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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Three economical Memphis Depay alternatives Barcelona must chase
Memphis Depay, while still an option, might end up as nothing but another story of ‘what could have been’. Barça Universal takes a look at three options who the club can pursue instead of the Dutchman.
The 2020-21 season under Ronald Koeman is well and truly underway. Barcelona have begun their run in two competitions so far, having played four games in the League and the lone game against Ferencvaros in the Champions League. The start has been rocky, but promising.
A renewed squad has brought some much-needed revitalisation in the side. However, there is one department where the team have clearly lacked: centre-forward. The departure of Luis Suarez was undoubtedly needed, but it necessitated a backup in place. Having failed to acquire the services of Memphis Depay in the recent transfer window, the Blaugrana have struggled in the absence of a striker, often leaving a gaping hole ahead of the opposition backline.
🗣 — Koeman: “I don’t have the power to sign Depay, it depends on the club. All I can do is wait. We wanted Memphis because he is a great player and has qualities that, in my opinion, we lack like depth in our attack.” pic.twitter.com/vpshfDApFP— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) October 18, 2020
Culés over the last few seasons have been accustomed to the managers playing down any rumours of transfers. Any questions on potential signings brought out the cliched response: “We do not talk about players of other clubs”. Koeman’s press conferences are a sudden whiff of fresh air. He is a man who is blunt to the press and speaks without riddles. He has made it clear on multiple occasions that he desires the services of Memphis Depay to rejuvenate the #9 role.
With the club in an unpleasant position financially, here are three possible alternatives that Barcelona can eye in the upcoming window, who may fit the profile better than Depay.
Note: The criteria we are using is based on financial terms alone. All options listed could be available for less than €25 million in the next two windows – i.e. if the respective club is ready to sell.
Daka is a baller; and he proves it every match. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
The stocks of Red Bulls Salzburg have been on the constant rise. They are slowly, yet convincingly establishing themselves as a hub the nurtures some of the finest talents in Europe.
One of the clubs recent successes, Erling Haaland, has set the world ablaze at Borussia Dortmund. And since the Norweigan’s departure, a young 22-year-old has taken over the goal-scoring reigns. Presenting, Patson Daka.
In 2019-20, Daka found the back of the net 24 times in just 31 league games. His six assists further enhance the stats, considering that the Zambian started only 21 games.
His fearlessness and spatial awareness make him a massive asset. While his finishing prowess is conspicuous, he also possesses great skill with off the ball moments. The youngster has taken 48% of his shots with his right boot, and close to 40% with the left. This ambidexterity is a rare and valued skill that very few strikers possess.
Last season, Patson outperformed his xG tally by 6.48, also averaging the highest xG per 90(0.79). A conversion rate of 30% at the age of 22 is more than what one could dream of. However, in addition to his crude finishing, Daka’s ability to create chances is what makes him a viable option for Barcelona. This is exemplified in his 0.86 key passes per game. Patson Daka is certainly one for the Barcelona scouts to fix their eyes on.
Edouard is the perfect blend of top-notch technical and physical prowess. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Odsonne Edouard is a product of Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy who has made a case himself to be considered amongst the creme-de-la-creme of Europe’s pedigree. The youngster currently plays in the Scottish Premiership for the champions Celtic, ending the COVID curtailed 2019-20 season as the top scorer with 20 goals in just 24 starts.
Edouard is not just a finisher but a well-rounded player. The goals flow freely from the Frenchman as long as he is provided with the right service. The 22-year-old outscored his xG by 5.08 in the last season with 40% shots on target. However, even with the goals removed, Edouard is a sensational asset.
His dribbling prowess is matched by few, with a staggering 7.17 dribbles per 90. In the air, the Frenchman provides a potent threat with his physique and height. The statistics speak for themselves; 3.9 aerial duels per 90, winning 40% of them.
He also finds himself amongst the very top players with close to 6.5 touches in the box and two progressive runs per 90, a profile that the Catalans require so desperately. His move to a top club is just around the corner, and Camp Nou might end up as a win-win situation for all parties involved.
There is work to be done with Morelos, but with the right guidance, there is nothing stopping him. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
The Rangers #20 – Alfredo Morelos – takes the third and final spot in this list of potential targets for Barcelona. His finishing trade is nowhere close to the aforementioned two. That said, what makes him a great choice for Barcelona, however, is his heavy involvement in the buildup, as seen in his 17.9 off the ball actions per 90.
He is a massive part of the Rangers team that finally looks ready to displace Celtic from the top spot. He ended the last season with 12 goals in 18 starts. Despite having one of the highest xG per 90(0.75 per 90), his conversion rate is staggeringly low. At the young age of 24, he still has considerable time to mend his flaws, though.
The Colombian averages 5.63 shots per 90 and is also well equipped in dribbling. The talent is there, however it requires the right investment. His days in Scotland seem to be numbered. With Barcelona too looking at a long term project, an investment of less than €20M may be a gamble worth taking.
Going by Ronald Koeman’s words, the Memphis Depay to Barcelona deal only seems to be a matter of time, and the likelihood of the former Manchester United man coming to the camp now increases with every passing second. Nevertheless, the club should consider other economic investments that may give a bigger long term influence, while acting as a pure no. 9 that Barça crave for. Patson Daka, Odsonne Edouard and Alfredo Morelos are just three of the countless young talents out there. Which direction will this board take?