'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.
When Ferran Torres scored the fourth and final goal of Valencia's 4-1 Champions League win over Lille in November, he further enhanced his burgeoning reputation and announced himself to another mass of admirers. (More Football News)
While the goal mattered little in the grand scheme of the match, and it wasn't a contest that was likely to draw in all of the indecisive neutrals on that night, it gave him his own slice of history, becoming the first player born in 2000 to net a Champions League goal for a Spanish club.
His cool top-corner finish after an incisive run into the box will have been met with nods of approval from those being alerted to Ferran, but his talent was no secret at that point.
A skilful and direct winger capable of playing on either flank, Ferran appears destined to terrify full-backs across European football in the 2020s.
Ferran on FIRE pic.twitter.com/pkkR5Jzyex— Valencia CF English (@valenciacf_en) December 7, 2019
Despite only being 20, this is Ferran's third season in the Valencia first-team squad and he already has 62 La Liga appearances to his name – 20 of which have been as a starter this term.
He had only played 12 times for Valencia's B team in the third tier before Marcelino Garcia Toral promoted him permanently to the senior side in December 2017, his La Liga debut as the fifth-youngest player in the club's history a rare ray of sunlight as he came off the bench in the rain during a 2-1 defeat at Eibar.
"All of us within the club were sure that we were looking at a very high-level footballer," Marcelino told Panenka magazine earlier this month. "It was only a matter of time before he exploded, because it was clear this player had to play. He still has a significant margin for improvement, but along with [Martin] Odegaard, for me, he is one of the revelations of the season."
Ferran's form for the Spain Under-19s in July further highlighted his potential, scoring the both goals in the 2-0 final win over Portugal and earning himself a spot in the Team of the Tournament.
He has since established himself in Valencia's starting XI, taking full advantage of Goncalo Guedes' injury absence – but with great exposure comes a greater worry for Los Che.
TEEING UP A FRENZY
Ferran and his sister Arantxa have a tattoo in common. "An anchor. It was a reminder for us not to let ourselves be sunk by anything or anyone," she told OTRO last year.
Perhaps that should serve as a portentous warning to Valencia at this time, with Ferran's future becoming more uncertain by the week and his contract due to expire in 2021.
While that agreement is reported to contain a €100million release clause, Valencia would rue holding out for such a figure at this point, as to do so will surely see him ultimately leave on a free transfer next year.
Local sports paper Super Deporte remain optimistic, some might say naively so. His silence in replying to an offer "should not necessarily be interpreted as a no forever", they wrote this month, suggesting they are trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else. Strong reports elsewhere suggest he plans to depart.
If Ferran enters the final 12 months of his contract, a transfer frenzy is bound to occur, with Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Liverpool and Manchester City all said to be keen admirers.
The fact of the matter is, Valencia are running out of time.
NOT THE FINISHED ARTICLE
There's no doubting Ferran's ability to excite – after all, only five midfielders in La Liga have attempted more dribbles this season than his 92. But he certainly hasn't hit his ceiling.
Ferran has many areas in which he can improve, particularly with respect to increasing his chance creation frequency.
Although his record of 21 opportunities crafted this term is by no means terrible, he is way behind Jose Campana (58), Lionel Messi (55) and Odegaard (54) leading the way in La Liga.
His dribble map suggests a potential reason for this, as it shows that on many occasions he attempts to carry the ball, he is not in the final third of the pitch.
The greater awareness he requires should come with experience. It would be a bigger problem if he was struggling to ever find dangerous positions.
But he has touched the ball more times (51) in the opposing area than any of his midfield team-mates this term.
And while eight goal involvements (four goals, four assists) may not sound remarkable, that's only one fewer than Odegaard – a standout performer for many this term – and no one with more than eight is younger than Ferran.
Only players have attempted more dribbles than Valencia's Ferran Torres () in La Liga this term— Omnisport (@OmnisportNews) March 26, 2020
The winger has also had more touches in the box () than his midfield team-mates
A target for Liverpool, Man City and Barcelona, Ferran's contract expires in pic.twitter.com/w9G7H7xqwn