One of Ferran Torres’ fondest memories of growing up in the suburbs of Valencia is hanging around outside his boyhood club’s training ground, hoping to attract the attention of David Villa, Juan Mata and others as they filed in and out of the complex in nearby Paterna.
“We would be waiting for that moment to ask them pictures and signatures,” he says. “I remember looking for David Silva above the rest.”
Manchester City’s new £23million signing describes Silva as a role model and a “reference” – both now and back when Torres was just a seven-year-old on Valencia’s books, staring up at a poster of Silva on his bedroom wall. “Not just David, I had several pictures of that Valencia squad,” he adds. “It was a great team for a number of years”.
As a powerful, dynamic and direct winger rather than a diminutive and intricate technician, Torres is less of a replacement for Silva than he is for Leroy Sane. Even so, he will take his idol’s old number. “It was a huge honour for me when the club told me I could choose the 21 shirt,” he says. “Just for what it means here.”
There is a sense of destiny about his arrival in Manchester – confirmed only a couple of weeks before Silva’s final City appearance – but one of responsibility, too. “Speaking about reaching what David Silva did in Manchester are very strong words,” Torres adds, suddenly recognising the weight of the shirt on his shoulders.
But even if he manages only half of what Silva achieved at the Etihad, it will be a brilliant career. Inside the club, Torres is viewed as a vital source of the width that City sorely lacked during last season’s failed defence of the Premier League title, when Sane’s absence through injury deprived Pep Guardiola’s structured attacking play of any unpredictability.
Though Sane was left-footed and Torres’ natural side is on the right, he is comfortable playing on either flank. “Apart from that, we may share some similarities in our game,” he insists. His ability to step inside and operate in the half spaces – much like Kevin De Bruyne – also suits City’s system. And for a winger who does not turn 21 until February, he is ready to be shaped and moulded by the Guardiola way.
Torres still has some things to learn. The day after joining City, he made headlines in Manchester as well as his home country with an interview to Marca, in which he offered a frank and uncompromising account of his departure from Valencia and the many problems he felt were holding the club back. It was honest – the frustrations of a fan, as well as a disgruntled former player – and perhaps he has since been advised it was a little too honest.
Torres is noticeably more guarded when the subject is raised once more. “I just can be thankful to Valencia,” he says. “They gave me everything. They have trained me and taught me from when I was a little to today. The only thing I can do is thank the club for what they have done and tell them that they will be always a part of my heart.” As he told Marca, he is a Valencianista and does not rule out returning to the troubled club one day.
For now though, Torres has an exciting debut year in Manchester ahead of him, the first of a five-year contract. City hope that he, fellow new arrival Nathan Ake and potentially the signing of another centre-back over the course of the next fortnight will mean a swift return to the sparkling, dominant and – above all else – winning football of Guardiola’s second and third seasons, which brought back-to-back Premier League titles.
For a week or so back there, it looked like Lionel Messi could be tempted to the Etihad and all but guarantee a return to the top. It was not to be, but not to worry. “I think we have a fantastic team beyond Messi,” Torres says. “We have a group of players ready to compete against any opponent and we are able to do great things in the Champions League. About a potential arrival of Messi, it is not my job to make any comments about that.”
And for another year at least, City have a manager who many of European football’s most talented and coveted players consider to be Messi’s coaching equivalent. Like many before him, Torres admits the presence of Guardiola was the key in his decision to come to this part of Manchester.
“Pep is a manager that knows how to get the best from any player,” he says. “That made me feel absolutely sure that Man City was the right step in my career. With Pep as a manager, I can reach my full potential.
“When I spoke to Pep he told me to come to Manchester, that my arrival would be important for the team and that he envisioned the club as a great place for me. From that point, to be honest, I was absolutely convinced to come.”