Amid rumours of Pep Guardiola searching for a big-name striker this summer, Ferran Torres served his manager a timely reminder that the successor to Sergio Aguero may already be in his Manchester City squad.
The Spaniard, 21, has played a sporadic role in City’s title charge this campaign, occupying positions on either flank and through the middle, and has impressed when called upon by his coach.
Having already tied up the Premier League crown, Guardiola rung the changes for Friday’s trip to Newcastle, affording Torres a starting berth on the right of a front three containing Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling.
Ferran Torres served a timely reminder to Pep Guardiola ahead of a big transfer window
The Spaniard, 21, bagged a sublime hat-trick as Manchester City beat Newcastle on Friday
But the youngster outshone his more experienced team-mates on Tyneside, bagging an impressive hat-trick in which he showcased an array of strings to his bow as City ran out 4-3 winners over Steve Bruce’s side.
‘It’s been an incredible week,’ Torres told Sky Sports after the game. ‘We qualified for the Champions League final, then we won the Premier League and now I scored a hat trick so I am very very happy.
‘I try to improve day by day and try to learn by my team-mates, I score a hat trick for the Spanish national team and today as well. I try to learn and keep improving for the Champions League final.’
Guardiola may already have an eleven in mind for the showdown against Chelsea in Porto, with Torres unlikely to feature ahead of Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez at this rate.
Torres demonstrated a variety of finishes in a sublime all-round performance on Tyneside
Yet Torres’ performance on Friday night may well have planted a seed in his boss’ mind ahead of what is expected to be an enthralling transfer window.
It is no secret that City are on the hunt for a replacement for Aguero this summer. The club’s all-time record goalscorer is leaving for free at the end of the season, and with doubts over Jesus, the club are likely to dip in the market for a successor.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland has been heavily linked with a £154m switch to Manchester, yet could the solution to the Aguero conundrum be right under Guardiola’s nose?
‘I don’t know what is going to happen,’ Guardiola told Sky Sports after the game. ‘I said maybe we buy a striker, maybe we don’t. We have a guy who is young, was a good transfer.
Guardiola has said that City could dip in the market for Sergio Aguero’s successor this summer
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‘We can use him left, can use him right, can use him as a striker. The season is long. We cannot play the season with just 11 players. The best striker we can buy we cannot play all the minutes because of injuries, a lot of games.
‘You have to have 15, 16, 17 top players and after that the academy, lots of interesting players who can help.
‘That’s why the players hate me because they want to play every single day but sometimes it is not possible because when you have all these alternatives sometimes it is difficult to let the same players play.’
Guardiola hailed Torres’ ‘exceptional’ debut campaign in England, in which he has contributed 13 goals and three assists in 34 outings, saying that the Spaniard has a ‘sense’ of goal.
Guardiola hailed Torres’ ‘exceptional’ debut season and says he has the ‘sense’ of a No 9
Former Man United striker Andrew Cole backed Torres’ cause, praising his movement
‘It is his first season in England and his numbers are exceptional. In terms of goals, exceptional,’ Guardiola added of the £37m man, who has beaten Lionel Messi’s record of being the youngest player to score a hat-trick under the highly-decorated manager
‘He came as a winger and then I had to think about him as a striker because we had Sergio and Gabriel injured and he scored against Leeds, he scored against Crystal Palace.
‘We used him this season [as a No 9] and he was brilliant. Now his rhythm, especially defensively, has increased a lot. The beginning was a little bit soft, but the game at Crystal Palace made a turn, he was so good, the best game I think he played.
‘The movements he made as a striker, always runs in behind. The goal, the last one, he is there. This is smell. This is sense of goal, being intuitive to know the ball one second before it arrives. He has this talent. So yeah very pleased for him.’
Torres’ top form could pose a problem to Gabriel Jesus’ prospects of regular first team action
The Brazilian has plateaued this season, forcing Guardiola to utilise a false nine system
If Torres needs a Premier League legend to champion his cause, he can look no further than Andrew Cole. The Manchester United legend hailed the youngster’s ‘sharp’ movement following his trio at Newcastle.
‘He was sharp today,’ Cole told Sky Sports. ‘He was in the right place at the right time. His finishing was clinical and that is what they want. Naturally he is going to be the future for Manchester City and they have got one there.
‘After watching him today, yes [I see his potential]. His movement is good and if you look at all of his goals they are poacher’s goals today.
‘First one, second one, third one. A hat trick at any stage of your career is going to put you on a big high but this one is going to be massive for him.’
Former Man City star Joleon Lescott revealed fears over the 24-year-old’s future at the club
While Torres may be hitting his stride at just the right time, the Spaniard’s ascent could harm team-mate Jesus, who drew blank at Newcastle having plateaued for most of the season.
‘That is the difference between him and Jesus,’ Cole added. ‘His movement and Jesus’ movement is totally different. [I was] watching him [Jesus] today and he hardly moved.
‘You watch Torres and his movement is totally different. He is in the right areas to score.’
Cole compared the movement of Jesus and Torres in an unflattering review of the Brazilian
Jesus had been earmarked as the man to lead the line for City and fill the gargantuan void left by Aguero. However, Guardiola has shown little confidence in the Brazilian this season, adopting a false nine system after a series of lacklustre showings.
The former Barcelona boss hinted before the game that decisions could soon be made on the futures of his stars, and at 24, this summer window could spell out Jesus’ long-term City future.
‘I don’t think he has cemented himself as the bona fide striker for next season,’ former City star Joleon Lescott said of the Brazilian. ‘If he was more dominant in front of goal and more prolific I don’t think we’d be talking about city playing a false nine.
For Torres, the next two league games could be a chance to dramatically change summer plans
‘If they do get someone in as the recognised striker where does that leave him in terms of his mentality, does he want to play number two to someone potentially younger than him?’
‘At 24 he should now be looking to be the main striker,’ Cole added. ‘He has had the opportunity to watch Aguero for a few years now, and if you can’t learn off someone like Aguero you are never going to learn.
‘At the age he is at now he has got to be saying to himself next season I am the number one striker. Definitely.’
City’s fringe players have two games to impress Guardiola before the showpiece event in Porto. For Torres, it is a chance to drastically change his manager’s summer plans.