injuries. Last season we did have them with Christian, I was questioned many times on him, when he did and didn't play," said Lampard. 

    "Of course, when you look at a player with his recent record, you're trying to find the right balance of getting the best out of him, which we saw in big periods last year, and making sure you don't overcook him and leave him susceptible to injury, particularly with a player of his explosive pace and balance. It's a fine line. 

    "We're working on that and Christian's also very open to that. He wants to play, he's so hungry to play and he's very nearly fit now, but it's certainly something we have to manage with him this season. 

    "We've all seen the talent and it's something we want to get right. I'm not saying it's a fundamental, chronic issue because it's not, but we want to get as many minutes of Christian – the really great Christian that we saw lots of last season – on the pitch."

    New signings Thiago Silva and Ben Chilwell made their first Chelsea appearances in the 6-0 EFL Cup victory over Barnsley on Wednesday. 

    While Lampard confirmed the pair could start at the Hawthorns, he is again wary of asking for too much too soon from players who are still working towards peak fitness. 

    "I believe they are fit enough to start, but I do also have to take into consideration the fact that we play another game with a pretty tight turnaround on Tuesday, then another on Sunday, and then the international players will maybe go and play three games for their country, so I'm managing that one," he said. 

    "Having come through that game the other day as they did, I think particularly Thiago did start that game and had 60 minutes in the bank, so that was good to see. 

    "With Ben, I'll maybe be a little more cautious just to make sure, his injury's been a bit of a challenging one, so I'll make those calls. But they're in a good place at the moment."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.