You would surely have got good odds on Barcelona being the first club to splash the cash in the January transfer window, what with them reportedly not having any.
However, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola confirmed at a news conference on Thursday that Ferran Torres is on the verge of leaving the Etihad Stadium for Camp Nou, with the deal worth up to a reported £55million.
It may seem curious for Barca to be spending such amounts of money given the financial issues that meant they struggled to register new players at the start of the season until they had eased the wage bill, even leading to Lionel Messi having to leave for Paris Saint-Germain.
A recent bank loan has apparently enabled the deal, and Torres appears like the kind of forward-thinking signing the club should have been making in recent years instead of some of the more ill-thought-out moves that have been made.
New Barca boss Xavi is aiming to spearhead a new era with a club that has lost its way of late, with the nadir arguably being the humbling Champions League exit at the group stage.
With all that being said, is this actually a deal that would make sense for all parties? Stats Perform takes a closer look at what appears to be the first big deal of the upcoming January transfer window.
Why Barcelona want the player
When he joined City from his hometown club Valencia in August last year, Torres was considered to be one of the more promising youngsters to come out of Spain as a pacey wide forward.
Although it was a slow start in England for the then 20-year-old, a hat-trick for Spain in the 6-0 Nations League demolition of Germany was soon followed by his first Premier League goal in a 5-0 win against Burnley, before Torres went on to score a further six in the league last season, including an impressive treble in a 4-3 win at Newcastle.
It may well be his form for the Spanish national side that caught the eye of the power brokers at Camp Nou, though, with that hat-trick against Germany contributing to the 12 goals he has bagged for La Roja, including two at the re-arranged Euro 2020 tournament against Slovakia and Croatia.
A brace in the 2-1 Nations League win against Italy in October illustrated his quality, but a foot injury has kept Torres from playing since the final defeat to France in that competition.
Meanwhile, Barca headed into the winter break in seventh place in LaLiga, just two points off the top four but a whopping 18 behind leaders Real Madrid, albeit with a game in hand.
Despite their struggles without Messi, the Blaugrana are joint-third for goals scored (29), behind only Madrid (41) and Real Betis (32).
However, only Memphis Depay (eight) has scored more than three league goals, with second top scorer Ansu Fati managing to play just five games so far.
The loss of Messi was a huge blow, but it could be argued that Barca have actually missed Luis Suarez more since the Uruguayan was inexplicably allowed to move to Atletico Madrid after the 2019-20 season.
Martin Braithwaite was never likely to replace Suarez’s goals, scoring 10 in 56 appearances (22 starts) since signing from Leganes in February 2020, and Luuk de Jong has managed just one in 12 appearances (six starts) since arriving on loan from Sevilla in September, with the Dutchman appearing to be heading out the door soon in any case.
Although he started life as a wide player, Torres seems to have been permanently reinvented as a central striker, which could be exactly what Xavi is after given his best attackers in Depay, Fati and Ousmane Dembele all prefer playing out wide.
Torres has bagged 16 goals in all competitions for Manchester City, as well as 12 for his country in less than 18 months.
It might not quite be the old ‘MSN’ attack of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, but if Xavi has Torres along with Dembele, Fati and Depay to call on, he will still boast one of the strongest looking forward lines in Spain.
15 – @FCBarcelona attempted 15 shots in the first half against Sevilla (five on target), their best total in a first half of a game this season in all competitions and the best of any team in a first half in @LaLigaEN this season. Momentum. pic.twitter.com/zHRodZui5y
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 21, 2021
Why Manchester City are happy to let the player go
It feels like a similar situation to the one that saw Leroy Sane move back to Germany with Bayern Munich last year.
Firstly, it seems clear that the move is happening because the player wants it rather than the selling club, but City will still be happy with the eventual deal should it go through.
“If he wants to leave, absolutely no disappointment,” Guardiola said on Thursday.
“It’s his desire. I’m happy for him. If you want to leave because you’re not happy here, you believe you’ll be happy in another place, you have to go. The career is short.”
Torres has looked impressive for most of his short City career, but more than doubling their approximate £21million outlay on the player in less than 18 months represents a good deal in anyone’s book.
He ended last season looking like he was about to become a breakout star at the Etihad, but with the arrival of Jack Grealish and return to form of Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling, it is difficult to see where Torres would get regular games away from the centre forward position, where he began this campaign.
City’s failed efforts to sign Harry Kane in the summer suggested that Pep wanted more from his ultimate replacement for Sergio Aguero.
Torres boasts the best goals per 90 minutes record of any City player since he arrived in August 2020 (0.55), but his chances created total (29) was only marginally better than defensive midfielder Fernandinho (26), and well behind all other main attacking players.
It seems like the player is now more of a goal getter than a goal provider, but Guardiola probably feels he can still bring in a super elite player like Kane or Erling Haaland in the next couple of windows to fulfil that role, which would further leave Torres as a fringe player.
Why Torres wants the move
On the face of it, one can assume it is a simple desire to return to his home country. Torres joined City as a 20-year-old, and it would be no surprise, particularly given the way of the world since then, if he is feeling a tad homesick.
However, from a football perspective, it looks like a curious one. He will be leaving the champions of England, top of the league again and one of the favourites for the Champions League, to join a Barca side who now reside in the Europa League and who might struggle to even finish in the top four in LaLiga.
As well as returning to more familiar surroundings and much nicer weather, perhaps Torres is intrigued by the idea of leading the next era of Barcelona, obviously still a club with a huge history and reputation, now under the leadership of the legendary Xavi.
At City, Torres has been one of many, more than playing his part but ultimately not being someone Guardiola has relied on in the biggest games. He was an unused substitute in last season’s Champions League final defeat to Chelsea.
Torres made 36 appearances in all competitions last term, and started the first six games of this campaign, but due to injury and simply not being selected, has not played in the Premier League since the 1-0 win at Leicester City on September 11.
The prospect of potentially becoming one of the faces of the resurrection of Barcelona will no doubt be a tempting one, even if it is certainly far easier said than done.
As with Sane and Bayern, it seems a simple case of a very talented player being wanted and needed more by the buying club than the selling one, and the deal itself does seem to leave everyone with a reason to be cheerful.
With so much going for it, this might even be one that Barcelona’s accountants can stomach.
6 – Ferran Torres is the first player to score six or more goals for Spain in a calendar year (six in 2021) since David Silva in 2017 (seven). Update. https://t.co/KMXQLunRN1
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 8, 2021