With the official confirmation that Valencia wonderkid Ferran Torres will be joining Manchester City, it looks like another player who’s been linked with Barcelona in the past will be moving to a different club instead. Let’s analyse the winger’s stats to see if he would have fit at Barça, and if the club has made a mistake by not pursuing him further.
Since making his La Liga debut in 2017 at just 17 years of age, Ferran Torres has risen up the ranks in the Valencia squad. This season, he was one of their most important players, and one of the few bright spots in a disappointing campaign, despite just turning twenty in February.
He had been linked with a number of big clubs over the years, including multiple times to Barça, but now it has been Manchester City who have confirmed that they have acquired the services of the young winger. But should Barcelona have made more of an effort to sign Ferran Torres? To answer this question, his stats from this past La Liga course will be analysed and compared to some other young talents. So, what do the numbers say?
Well rounded stats and strengths in key areas
Ferran Torres is certainly a player a who contributes to many aspects of attacking play. He gives his team a little bit of everything, and particularly excels in some of the most crucial skills for a winger. To start, let’s take a look at how the Spaniard’s stats for scoring and shooting stack up against the rest of La Liga.
Ferran Torres’ goalscoring and finishing stats for the 2019/20 season | Data via FB Reference
Torres could certainly look to improve his volume of scoring, but his 0.16 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes was still the third highest in the Valencia squad. This tally also shows good composure and finishing ability, as it matches his 0.16 expected goals per 90.
The weakest stat here for Ferran is probably his shots on target per 90, which was just 0.36. This ranked sixty-ninth out of all La Liga players, and was lower than the tally recorded by several players in deeper positions, like Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos and Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino – both of them midfielders. In moving to a bigger side, Torres will need to be more involved shooting wise.
On the positive side, he gets into good positions when he does shoot, and he tends to make the most of them. Only twenty-nine La Liga players bettered Ferran Torres’ 0.12 non-penalty expected goals per shot – level with Karim Benzema – showing that when he does shoot, it’s usually a pretty good scoring opportunity. He isn’t wasteful of these chances either, as his actual output – 0.12 goals per shot – once again matches his expected output.
Overall, the teenage Spaniard is solid in front of goal, but nothing exceptional yet. However, his creative stats reveal more of his quality.
Arguably his most impressive stat is his 0.16 expected assists per 90, which had him tied for the twentieth best in La Liga. It was also the second best in the Valencia squad, and good enough to match the tally of Luis Suárez and surpass Antoine Griezmann (0.14). Torres clearly possesses great ability to play the final pass and set his teammates up to score, even at such a young age.
This skill of playing dangerous passes is also reflected in the 1.64 completions per 90 by Ferran Torres into the penalty area. Only ten La Liga players averaged more this season, and none were Valencia players. This skill can be an important one at a side like Barcelona or Manchester City, in order to break down a deep opposition defense.
With solid tallies for shot-creating actions (2.2), goal-creating actions (0.32), and key passes (1.08) as well, it’s clear that Torres is already one of La Liga’s best creators. This makes it exciting to think about what he could become with a few years of development and more talented teammates around him.
Another important skill for a wide player to have is strong dribbling. The stats of Torres show a player who has this ability, and, once again, lots of potential.
The 20-year-old excels at beating defenders with the ball. His 2.24 successful dribbles per 90 was the joint-eleventh highest in La Liga, and the highest of all Valencia players. When comparing this to the Barcelona squad, only Lionel Messi had a higher tally, showing that this is one area in which Ferran Torres could have provided a spark.
The Spaniard also does well at progressing the ball towards the opposition goal (141.7 yards per 90) and drawing fouls (1.56 per 90). In a more attacking, possession-dominant side, Torres would have even more opportunities to show off his dynamism with the ball at his feet.
With all these stats in mind, it’s clear that Torres is a talented player. While he could look to add more goal scoring to his game, the dribbling and creative ability he has at just twenty years old back up his status as a wonderkid. His numbers are already impressive in their raw form and compared to players much older than him, but Torres looks even better when you compare him to some of his fellow La Liga talents.
Excellent underlying numbers
To fully understand how much potential Ferran Torres possesses, let’s compare him to some of the world’s most highly rated young attackers. We will be pitting the stats of Ferran Torres against Real Madrid’s loanees Martin Ødegaard and Takefusa Kubo, and Barcelona young prodigy Ansu Fati. But first, let’s look a little bit into how often these players get the ball.
This season, Torres averaged 41.2 touches per 90. The other three players in the group each averaged more – Kubo by 4, Ødegaard by 26, and Ansu Fati by 22.3. If these players were all getting on the ball more often than Torres, especially Ødegaard and Fati, it’s unfair to compare their output on a raw level. So, to level the playing field, the attacking stats of each player will be calculated on a per 1,000 touches scale. Here’s how the group’s end product stats compare with the adjustment:
Here, we see the massive impact that Torres can have. Only Ansu Fati outperforms him for non-penalty goals, and the Valencia man leads the pack when it comes to expected assists. The positives continue for Ferran when this comparison is continued across more attacking metrics.
While Torres comes in last for shots on target, he still is right on pace with Ødegaard. He also compares very well to the others for key passes, in addition to leading for passes into the penalty area and being far ahead in second for successful dribbles.
These adjusted stats help to better show the impact a player like Torres can have. While he may have far fewer opportunities on the ball than say Ødegaard does for Real Sociedad, Torres does a lot with them. Going from Valencia (48.9% average possession) to Manchester City (66.7%) will also provide the youngster with far more chances to create, and it definitely seems like this would allow him to thrive.
This comparison also shows how exciting the potential partnership of Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati would be. While Fati excels with his incredible scoring record and finishing ability, the strengths of Torres lie more on the creative side. If the two had become Barcelona’s pair of wingers, their balance of skills could allow them to complement each other nicely.
Is Ferran Torres a top quality player with lots of room to grow? Yes. Is he a player with the potential to play for Barça? He certainly seems to be. Could he flourish in a better attacking side? Definitely. But even with this in mind, a move to Barcelona probably wouldn’t have been in the best interests of Ferran Torres or the club.
Another young forward at Barça would mean reduced minutes and development for the others, who already have world-class potential. Additionally, from the perspective of Torres, there’s no guarantee that he would get proper match time and development with the state the club is in right now. The better move for him is probably the one he has chosen: Manchester, where he can learn under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola and play in a more balanced and dynamic side.
Ultimately, time will be the deciding factor as to whether or not Barça should have made this transfer. Hopefully Torres can grow into a great player at City, but one that is not needed at the Camp Nou because of the quality of the likes of Ansu Fati, Pedri, Ousmane Dembélé and Francisco Trincão. Either way, Ferran Torres is certainly a player to watch in the coming years, and his big move to England could prove just why.
Sergio Busquets’ form: Age or complacency?
Sergio Busquets is a club legend and is arguably the best holding midfielder of his generation. However, for a couple of seasons, the veteran has been far from his best. Is it time for Barça to realise that the Spaniard should not be an undisputed starter anymore?
For almost a decade, Sergio Busquets was the consistent and dependable anchor in a world-class midfield. At just 20 years old, Busquets made his debut under Pep Guardiola. He would go on to be a crucial part of two treble-winning sides and form one-third of the greatest midfield trio ever with Andrés Iniesta and Xavi. Busquets was the perfect holding midfielder for the Catalan side.
In recent seasons, however, his performances have deteriorated, and he has not been at his level best. Or even at an adequate level for the Blaugrana. While he managed to redeem himself with the first half of last season, this campaign, Busquets has found it even tougher with having to adapt to the double pivot system. His partnership with Frenkie De Jong is not working as the two do not seem to understand each other’s game. After another poor display against Real Madrid, and with other talented midfielders on the bench, should Busquets still be starting for Barça?
The brilliance of Sergio Busquets
It would be unfair to write an article solely criticising Sergio Busquets. As one of the greatest servants in the club’s history, Busquets deserves a huge amount of respect from Culés. The La Masia graduate broke into the first team at a young age and has been an ever-present since his debut season. He has gone on to become Barça’s fifth-most capped player in history and will likely take over Carles Puyol who is in fourth.
The Spaniard has been a key figure in the most successful period in the club’s history too. The same can be said for his time with the national team, winning the World Cup in 2010 and the UEFA European Championship in 2012. In total, the midfielder has won a behemoth 31 trophies with Barcelona including three Champions Leagues and eight league titles.
Busi has had several moments of celebrations at Barça. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/LLUIS GENE)
At his peak, there has arguably never been a better defensive midfielder. He redefined the role by showing that it was not just about tackling and breaking up play, but how the holding midfielder can be heavily involved in the build-up play and can dictate the tempo of the game.
Opponents quickly learned that it was almost pointless to press Busquets while Barcelona were in possession. His composure on the ball was and still is for the most part unmatched, while the passes were extremely accurate, progressive and have the ability to break the lines of defence.
He had exceptional awareness and ability to read the game, which was second to none; however, they have taken a massive toll. What once allowed him to take over the game with the utmost ease is slowly becoming his weakness at Barcelona.
Busquets was exceptional in every team, every year. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Sergio Busquets has not been at his best for several seasons now, and the time may have finally come when the team realises that his starting spot is no longer undisputed. This campaign especially, the 32-year-old has not managed to adapt to the new system. He is used to playing at the base in a midfield three.
Now, he shares the defensive midfield role with Frenkie de Jong in a double pivot. Neither player has performed close to their best, and it seems as if this partnership, that should work on paper, is not compatible.
Unfortunately, the problem reeks past just the structure of the team; the World Cup winner is struggling with some of the basics as well. His passing has started to him down every game, and his sloppy possession is giving away the ball in dangeorus areas of the pitch too many times. For his high standards, he is losing the ball far too often.
Busquets is lacking, and it is hurting the team. (Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP)
Against Real Madrid, Busquets made a criminal error in his defensive duties. The veteran knows how important this match is and was one of the most experienced players on the pitch. But, whether due to a lack of awareness or complacency, he failed to track Federico Valverd’s run. It resulted in Barcelona conceding an early goal. The experienced midfielder should know better, especially in a game as important as El Clásico.
Age or Complacency?
As one of the Barcelona captains, Sergio Busquets should be a leader on the pitch and set an example to the rest of the team. However, his level has significantly dropped, and he has been involved in several catastrophic defeats. The game against Los Blancos is part of a growing list of big games where the #5 has let down the fans and his teammates.
Busquets was never the most athletic midfielder, but he always made up for this with his intelligence. His age could be a reason for his poor run of form as his physical attributes begin to decline naturally. However, he should grasp a better understanding of the game as he loses more of his pace.
One can always argue that is complacency catching up with the 32-year-old for his innumerable trophies and his world-class performances in the last decade. But, the likes of Gerard Pique, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta or Xavi never went through this despite being part of the same era of Barcelona’s generational team.
Busquets has managed to maintain his high level for the Spanish National Team. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Moreover, somehow, Busquets continues to perform at an exceptional level for the Spanish national team, playing under former Barça manager Luis Enrique. Maybe Lucho is more tactically adept, and maybe the dressing room for the national team is far less toxic. We can only sit and speculate. That said, with competition for places in the Blaugrana squad, can Ronald Koeman continue to justify Busquets’ starting role in the team?