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Ferran Torres: ‘Lamine Yamal should be banned for what he’s doing at 16!’ | Spain

Spain

The Spain striker who defied criticism at Euro 2024, his role as a super-sub and what he thinks of his teenage team-mate

Thursday 27 June 2024 23.00 CEST

This is getting serious. Well, sometimes. Ferran Torres sits on the home ground of tiny SV Aasen 1928, laughing about how Lamine Yamal should be illegal, playing darts with Phil Foden and being David Villa when asked about the man who will be standing in front of him and his teammates his from Spain. “If the last one had to come in from the post, the next one will need three a lot of loops to beat ‘Mama,’” he says. “You have to visualize, you have to believe. You also need a clear chance; I watched it last night and it’s amazing.”

The mother is Giorgi Mamardashvili, the 6ft 6in Georgian goalkeeper who has made more saves than anyone. Torres’ goal, past Albania’s Thomas Strakosha, completed a perfect group stage selection, nine points from nine and no goals conceded, although it was also the only one they had scored themselves since half-time in the opening game, and the margins are getting thinner and thinner. “We were the best team in the group stage and that gives us confidence,” he says. “But things are changing now. Did I skip Italy? The last time in the semi-final I gave them a pass and went home with a thorn in my side. You can play good or bad, but now you have to win.”

Spain played very good. Better than anyone and better than anyone expected. At least anyone outside the Öschberghof: the team, who walked from their secluded forest hotel in Donaueschingen to training every morning, had more confidence than everyone else. “Without a doubt,” Torres says, pausing. “Without a doubt,” he says again, and there’s another pause. Then a smile. “Without a doubt,” he adds. It could be his motto. “The first step to doing anything is to believe. If you don’t believe, there’s no point in trying. But we have faith. Outside, there is always less faith, but as the games go on, they start to get on board. We have to ignore the outside noise.”

Which doesn’t sound like a man who ignores outside noise; instead, it may even suggest someone affected by it, resisting it. Could doubt, criticism, actually be helpful, something to fight against? Any external enemy to prove it wrong? There is a big breath. “It depends…it depends…” Torres begins.

A lot has been said about him being called the Shark – too much, actually – but he also suggested it says something about his personality and talked about working with a psychologist, learning to live with the pressure, channeling it. Xavi Hernández described him as the strongest player he met. Sometimes he appeared driven by self-righteousness, a determination to fight back, an advantage about him. And yet today, it feels quite different; he do what. There is an ease about him here, the analysis delivered calmly, a reflection perhaps of his development and environment.

“Sometimes it’s not nice when the press in your country doesn’t believe in you,” he says. “It’s not a fuel, exactly; it’s…” He rushes off. “I won’t use the word. You have to support your country. It’s not that they weren’t; just maybe they didn’t have the faith we had. After all, few people have the faith that we have. I wouldn’t call it fuel because we know what it’s like; we’re used to them not believing in you one day, believing in you the next.”

Today I do, getting on board more and more. The difficulty for Torres is that Spain’s change, their success has been at least partly driven by wings Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams, who have seen their opportunities limited. He was not always a starter at Barcelona either, the doubts that he would be in Germany growing. Luis de la Fuente, however, has faith in a player with versatility and the ability to score when no one else has, again demonstrated against Albania. One of 10 changes to the team, Torres’ hit was his 20th in 44 games; no one has as good a ratio, a hint from Villa about his movement and clean finishing. “My idol,” he says. “I hope I can catch him one day.” It is a contribution to make, he is convinced, even if it is from the bench.

“I also mark with my club – my numbers are there – but there is something about putting this shirt on, something inside. I was with the national team at youth level and there is a pride. This is more than a team, our strength is the group. You have to make the most of the minutes you have; make them count and you’ll get more. For a striker, it’s important to mark, to say: “I’m here, I’m ready”. Sometimes the starting XI tires the other team out and we can come in fresh and change the game.

Lamine Yamal has already made a big impact with Spain and Barcelona. Photo: Foto Olimpik/Action Plus/Shutterstock

“Maybe we’re more direct than before; we don’t have that much possession. Maybe it’s a little looser. Every coach has his own nuance. But more than a style, what you see is that we are friends on the field. You see the energy, the connection, the atmosphere: everyone is totally engaged. You see us train and it flows. Above all, you feel empathy, synergy. There is no rivalry; there is competitiveness, but not rivalry. Of course we all want to play, but he is healthy and that is very important.”

What then of Lamine Yamal? Ferran grins. “That it should be banned. What is this kid doing at 16 years old!”

In fact, strictly speaking, it is forbidden, or so they say: children under the age of 18 are forbidden to work after 11:00 p.m. No one is taking it seriously, but if the last 16 go to extra time, Bild claimed that strictly speaking he cannot play. Which, come to think of it, could be an opportunity. Torres laughs. “No, I will report him to the police after July 14,” he jokes. “Let him help us win the first one. I did not know that; I’m going to tell him now, to get him out of his head: there’s a joke to be played here. Off the field, we spend the whole day, all together: there are no groups. I play darts. I learned in Manchester with Phil Foden and many more. I’m not bad, but not as good as them: they play for years; in the pub with the beer.

“I don’t watch football normally, but at the Euros I am because there are opponents we could face. I watched Georgia against Portugal. We beat Georgia 7-1 and 3-1 in the qualifiers, but those results are a little fake and things are changing now. The group is finished. We can expect anything. And we’ll take it game by game. If we get to the 90th minute against Georgia and we’ve won, then OK. Now you just have to win, any way you can. God willing, on July 15, everyone everywhere is saying I played like shit and won it.”