Barcelona have not hidden their desire to dispose of Ferran Torres this summer. Despite offering tremendous usage in all three positions of the frontline, the club’s overcrowding upfront and financial frailties make his departure an acceptable scenario.
But to say he is a lost cause with no potential upside would not be accurate. While he has not lived up to expectations, a great player is beneath the surface.
Like a tempest-tossed sea, Ferran’s brilliance is sometimes obscured by storm clouds of inconsistency. The waves of skill can be unpredictable, sometimes crashing with overwhelming force, and other times receding into calm waters.
Yet amidst the fluctuations lies hope — that the agile right-winger at Valencia, the goalscoring phenom for Spain and Manchester City, and the master of space exploitation in his first season at Barcelona will eventually come good.
Torres’ continuation next season is far from the worst scenario in the world, and his form so far this pre-season has shown just that.
Ability to replace Ousmane Dembele
Due to Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha forming a duopoly on the right last season, Ferran was unable to frequently feature in his most preferred position.
In light of Dembele’s imminent move to PSG, however, the 23-year-old possesses the potential to play second fiddle more regularly.
Torres threw shades of an incredible player whenever the Spanish international was deployed on the right-hand side.
In fact, Ferran was the player who completed the most dribbles (10), created the most chances (5), attempted the most crosses (11), and won the most duels (18) in this position against Cadiz last season.
Although he did not record any goal or assist, the Spaniard proved, for the umpteenth time, why his presence can be so beneficial without directly influencing the scoresheet.
When fielded on the right, his first control, going inside, catches opponents off guard and enables him to create favorable driving scenarios, always ending up in the rival box, where he is most effective.
Barcelona’s overload-to-isolate formula can still function in the former Manchester City man’s presence, as he boasts 1v1 ability on the right, which he tends to cap off with a promising final ball.
Providing rest to Lewandowski
With Robert Lewandowski not getting any younger, Ferran could offer exceptional value in the centre-forward spot.
The player’s movements are his biggest strength, and he is fairly adept with his back-to-goal. Until Vitor Roque arrives, the 23-year-old can lift a huge burden from the Poland captain’s shoulders.
Barcelona are in dire need of effectively managing Lewandowski’s game-time, with the Pole previously showcasing a downward trajectory in performances owing to taxing schedules.
As such, Ferran’s goalscoring instincts, which were in full display during the course of the pre-season fixtures, can play a vital role in easing the burden off Lewandowski.
For Spain, Ferran has always been renowned as a deadly scorer. He had the most goals under Luis Enrique’s tenure, by quite some distance, and has three matches with more than one goal in a Spain shirt.
He has also chimed in with important contributions against Italy, Croatia, and a memorable hat-trick vs. Germany in the past.
Xavi demands a great deal of associative play from his strikers, with the interiors tasked with exploiting space. Ferran has proven himself to be a secure presence on the ball and can replicate Lewandowski’s duties in deeper areas of the pitch as well.
Playing from the left
Although the left-wing role tends to isolate Ferran the most as he is obliged to play a more sacrificial role, it brings the best out of his off-the-ball expertise, which is particularly useful against low blocks.
Goals win games, but movement creates goals. As frustrating as Ferran may be in the final third at times, a lot of what he does to enhance the collective aspect of Barcelona is undervalued because of a shallow approach to evaluating goalscoring wingers based on their immediate output.
Actions that tend to not be explicitly recorded by the metrics are where the Spaniard’s utility comes to light.
Beginning with traits that actually hold him in such high regard in Xavi, Enrique, and Pep Guardiola’s eyes, it’s vital to note that oftentimes the 23-year-old empowers a team’s system without particularly putting himself in the spotlight.
This can be as simple as drifting wide and centrally to open a passing lane or dragging markers to give a teammate more space to play. Ferran has an innate ability to unsettle opposition blocks off the ball.
In his peak form for Barça when he initially arrived in 2022, Ferran’s ability to constantly create separations, create space for himself, and also attack it instinctively highlighted his true capabilities.
“I’m a bull. Nobody is going to be able to beat me next season,” said Ferran a few weeks ago. Concluding the pre-season tour in the US with two goals in three games, he appears to be walking the talk so far.
This was further exemplified by his performance last night against Tottenham Hotspur, when he came on as a substitute to score the key equaliser at a time when Barça were 2-1 down, before going on to assist Ansu Fati’s goal to make it 3-2.
A crippling lack of confidence in front of goal blemished Ferran’s performances in the past season, but he has continuously provided glimpses of his talents, especially over the last few weeks, despite the constant speculations over his future, which can be distracting.
Although Barcelona may be able to bolster other important areas of the squad by selling the Spaniard, he is still capable of coming good in a number of positions and has earned himself a shot to succeed at the club.