Spanish forward Ferran was Barça’s big winter window bet and, after a tough start, he has hit top gear ahead of ElClasico.
Ferran Torres knew it wouldn’t all be plain sailing at FC Barcelona, arriving from Manchester City as a 55 million euros winter window reinforcement to help revive a disappointing season, but he is now hitting his best form and helping his club get back to theirs. With a brace against CA Osasuna in a 4-0 win on Sunday, Ferran has three LaLiga Santander goals in his last two games and appears in top condition after a near three-month injury layoff before his return to Spain.
Languishing in ninth in LaLiga Santander when Xavi was appointed in November, and quickly ousted from the Champions League, the new Barça coach had a tough job on his hands to get the club’s season back on course, and he targeted Ferran to do it. “You are very young but you are reference point and I am sure that you will bring a lot of success,” FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta told Ferran, who turned 22 years old in February, on his presentation at Camp Nou.
Xavi wanted to revitalise his attacking options and along with Ferran came Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traoré, all three signed from the Premier League. The difference between Ferran and the others, as well as Barça’s summer signings, is that the club made a significant transfer investment on the Spanish winger. It was a big show of faith in his quality and potential.
Perhaps that explains the pressure Ferran felt after a difficult night in the Europa League against SSC Napoli on February 17. Although the forward coolly netted a penalty in the 1-1 draw at Camp Nou, he missed a string of chances in the match and left the pitch in tears. “It happened to [Luis] Suárez too,” said Xavi, defending the forward by comparing him to the Barça legend and current Atlético de Madrid striker. “In the first few months he didn’t score goals. The Barça shirt weighs a few kilos more. Ferran Torres has to know he has our absolute confidence. The ball will go in for sure.”
For the coach, the important thing was that Ferran was capable of engineering the space for and taking on shots from dangerous areas. Since arriving, no other player at the club has a higher xG per 90 minutes. Faith in the system has been the basis of Xavi’s reign so far, which has seen FC Barcelona surge up the table to third position, while they won the second leg in Naples to reach the Europa League round of 16.
With each passing game, the Catalans are playing better football, as CA Osasuna found on Sunday at the Camp Nou, with Ferran in much sharper finishing form. The forward converted from the penalty spot after Gavi was fouled by Nacho Vidal and then finished brilliantly after being found by the rampaging Ousmane Dembélé, with whom he has struck up a strong connection.
Ferran is also on the same wavelength as Aubameyang, and the two often switch position on the pitch, taking turns to play centrally or wider on the left – neither of which were positions Ferran was accustomed to until recently. At Valencia CF he operated as a right winger but worked with former Barça coach Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, a LaLiga Santander legend in his own right, to play in the false nine role. “I learned so much, he is one of the best coaches in the world,” said Ferran of the Catalan on his Barça presentation.
Xavi is utilising him on the left and it is paying dividends, with Ferran also scoring from that side of the pitch with a brilliant curling effort against Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey. He also netted against Elche in LaLiga Santander from the bench. “When you have chances, in the end they end up going in,” said Ferran after his brace against CA Osasuna. “When you miss chances then you work harder.”
After FC Barcelona’s Europa League game on Thursday, they face Real Madrid in ElClasico on Sunday at the Santiago Bernabéu, which is Ferran’s next challenge. “They are at a great level, but we are too,” he warned Barça’s eternal rivals and the current LaLiga Santander leaders ahead of the mouthwatering showdown in the Spanish capital.