“He’s got all he needs to reach the very top. Speed, ability … he’s the complete package technically. He is combative, but what he has above all is the pace and directness in one-on-ones that modern footballers need.“
That is what Santi Denia, Spain’s U-17 coach, said of one of the most promising players in world football and the newest member of Pep Guardiola’s squad, Ferran Torres. Manchester City have announced the 20 year old winger from Valencia as their first big transfer of the summer, for a reported fee of €25 – €30 million with an additional €10 million in potential add ons. Torres played an integral role in Spain’s U-17 and U-19 European Championships and has the potential to be just as important in helping City add to the trophy case in the present and future.
Here we go! We’re delighted to announce the signing of @FerranTorres20 from Valencia on a five-year deal ✍️
— Manchester City (@ManCity) August 4, 2020
Why did City target him?
With the departure of Leroy Sané to Bayern Munich, City were in the market for a new winger. Replacing the German talent and his 80 goal contributions across four seasons isn’t an easy task, and in Torres, they haven’t exactly found a like for like replacement. If anything, Torres may provide more of what City needs than the recent departure. Statistical profiles are included below from Sané’s first season at City (age 21) and Torres past season in La Liga, aged 20, though this data does not capture all of their minutes but just those from their primary position.
In a comparable number of minutes, neither Valencia nor City relied upon Torres or Sané, respectively, as the #1 option at all times. While Sané often received criticism for his defensive play, the Smarterscout data shows a quality that contradicts what the eye test might indicate. Torres, on the other hand, may have been less effective on a per defensive action basis, but shouldered a heavier burden within Valencia’s counterattacking 4-4-2 set up, a scheme quite different from Pep Guardiola’s possession based (typically 4-3-3) style. That system required him to defend more frequently (48.9% possession in La Liga) and is partially responsible for suppressing his ball retention, link up, and recovery metrics on the other side of the ball.
Torres’ style of play would shine through even the most negative of tactics though. His game is a confluence of great dribbling skill and an ambitious drive towards goal that frequently plays out with Torres starting from deep and (often successfully) running at the heart of a defense to take on defenders in isolation. This aspect of his game could even be considered superior to his predecessor from when Sane joined the club, but his ability to change speed and direction at the drop of a hat actually makes him a matchup nightmare more similar to Riyad Mahrez, in fact. But Torres pairs his elite ball control with some extra NoS under the hood compared to his new teammate, which will be key in creating changes in open matches and against defensive setups alike.
The level of dynamism Torres brings to the front line is arguably only matched by Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus and City need a player who can provide that on both wings for the ’20-’21 season. Torres primarily featured on the right for Valencia but is more than capable of playing on either side given his strength with both feet (32% of his career La Liga key passes have come off his left foot), a skill potentially only shared by Kevin De Bruyne within City’s squad. The world renowned Valencia Academy has molded Torres into an incredibly technical footballer who won’t struggle to match the skill level of his new world class teammates.
“He’s powerful, quick, steady with the ball at his feet and strong in the air. He’s unpredictable. When he’s running with the ball at his feet he can go on inside or outside his man because he is two-footed. He can cross, finish and shoot.” – José Giménez, Valencia academy director of recruitment
Where can his game improve?
There’s a lot to like about Torres but at just 20 years old, he’s coming into a possession based system under Pep Guardiola that is a far cry from Valencia’s counter attacking system that has forced his current game to focus on providing wide service into his two strikers, finishing T-18th in La Liga in completed crosses. While City resort to crossing on (probably far too) many occasions, the core of their attack revolves around sustaining possession to create space to make the incisive key pass rather than forcing chances from out wide. and Torres will have to update his primary objective to reflect these tactics.
Despite all his gifts, Torres will need to improve his link up play with teammates in yet another parallel with Mahrez. When the Algerian first came to the club, he’d receive and immediately go to his bag of tricks, attempting to attack a packed defense all by himself. With time, Riyad realized how to integrate with the talent around him, increasingly establishing combination play with overlapping full backs and supporting midfielders. This is something Ferran will take time to learn too, but he’ll adjust to his teammates creating space around him with experience. Torres will need to improve his aforementioned defensive contribution in order to nail down guaranteed minutes as well. Like any winger under Pep, this will take time and adjustment, especially for a young player.
What can we expect next season?
While he’ll certainly need time to ease into the squad, Torres wasn’t brought in to be a luxury rotation piece. City average 58 matches per season under Pep Guardiola and his commitment to competing in all four competitions, and that sheer quantity of football is enough reason to expect Torres to be relied upon. Compound that with the lack of depth on the wings as Bernardo transitions into a predominantly midfield role and the remaining wide attackers are Mahrez and Sterling, with Phil Foden and Jesus mixing in, leaving plenty of opportunity for Torres to leave his mark. His quality in the Champions League (average rating of 7.47, according to WhoScored) suggests he’ll be up for the task. Torres’ 4 goal contributions were tied for best on the team and his play fueled Valencia to the top of a challenging group that included Chelsea, Ajax, and Lille.
A player full of confidence, Ferran Torres is often touted as the most talented of Spain’s next golden generation and City fans should be thrilled at the signing, particularly at the cost. This profile has compared Ferran to all of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne, but he will need to commit to the system that Pep has built in order to elevate himself into the tier of those teammates. Coming into one of the most talented and deep squads in world football at the age of 20 will inherently come with growing pains and patience will be required, but his potential is limitless with this team and manager.
Oh, and I’ll leave you with this: