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Ferran Torres to spark transfer frenzy after breakout season

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Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus are all said to be keen on Ferran Torres, who could be set to spark a bidding war.

‘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.

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.

THE EXPLOSION

Despite only being 20, this is Ferran’s third season in the Valencia first-team squad and he already has 62 LaLiga 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 LaLiga 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 LaLiga 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 LaLiga.

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.

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Rashford edging closer to full fitness: I feel 10 times better now

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He has been out since mid-January but Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford says he is edging closer to a return to training.

Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford is in a “much better place” than a month ago as he nears a return to full fitness.

Rashford has been out since mid-January due to a back injury, with United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer saying earlier this month the club would not rush his comeback.

The England international is making good progress, though, and suggests he will be ready to resume training once the squad are cleared to go back to work after the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel much better,” Rashford told Sky Sports News. “I have a scan in another couple of days and that should solidify it, but I feel much better compared to two or three weeks ago.

“I feel 10 times better now. For me, now it’s just about getting ready to build back up to training and then playing games for the team.

“I’m in a much better place. I’m much happier than I was about a month ago, so things are looking positive.”

 

Rashford says his recent rehabilitation has been carried out at home due to the restrictions put in place to control the impact of COVID-19.

“Everyone is just dealing with the circumstances as well as they can,” he added.

“I’ve just been in my house doing my gym work and recovery, reading books, watching Netflix and just doing what I can do to make the time pass further.

“There’s not really anything you can do that comes close to being in the changing room and being in the team, so I’m not trying to chase that high.

“I had to have time off anyway because of my injury, but I’m fortunate enough to have a bike in the gym downstairs. Not much in that sense has actually changed for me because I can still do my daily routine that I was doing.”

Rashford is also heading up a campaign for the FareShare charity, which aims to raise £100,000 to help supply food to children who usually have free school meals but are currently unable to access them.

“I didn’t know how high the numbers were of kids not eating at home other than school meals. That number kind of shocked me,” Rashford said.

“And then I remember speaking to a friend who was saying there was an opportunity where we can help these people and FareShare allowed us to make it work.

“I don’t think I’ve actually ever done something at such short notice before. I thought let’s try and get to £100,000 and right now we’re on £97,000.”

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Coronavirus: Brady admits Liverpool all but own title, reveals West Ham have eight in isolation

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Karren Brady has revealed West Ham have eight players showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 – and has made a U-turn over the 2019-20 season.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has gone back on her previous claim that the season should be voided, saying the title is “all but owned by Liverpool” as the the Premier League aims to return to action.

Brady was criticised earlier this month for suggesting in a newspaper column that the top-flight campaign in England should be declared null and void due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

She was accused of putting her own club’s interests first, with the Hammers only outside the Premier League relegation zone by virtue of goal difference.

Her suggestion riled Liverpool supporters in particular, given the expectation they will claim their first league title in 30 years should the season be completed.

She defended her initial comments, saying she was merely thinking of players and fans amid the coronavirus pandemic, but has now said the Premier League plan to “get going as soon as possible” still stands.

“It is a paradox that at a time football would be a great comfort to millions, it must not be played because, rightly, people’s health is our priority,” Brady wrote in The Sun.

 

“What is going on in our country and the world is unprecedented and the game is not a necessity – like food or healthcare.

“But to millions upon millions of us, football’s disappearance from life is very relevant indeed. So, we all want it back in a hurry.

“There’s the Premier League to be decided although, obviously, not the title – which is all but owned by Liverpool.

“But neither the Premier League nor the EFL have finished this season’s games. Plus, there is the FA Cup, continental leagues, European competitions, European Championship and almost everything in between.

“The next Premier League meeting is on Friday and the main topic of conversation will be when games can restart. When we – all Premier League clubs – last spoke, we agreed to get going again as soon as possible. And that games will run into July, if req­uired, to get this campaign finished.

“This is the plan. This is what we want to deliver.”

Brady also revealed eight West Ham players went into self-isolation after showing mild symptoms of the virus.

“Players are currently not in training and housebound to comply with social distancing rules currently in place until April 13, when we expect training to restart,” she added.

“And following further Government guidelines, we have eight West Ham players in isolation. Although I am relieved to say they are all showing mild symptoms and, along with their families, seem to be well.”

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Liverpool v Atletico going ahead was a ‘criminal act’

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Carlo Ancelotti has revealed Jurgen Klopp had concerns over the decision for Liverpool v Atletico Madrid to go ahead at a full Anfield.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp felt staging the Champions League match against Atletico Madrid at Anfield without restrictions earlier this month was a “criminal act”, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Everton head coach Ancelotti has spoken with Klopp amid the coronavirus pandemic and said the German had concerns over his side’s continental fixture going ahead in front of a full stadium on March 11.

Liverpool went out of the Champions League after the second leg of their last-16 tie ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat, their last match before top-level football was widely halted due to the outbreak.

Ancelotti told Corriere dello Sport: “I heard from Klopp the other day, he told me that going ahead with the game in those conditions was a criminal act. I think he was right.”

Former Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Milan boss Ancelotti predicts there will be an economic “downsizing” after the virus has passed, with football feeling the effects of that.

“We are all living a life that we were not used to and that will change us profoundly,” he said. “I’m sure we will all have to downsize, starting with football.

“Today, the priority is health, limiting the contagion. When you start again, when you finish, the dates – believe me, I don’t care. At the moment, that’s the last thing on my mind.

“I hear talk about cutting salaries, suspension of payments. They seem like inopportune solutions.

“Soon the economy will change, and that’s at all levels: The TV rights will be less, players and coaches will earn less, tickets will cost less because people will have less money.

“I repeat, what matters now is to fight the virus effectively. Then, of course, if it will be possible to continue the season… otherwise, amen.”

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