Ferran Torres: The ‘humbling process’ behind Barcelona forward’s impressive form – The Athletic

La Liga
At the end of last season, there were several voices at Barcelona who did not think Ferran Torres had what it takes.
“He simply might not have the talent or skill set to be at Barca,” one club source told The Athletic back in May, speaking anonymously as they did not have permission to comment.
Barely three months on, Torres has started Barca’s 2023-24 campaign with two goals from his 32 minutes of playing time. No team-mate has scored more in the side’s three La Liga matches so far this term.
Torres has been living a rollercoaster year, so it was fitting that he further confirmed his excellent form in Sunday’s topsy-turvy victory at Villarreal.
Barcelona came away with a thrilling 4-3 win as Xavi, watching from the stands as he completed his suspension, saw his side waste a 2-0 advantage. Their hosts had clawed themselves back to lead 3-2 shortly after half-time.
Yamine Lamal’s craft had a big role in Barca eventually overcoming their opponents, setting up two goals as he became the youngest player this century to make an assist in La Liga. Yamal, who only turned 16 last month, is so used to performing this well that he seems in no way surprised by the storm of talent he has at his feet and was applauded by fans at the Estadio de la Ceramica.
Torres, on the other hand, is fully aware of the work it has taken for him to have a great day like yesterday. After completing the multiple post-match interviews he was assigned to, the 23-year-old stopped at the stands to sign each autograph fans were asking for, savouring the moment.
“Right now, Ferran is an example for all of us,” Xavi said after the game. “He’s hungry, ambitious and believes in himself. He wants to succeed at Barcelona and he’s so convinced about it. He’s humble and hard-working and is always there when the team needs him. Today, he scored the equaliser in a game that was very evenly matched. His goal pushed us towards the win.”
This campaign, Torres has mainly operated as a centre-forward rather than a winger. In pre-season, he was Robert Lewandowski’s replacement in all three games Barca played on tour in the United States, as well as in the Joan Gamper trophy against Tottenham. He’s been introduced in a more central role in the two league games in which he’s featured so far, too.
While Barcelona need a better dose of individual skill and dribbling abilities on the right flank (not Torres’ stronger points despite him regularly featuring in that position in the past), the Spaniard might now have found his better fit.
Torres’ goalscoring figures rise to five from 163 minutes if you include his form in summer friendlies, but it’s not just a matter of what we’ve seen so far this term, nor the fact he has now scored in consecutive Barca games for the first time. Since the start of the summer, you could tell Torres looked different.
Torres has been nicknamed ‘Tiburon’ (The Shark) by his team-mates this pre-season, a tag he’s taken happily and that he’s using on every social media post he makes.
“This comes from him saying one day that he wanted to have a predator mentality,” a dressing-room source explains.
Part of this motivation comes from last June, when he made a trip to Jacksonville, Florida, to watch a UFC contest. Torres wanted to spend time with Spanish-Georgian fighter Ilia Topuria, an athlete who is now his friend and an inspiration.
“Ferran learnt a lot from Topuria and they are still in regular contact,” a member of Torres’ camp told The Athletic. “Topuria told him how he must learn from any defeat and helped in showing him how to manage the mental side of sport.”
Torres’ entourage points to psychological struggles as the biggest hurdle the player had last season and there’s a clear identification of when things started to go really wrong: the World Cup in Qatar.
La tiburoneta 🦈 pic.twitter.com/Dz9PKtFqU6
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona_es) August 27, 2023

Torres did not perform well in a disappointing Spain side and was heavily criticised after the quarter-final defeat to Morocco. Some even wondered whether his presence in Luis Enrique’s squad was due to the relationship he had with the manager’s daughter.
“He was not in the right place and the stuff that happened with the national team off the pitch wasn’t particularly helpful,” one of his closest confidants said. Torres has not returned to the international scene since, having fallen out of favour under new Spain boss Luis de la Fuente.
He was not growing on the pitch towards the end of last season, but the speculation over his future at Barcelona was. The Catalan side were willing to let him go if a good offer came in, which only added to the pressure.
Torres’ camp, aware that his contract lasts until 2027, saw their plans very clearly.
“Ferran wants to have a full pre-season with Barcelona,” they said at the time. “He did not have one last year because he picked up an injury and could not travel with the team. He wants to be ready from day one and fight for his place.”
Torres has gone through a humbling process. From a star signing in January 2021 when he joined from Manchester City (for an initial €55million) to an ‘expendable asset’; a player who didn’t even have a clear place in Xavi’s rotation.
This pre-season, he hired a personal physical trainer and a physiotherapist to start work weeks before the team were called to begin the new campaign. He put in the effort that he himself demanded and, in his thinking, the future was set.
“I have it very clear in my mind. I’m staying,” Torres said in July after scoring in a 5-3 defeat to Arsenal. “I have the capacity to play at Barcelona. Whatever the media says, I don’t care. I need to be at peace with myself and to work harder than anyone because in the end, at some point, there will be the reward.
“I’m not a fool, I’m the first one who can be self-critical. Last season was not good, but it was one of the moments I’ve learnt the most from in my career.”
“We all knew he wouldn’t have a starting spot in pre-season,” a source close to the player said.
“It was a fresh start from scratch. The first mission was to show Xavi he wanted to have minutes really badly. Then, to let the manager know he can count on him for the rotation. After that, keep delivering on the pitch and, once he’s back on track, the future’s on him.”
And yet, despite all this, Torres will still likely not be a starter for Barca’s next game. The most normal thing would be to expect him on the bench again in his new super-sub role.
Now, though, his resurgence has left Xavi with something to think about. How does the manager handle that one of his most in-form attackers does not have a place in the starting XI?
Finally, Torres is a good problem for Barca to have.
(Top photo: Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Get all-access to exclusive stories.

Subscribe to The Athletic for in-depth coverage of your favorite players, teams, leagues and clubs. Try a week on us.
Pol joined The Athletic in 2021, initially moving to Manchester to assist us with our Manchester City, Manchester United and Spanish reporting. Since 2015 he has been an English football correspondent for multiple Spanish media, such as Diario Sport and RAC1 radio station. He has also worked for The Times. In 2019, he co-wrote the book Pep’s City: The Making of a Superteam. He will now move back to Spain, covering FC Barcelona for The Athletic. Follow Pol on Twitter @polballus


Leave a Comment