• Stephen Ganavas

From the Handbook: Ferran Torres

This profile was originally published in Scouted Football Handbook: Volume I. Unfortnately, the print edition as sold out, but you can buy the digital version here for the price of a pint.


Written by Stephen Ganavas

CAREER IN REVIEW


Ferran Torres has been a marked man since he was 16 years old. Followed closely by Barcelona, an apparent mutual connection between club and player eventually saw him re-sign with Valencia, extending the length of his contract until 2021 with an enormous €100 million release clause embedded in its fine print.


It is great sign of confidence, and not an unwarranted one. Ferran’s emergence through various international youth tournaments in 2017 and arrival on the senior scene in 2018 have done little to quell expectations. Instead, excitement grew. Comparisons to Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio have been made in various media outlets; high praise indeed.


Standing out in a talented generation of Spanish youngsters that includes Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gómez, Mateu Morey, Juan Miranda and Moha – to name just a few – is no mean feat. Yet Ferrán did just that, probably being overshadowed only by Barcelona’s Ruiz in Spain’s run to the U-17 World Cup final in 2017, where they were out-gunned 5-2 by England in the final.


It was after this tournament that Valencia scrambled to tie down the then 17-year-old, first activating a clause in his contract that allowed them to increase his release clause from €8 million to €25 million, before it eventually reached €100 million with his latest extension. While still yet to see routine senior minutes under the demanding Marcelino, Ferrán has shown plenty of promise in his few senior appearances without it yet translating into tangible output in terms of goals and assists.


STYLE OF PLAY


Ferrán is so unbelievably entertaining to watch. Like Raheem Sterling or Mesut Özil, he is one of those players that has a run – a gait, even – that oozes class before he even touches the ball. When the ball does reach him, he can be truly mesmeric. He makes some of the simplest passes and touches look aesthetically delightful, while he roams around the pitch in a way that suggests he has more time and space than he does. He is also delightfully agile, capable of twisting, turning and contorting as he weaves his way around defenders. All lovely to watch.


It seems excessive to talk in such endearing terms about a player who has played barely more than 1,000 minutes of senior football, but there is something disarming about the way Ferrán plays. And it is not just like this for the viewer. Defenders too, seem to struggle with the slick movement and incisiveness of the Spanish winger. Playing predominantly on the right-wing for various Spanish youth international sides, Ferrán thrives when given license to surge forward, isolate full-backs and take full advantage of his exceptional ball-carrying ability. One-on-one, he is extremely unpredictable; not only is he an excellent dribbler, but he is comfortable shaping onto either foot to shoot or spray passes and crosses into the penalty box.


He is quite efficient too, not forcing plays that are unlikely to further develop, but at the same time rarely killing moves with negative passes when attacking options are presented to him. He is assured in his decision-making, backed up by technical quality he can rely on to execute his ideas effectively. Despite a small sample size, he ranks 13th LaLiga in terms of key passes, averaging 2.2 per 90 minutes this season. Again owing to his technical quality, he ranks second in long-range key passes with 1.1 per 90 minutes; exactly the sort of wide delivery Marcelino asks from his wide midfielders.


Ferrán is still acclimatising to the extra defensive responsibility he is tasked with playing in Marcelino’s 4-4-2. His build is very slim, which serves him well as he gorgeously feints and slaloms through defenders, but hinders him defensively. Furthermore, he is still developing his ability to truly run games out. In Valencia’s fairy-tale comeback victory in a January Copa del Rey tie, Ferrán produced a wonderful performance but showed clear signs late in the game that fatigue was setting in. He struggled to chase back in defensive transition and sent numerous tired crosses into the box. Again, Marcelino demands a lot of his players and especially of his two wide midfielders: this is a steep learning curve for the 18-year-old.


Nonetheless, he is proving to be a dependable squad member, at least off the bench.

If nothing else, this experience will improve his versatility moving forward. He is beginning to understand the work rate required of elite footballers in various roles and systems. Simultaneously, he must not lose the nous, creativity and killer instinct that makes him lethal in the final third. Two goals in January suggest these qualities will not be lost from his skillset any time soon.


FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE


Minutes are now the absolute priority for Ferrán. While one may have suggested a loan move to Spain’s second-tier as a possible solution to this conundrum a few months ago, six 90-minute appearances in the Copa del Rey and Valencia’s extended run in the competition have been valuable in allowing the 18-year-old to showcase his talent.

Still, competition for the two wide roles are fierce at Valencia. On one flank, fellow academy product Carlos Soler is undisputed first-choice. Meanwhile on the left there is Gonçalo Guedes, who the club invested heavily in when they signed him in the summer from Paris Saint-Germain. Dislodging the former seems unlikely, while usurping the other would signal a possible transfer market failure; that the club’s own academy product was better than a €40 million signing.


Come the end of the season, a loan to a lesser side in LaLiga could be a viable option. Though at times the validity of loaning players like Ferran to teams that play negative can be counter-intuitive; completely negating the crafty, imaginative style of a talent of his ilk. A place at his boyhood club would be best.

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