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Ferran Torres: Pep's Next Project

Ferran Torres is a Manchester City player. As the 20-year-old steps up to the Premier League, David Cartlidge chronicles his career to date and details why the winger will be Pep Guardiola's next pet project.

Ferran Torres knows a thing or two about hype. After all, it has surrounded him since a very early age when he started kicking a ball around in the streets of Foios, a small town in Valencia.

In fact, it wasn’t just the streets. He was snapped up by Valencia at the age of six years old, such was the level of his talent even then. Accompanied by his father, Ferran went to one of the renowned open recruitment trials at the club, and duly blew everyone away. It’s as if that day set the standard for the rest of his career, such has been his desire to stand out from others.

He did exactly that throughout the various youth categories at Valencia, and consistently played above his age with the older groups. That progression culminated with a debut for the B team in 2016 at just 16 years old. Just over a year later, he was making his first team debut with his boyhood club; the club he travelled far and wide to watch with his parents in car journeys, including one particularly special trip in 2008 to see Valencia claim the Copa del Rey. Not only was he a player of Valencia, but also a fan.

It wasn’t just with Valencia he shone, though. Ferran featured with Spain at various youth levels, including in 2017 when he formed part of the squad that won the UEFA European Under-17 Championship. In the final, he came up against none other than Manchester City’s Phil Foden. Later, in the October of that year, Ferran would feature at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup where Spain once again made it to the final – this time falling at the final hurdle, as Foden would come out on top though with England claiming the presitgious prize in India.

Following those tournaments, Valencia couldn't ignore Ferran at first team level any longer. They quickly worked to establish a pathway for the teenager, fearing another Isco situation playing out. It became a raging debate whether or not he was too young to be involved. A month after the U-17 World Cup had finished, Ferran was making his first team debut in the Copa del Rey. Another month later, he would make history, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to make an appearance in La Liga.

"It's quite clear he is ready for the next step: the Premier League, the Champions League, and perhaps an imminent debut with the Spanish national team. His time has come to swim with the big fish."

Many harboured reservations, but Ferran’s style quickly won them over. An out and out winger, he has blistering speed and acceleration that enables him to burst past opponents with or without the ball at his feet. His penchant for driving at defences while retaining width has been a key feature of his game, and he shows a strong desire to create one-on-one situations. There, he lures defenders in before searing past them, blending his speed with high-level close control and technical skill.

Often operating in right-sided spaces, his dribbling ability and throwback style has drawn comparisons to a legend of La Liga, Joaquín Sánchez. In fact, Ferran revealed he had studied Joaquín’s game with great interest – specifically on how to come out on top in one-on-one situations against full-backs. He also identified with David Villa’s movement in and around the penalty area; how even without the ball a player can still pose a threat.

Many young Spanish wingers end up coming inside as they grow, turning into attacking midfielders that operate inside the opponent's shape. Ferran doesn’t seem primed for that though, he likes to stay wide and drive to the byline or cut inside before executing a shot or cross. His eyes widen when he gets into the final third, and that is where his game comes alive.

His directness off the ball is also critical to his skillset. Ferran loves to run on to passes, meet the ball at speed, and fulfill a pivotal role in quick counter-attacks. At Manchester City, this spring in his step could be utilised to devastating effect by Pep Guardiola, who has shown an aptitude to work with wingers and shape their game. He has done it at every club he has coached at, experiencing success by enhancing the skillsets of players on every occasion. Raheem Sterling has been turned into one of the most impressive goalscorers in football under his guidance. Ferran, ambitious as ever, will be buoyed by that.

If there is one thing he has lacked, it is perhaps encouragement to be more individualistic, to believe more in his own ability. He looks like a superstar often, yet looks just a timid on other occasion. Pep can perhaps build up and embolden a more confident side of Ferran – an aspect of his personality which won't have been helped by the relentless turmoil at Valencia.

From the Handbook: Ferran Torres – read our in-depth profile of the 20-year-old winger for free, here

This season has been a breakout year for 20-year-old as he's stepped up and accepted more responsibility in a poor Valencia team. The encouraging takeaway from it all was how he handled it and never looked overawed. In late 2019 and early 2020, before the COVID-19 shutdown, he was leading the team and became their standout player. Something had clicked, he was more intelligent, mature, and even looked physically stronger. Ferran the difference maker, the game winner, the star – we were seeing it all.

With all of that in mind, it's quite clear he is ready for the next step: the Premier League, the Champions League, and perhaps an imminent debut with the Spanish national team. Ferran shares a tattoo with his sister, an anchor, as a reminder to never allow himself to be sunk by anyone or anything. Now, his time has come to swim with the big fish.

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