Pep Guardiola watched 21-year-old Spain sensation Ferran Torres become the youngest player to hit a league hat-trick for him since Lionel Messi – and said the "brilliant" newcomer "has the smell" after a sensational strike. </p><div><p>Messi was 125 days older than inspired winger Torres when he hit a treble for Barcelona against Tenerife under the watch of Guardiola in 2010, and the managerial mastermind gave a glowing assessment of his summer signing from Valencia after he scored three times in 25 minutes to decide a classic.
Torres’ first, which put City ahead for the first time in a thrilling 4-3 win at home to Newcastle, saw him latch on to a free kick from out wide and flick the the ball into the net from the edge of the the six yard box with a clever back heel that gave goalkeeper Martin Dubravka no chance.
“I may have to think about playing him as a striker. He can be a number nine. He is an alternative, he is brilliant,” Guardiola said after watching Ferran take his tally to 13 for the campaign.
21y 75d – Ferran Torres is the youngest player to score a league hat-trick for a Pep Guardiola team, with the previous-youngest being Lionel Messi against Tenerife in January 2010 (22y 200d). Company. pic.twitter.com/6CMzqLsGFL
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 14, 2021
“This is his first season in England and his numbers are exceptional in terms of goals.
“The movement he creates as a striker, the runs in behind. His last goal: the ball hits the crossbar and where does it come? He is there.”
With the Premier League title won, Guardiola rotated his squad and gave several players a chance to stake their claim for a place in his Champions League final starting XI later this month, including a 14th start of the season for Torres.
“He has the smell, the striker’s nose, being intuitive to be there one second before the ball arrives. He has this talent and is a good finisher,” Guardiola purred, hinting that Torres could even make him think twice about bringing in a direct replacement for departing club legend Sergio Aguero.
“Maybe we buy a striker, maybe we don’t. But we have a guy who is young. I can use him left, right or as a striker.”
🗣 Pep Guardiola on Ferran Torres: “I may have to think of him as a striker. When Jesus and Aguero were out, he played as a striker and always he is (near the goal). He scored against Leeds and against Crystal Palace. It is so important. He can be a number 9.”#FPL#FFScout#mcfcpic.twitter.com/OR1gG18yZz
— Fantasy Football Scout (@FFScout) May 14, 2021
Speaking to the club’s official website afterwards, Torres predicted that the final games of the season “should help us to get ready for the [Champions League] final.”
“I think it could be the icing on the cake,” he said. “We are going to try to do it to wrap up an unforgettable season. Obviously, I’m very, very happy.
“We have an amazing squad full of great players and everybody could be in the starting XI. We were losing at the start, but the team managed to react and we did well in the end.”
Torres reflected on City’s achievement in setting a new record for consecutive away wins in Premier League history, earning a 12th straight victory on their travels.
“When we faced this game, we knew we could make history,” he said. “The key was the team pulled together in the good and the bad moments.”
Still, you can’t please everyone. Though complimentary about his display, former City favorite Joleon Lescott still doesn’t see Torres starting in Porto.
“I think Pep knows the team and the formation he wants to play,” the former defender said on Sky Sports.
“I don’t see Torres in that, even though he scored a hat-trick tonight. I think he’s gone up the pecking order of first substitutes.”
“Yeah, first substitute,” ex-England and Manchester United striker Andy Cole agreed.
“After a performance like that, if I am [part of] a draw [as a manager], I’ll go for him. If he’s playing as sharp as he is now…yeah, I’ll go for him.”
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