Transfers

Why Europe's biggest clubs want the wonderkid in the wrong position

 • by Sam McGuire
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Ferran Torres sounds like a player who would have turned out for Merseyside Red in an early version of the Pro Evolution Soccer series. In reality, he is a talented Valencia winger who has attracted interest from several clubs across Europe, including Liverpool.  

The 19-year-old was a key part of the Spain squad that won the European Under-19 Championship this summer and netted a double in the final against Portugal.

He has been linked with a move away from Mestalla for some time having made his senior debut as a 17-year-old. Barcelona are believed to be interested and Real Madrid are too monitoring the teenager according to the Spanish media. 

Liverpool, meanwhile, are one of a trio of foreign sides reportedly keeping tabs on his development ahead of a potential January move. Tottenham Hotspur and Borussia Dortmund are also keen on the teenager.

His €100million release clause is a sticking point but with his current deal in Spain running until 2021, there may be room to negotiate with Valencia not wanting to lose their prized asset for free in 18 months. 

On the surface, the growing interest in Torres is somewhat strange.

Unlike countless wonderkids linked with big-money moves, the Valencia forward doesn’t have a back catalogue of goals, special moments or scintillating performances to justify the attention.

Since the start of the 2018/19 campaign, he’s averaged 0.13 assists and 0.13 goals per 90 in LaLiga. But the sample size isn’t the largest, he’s appeared in just 1,356 minutes, with many of his appearances coming off the bench. 

Torres is not shy on the ball; he attempts close to three dribbles per 90 and completes exactly 50 per cent of them. For context, an elite wide player in that category averages in excess of five so while Torres may be a decent outlet, he by no means excels in that area of the game yet. 

When digging a little deeper, the numbers aren’t any more favourable. The Valencia No.20 is averaging just 1.3 shots per 90 and landing 33 per cent of them on target.

In terms of touches in the penalty area, he’s averaged 2.85 across the two campaigns when wide forwards tend to usually have around six. Torres is rarely involved in the game, attempting fewer than 30 passes per 90.   

His underlying numbers don’t stand out either. His expected goals average is 0.16 while his expected assists average is 0.14. A combined expected total of 0.30 for someone often used as an impact player off the bench isn’t a great look. So it again begs the question, why are a number of Europe’s elite seemingly trying to sign him up?

Well, not all players have their impact measured in those headline figures. Torres might not score as often as a wide forward perhaps should, he might not be the man playing the final pass in a team goal, and he’s not single-handedly terrorising the opposition. 

What he is doing, however, is having a big impact in Valencia’s build-up play. He often drifts inside from wide areas to create space for overlapping full-backs.

Torres plays incisive and inventive passes to break defensive lines all while positioning himself between the lines. As a wide forward, he may be lack end product but if deployed centrally, in a similar way to Pep Guardiola’s use of Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, he could carve out openings for team-mates at an alarming rate. 

Of course, this is all theoretical but in terms of playing profile, he’s perhaps better suited to a central position than the wide forward role he’s used in at Valencia. But this is what complicates things.

Los Che would want big money for Torres and buying clubs would be taking a risk in signing the 19-year-old to then potentially retrain him without the added pressure of a hefty price-tag. 

However, if the right deal can be struck, Torres’ development would be interesting to watch. He’s one of the most intriguing teenagers in world football right now, even if he isn’t entirely sure what his best position is himself.

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