Valencia’s gem has been one of the breakthrough stars in the 19/20 La Liga. With Barça interested, we provide a deep tactical analysis of 20-year-old Ferran Torres and discuss his suitability to the Catalan side.
Barcelona’s squad has a major problem, which gets even more highlighted by the path the board has chosen to follow in recent years. The blaugranas have many promising wingers, but these mostly are prospects for the future than important pieces ready to make an impact at present. Ousmane Dembélé should be competing with the best, but injuries and other on and off pitch problems have prevented him from showing regularly the version he displayed at Dortmund. Ansu Fati is La Masía’s crown jewel and his debut campaign has taken everyone by surprise, but it cannot be forgotten that he’s 17 years old and can’t assume the responsibilities of starting week in and week out in the most challenging scenarios. Meanwhile, Francisco Trincão was announced in the winter as a summer acquisition, but the leap and adaptation from Portugal’s Braga to the La Liga champions still remains to be seen. And then, Álex Collado and Pedri can occupy wide positions too, although they are yet to feature regularly in the First Division.
So, in spite of the large number of options for the long-term, their readiness has been an issue in recent times. With the uncertainty regarding these figures, both Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setién have had to deploy more inner forwards than wingers. Messi and Griezmann, and Suárez when fit or even Vidal or Sergi Roberto in some cases. This has led to an overlap of zones, a denaturalisation of the roles, and a misuse of the wide spaces. If Barcelona are to continue dominating positionally and with a 4–3–3, wingers are an indispensable element for the proper distribution of such spaces.
Meanwhile, in Spain the meteoric rise of Valencia’s Ferran Torres has attracted interest from many European giants. Standing out in a turbulent season for Los Ches after Albert Celades replaced coach Marcelino amid controversy with the club’s owners, the 20-year-old has been a bight spark that has shown a maturity beyond his years to make an impact regardless of the opponent or stage. His breakthrough campaign has seen him be linked with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and obviously Barcelona too. In particular, should the azulgranas aim at Ferran as a possible solution to their recurring problems?
Born on 29 February 2000 in Foios, the Valencian Community, Ferran Torres has been growing in leaps and bounds since he joined Valencia CF’s academy aged only 6. Looking up at the countless heroes that have left their imprint at Mestalla, Ferran soon started to demonstrate that he could one day be one of them as well. Before leaving for 2017’s U–17 World Cup with Spain, Torres renewed his contract with Valencia, with a release clause of €8 million that would increase to €25 million whenever he got promoted to the first team. With him Spain’s U–17 had already won the U–17 Euros in the summer of 2017, but in the World Cup of that same year they could not beat England in the final.
Before the break caused by the health crisis, Ferran Torres was close to deserving a spot in the Spanish national team for the Euros | Photo by Imago
Nevertheless, while taking part in the U–17 World Cup, his club announced the youngster that he was officially promoted to the senior squad. At only 17 years of age. Over that 2017/18 season, and the 2018/19, Ferran’s appearances were somewhat sporadic, mostly coming off the bench or in the Copa del Rey. Even so, it was a natural process for such a teenager. While it was too early to rely on him, the academy stars tend to shine when their teams are in the most desperate situations. This term, when Els Taronges have needed a glimmer of hope, Ferran has stood up and raised his voice on the pitch. Like Gayà or Carlos Soler, he knows what Valencia means and has become some sort of sacral heritage for the institution.
Ferran Torres at Valencia 2019/20
Valencia have at times shown a lack of acceleration and differential talent to change the rhythm with a sudden action. With Parejo setting the tempo of the game and Rodrigo providing the fluidity in the final third, someone was missing to shift the dynamics with the ball stuck to his feet in the attacking zones. With fitness troubles, Gonçalo Guedes has not been the same dagger of the 2017/18 course, and Los Ches were in dire need of a traditional winger to imbalance defences individually. That man has been none other than Ferran Torres, who has been a rebel from the right flank. Hierarchic in transitions and intelligent positionally, he has been just what Celades needed.
Quality wise, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Ferran is one of the best offensive talents Paterna has produced in years. He may be a rough diamond, but what a diamond he is. With every passing game he has become better, greater and more important. So much so that he has become almost indispensable for his coach, appearing in the big occasions and securing himself a spot in the starting line-up. With fine numbers in 6 goals and 7 assists in 35 matches in all competitions, it must be pointed out that he has been acting slightly deeper than a modern winger. In recent seasons Valencia have been using a 4–4–2, meaning that at times Ferran has had to act as a hybrid between a right midfielder or right winger.
Restless and daring, Ferran is a nightmare for the opposing defences | Photo by Fabrizio Carabelli via Imago
While he always likes to face the opposing goal whenever he receives the ball, he can also drop deep to participate in the build-ups. He initially starts out wide, measuring the distances with his team’s right-back, but then likes to draw a diagonal line when he starts carrying the ball with his right foot. With Marcelino it was the left flank which had a major importance, through Guedes and Gayà, while the right wing was more secondary and had a more passive function with Carlos Soler or Wass. Notwithstanding, Torres has brought life to the right side again, being the protagonist and generating many of the chances created in transitions. He never stops and is relentless with a lot of aggressiveness. Shining in big encounters, such as against Atlético or in the Champions League to become Valencia’s youngest goalscorer in the competition, Ferran Torres has not slowed down once he has started running.
Ferran Torres is an electric footballer. The type of classic winger or number 7 that is so scarce these days. Rather than an inverted winger, he is a natural right-footed right winger, despite he likes coming inside often. Still, his slaloms and changes of direction are usually produced through the exterior, using his great stride, agility and outstanding dribbling skills. He loves being vertical, influencing the entire dynamics in his flank. The Spaniard offers runs in behind, stays close to the touchline or takes on his mark, but he hardly decelerates. Valencia’s right wing no longer is a place for calmness or stability, but for clarity and directness.
Particularly, Ferran’s greatest virtues can be found in his expertise in one-on-ones. His exquisite technique, driving the ball glued to his right foot and directing it at his will, joins his ability to eliminate rivals and break lines. Torres doesn’t attempt many 2v2s with his right-back, but instead prefers to take on his defender on his own. With his acceleration, pace and deep sense of timing, he can create something out of nothing and generate advantages for his team. When he’s at full speed, using his rivals as cones as he traces vertical – never horizontal – movements, he is truly unstoppable. With such individual skills, he can evade the press and create space under any circumstance. While he thrives in counter-attacks, he has no problems in operating in tight spaces, due to his delicious first touch and close control.
Could Ferran Torres be what Barça are missing? | Photo by Imago
Furthermore, these dribbles have been producing a favourable outcome for the Oranges this term. In the final third he can offer solutions to Valencia when they can find none against structured blocks. When he carries the ball inside, he tends to create the chance for himself or at least reach the opposing box. Nevertheless, his speciality is dribbling close to the touchline and then delivering a ball for his better positioned teammates. With his sublime vision, he can deliver pinpoint crosses from many metres out, executing them with the right power and precision. Therefore, since his space is limited in the right flank, most of his passes entail a lot of risk or are very intentional. He can spot the runs of the attackers and squeeze the ball to leave them in one-on-one situations. At roughly 80%, his passing accuracy is far from impressive, but it must be considered that most of his passes are not horizontal, but vertical or diagonal.
Due to his authoritative figure, Ferran attracts many defenders whenever he has the ball. This produces more space for his fellow forwards, who can get at the end of his supplies for a goalscoring opportunity. In addition, he can be the one providing the passing option when he doesn’t have the ball. Being in continuous movements and sprinting, he tries to find the open space to offer a passing lane to the ball possessor. Staying out wide or running behind the backline, the 20-year-old attracts many markers with his moves too.
Should Barcelona sign Ferran Torres?
In spite of having a lot of room for improvement in many aspects, such as exploiting better the space he generates or bettering his end product, Ferran Torres is not at that stage of his career where he can be demanded high goalscoring figures. By contrast, he is a footballer that will open up spaces and create several chances per game, either by himself or for his teammates. With his verticality on and off the ball, Valencia’s number 20 allows his side to stretch out and have depth, something which Barcelona has desperately lacked in recent times. If the culés can often be lineal, horizontal and predictable, Ferran is the complete opposite to that. He’s damaging, lethal, rebellious and intimidating. A space and chance creator.
Barça have long missed a profile like him. Dembélé has often been seen as that man, even somewhat misunderstood for his excessive need for acceleration, but his lack of regularity have prevented fans from being able to draw definitive conclusions regarding his productivity. Ferran Torres is not a finished product either, and at 20 years of age the leap to Barcelona may come a bit early to him. With that being said, he has been gaining continuity with every passing game, and, after a brief period of adaptation, he would certainly be ready to establish himself in the elite.
The question, though, is whether or not could Barcelona use the likes of Dembélé, Ansu or Trincão for that same purpose, and invest the minutes and efforts in them. Even if Ferran has more experience in La Liga, which he has mostly been gaining by being a starter at Valencia this campaign, Setién will next season have some promising gems at his disposal that he could use for the same function. Torres currently has a release clause of €100 million and a contract that expires in 2021, which Valencia will clearly try to extend in the upcoming months. If the Catalans could get him for a fee inferior to €40 or 50 million, he would undoubtedly be a prospect to seriously consider. Nonetheless, and while Ferran Torres is on his way to stardom, the blaugranas should not get obsessed with him given the high amount of attacking talent in their squad and ranks already.
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