When Barcelona’s anthem rang out following Ferran Torres’ first European match for the club back in February, the young attacker was on his haunches, appearing to rub tears from his eyes.
It was Barcelona’s first match in Europe’s second-tier cup competition since 2004, while a dressing room mix-up left Torres wearing a shirt conspicuously missing the Barca badge and or the Nike swoosh added a ramshackle flavour to proceedings.
Still, this was the kind of occasion the 21-year-old would have dreamt of growing up.
He’s already won the Copa del Rey as a teenager at Valencia and lifted the Premier League trophy and League Cup in his one full season at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. But this was a European night at the Camp Nou.
Torres was nine years old when Guardiola’s Barcelona won the treble in 2009 and 10 when Spain won the World Cup a year later. Now, here he is, playing alongside Sergio Busquets and under Xavi Hernandez – two key members of a midfield that defined Spanish football’s greatest epoch.
He’d scored a penalty in a 1-1 draw against Napoli that night. Yet as he became overcome with emotion at the final whistle, he wasn’t taking it all in, feeling as if he’d made it. Rather, he thought he’d blown it.
Ferran Torres after Barcelona’s 1-1 #UEL draw against Napoli this evening 💔
The forward had a golden chance to win the game late on… pic.twitter.com/kQrBZLl8rk
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) February 17, 2022
One last chance had fallen to him in the dying seconds, but he skied it into the stands. It wasn’t the first Torres had missed that night. It had been an impressively dominant performance from Barcelona – the kind we’re getting used to seeing with Xavi at the helm – but they lacked the finishing touch. None more so than Torres.
The manager wasn’t especially concerned.
“It happened to Luis Suarez, who seemed to have no goals,” Xavi told reporters that night, as per Goal.
“The Barca shirt weighs a few kilos more. But I am delighted to have him in the team and he will give me a lot of joy.
“If he is in the penalty area it is because he will score. He has scored goals all his life and he will have them.”
Fast forward seven weeks and Xavi’s Barcelona remain in the Europa League as the overwhelming favourites in the competition. They’ve won six in a row in the league, a run that’s included impressive victories over Real Madrid and Sevilla, and they’re now up to second.
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Everything is looking rosy again at Camp Nou. And things have started to click for Torres, just as Xavi ensured they would.
Since the start of March, he’s registered six goals and two assists in nine appearances for club and country – including one of each in Barcelona’s 4-0 Clasico triumph at the Bernabeu.
It’s not difficult to see why Barcelona have put their faith in Torres. He’s scored 13 goals in his first 24 caps for Spain. On only his seventh international appearance, he notched a hat-trick in a 6-0 mauling of Germany.
The young attacker is continuing to spurn chances and underperform his rate of xG (expected goals). Fellow January recruit Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is overshadowing him on the goalscoring front.
Yet when you look at his movement around the penalty area, it’s clear to see a talented forward with lethal attacking instincts.
And when he’s also able to add the finishing touch? Madre mia.
Evidence of that was on show with Torres scoring another equaliser in a 1-1 Europa League draw – but this time it wasn’t a penalty, rather the final touch of a classic tiki-taka move.
What a sublime Barcelona goal 😍
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) April 7, 2022
The three one-touch passes between Torres and Frenkie De Jong were classic Barcelona; it could have been Johan Cruyff’s dream team. It could have been Guardiola’s.
But no, this is Xavi’s Barcelona. Running rings around defenders as if they were playing a rondo. De Jong looks just as comfortable playing in it as Xavi did under Guardiola and Guardiola did under Cruyff. It helps to have a player like Torres on his wavelength.
Barcelona’s performance away to Eintracht Frankfurt was by no means their most glittering of recent weeks, but scoring a goal of such quality ensures that Torres left the pitch with his head held high, not wiping away his tears with the shirt.
Vamos, equipo! Teamwork makes the dream work! 😍
— Ferran Torres (@FerranTorres20) April 7, 2022
It’s a goal that would have been impossible for Torres to score against Napoli those weeks ago, when you could see the shirt hanging heavy on a player low on confidence.
Now he’s pirouetting around defenders, playing one-twos, and getting the ball out from under his feet and sticking it in the back of the net like an expert marksman.
Welcome to Xavi’s Barcelona, Ferran. You’re going to fit in just fine.