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EURO 2020

Ferran Torres: "I didn't discuss the Olympics with Man City"

Ferran Torres sat down to chat to AS in the stands at Petrovsky stadium. He was full of hope ahead of tonight's quarter final against Switzerland.

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Ferran Torres explained how he got the football bug, as a young boy playing futsal with his mates out on the concrete pitches at Escuelas Profesionales Luis Amigó (EPLA) in Valencia. Even back then he had an eye for goal, like he is showing with Spain's national team - he has scored eight goals in his first 15 games. He says he still gets tingles whenever he and the team stand for the national anthem before games as he told AS, who sat down to chat with him in the stands of the Petrovsky stadium in Saint Petersburg this week.

How did you feel about being left out of Spain's Olympic squad?

It was a unique chance for me. Every player dreams about taking part at the Olympics at least once in their career. I don't have time to dwell on it, we need to be focused on the Euros and go into the Switzerland game full of hope and confidence.

Would you have liked your club to have allowed you to go to Tokyo, or would you prefer to steer clear of any problems?

I didn't discuss it with them. I have to fit in with whatever they say. But obviously, players need holidays because seasons are very long and we all need to disconnect. We are really enjoying Euro 2020, it's very intense; after that we'll have time to rest.

And you can't stop scoring...

I've scored with goals with the national team in 15 games and I am happy to have helped the team, which is the most important thing. I hope I can continue scoring many more goals for Spain in the years to come.

What objective have you set yourselves?

We're very relaxed and working well. We are a very close-knit group and we just take one game at a time, but we are a team that likes to dream about achieving things.

Ferran Torres' cheeky backheel against Slovakia.

How did you take the criticism after drawing the first two games?

Criticism is part of football and you have to learn to live with it - both when things are going well and when they aren't. You need to be able to isolate yourself from it so that you don't depend on what others say or think otherwise you'll just end up at a dead end. The team has reacted well, we didn't manage to out first two games, but we worked well and put in two good games. We have to keep working and continue along the same lines.

The strongest criticism came from the Spanish media...

Of course! The Spanish national team is one of the best sides in the world and always has to be among the top teams. That's something we live with and makes us even more motivated.

Spain went 1-3 up against Croatia and within five minutes, they were back level. What was going through your mind?

I was on the bench and I didn't really know what to do. I came on when it was 2-3 and we knew that they were going to press us in the final minutes so when they made it 3-3, you feel a little despondent. But you are running out of time and so you need to encourage your team mates; it was incredible how they responded and turned it around, everyone deserves a big pat on the back for that.

You're a winger who can scores goals, do you enjoy playing as an out-and-out striker as you have done at times on occasion?

I have learned a lot during the past year. With Pep I have learned to play as a No.9 and even Luis Enrique has used me there in a few games. Before, I was more of a winger, taking on opponents and getting to the byline. Football changes and players change, now I like being closer to the rivals' goal because it's such a special feeling when you score and I have been doing well playing there.

Which players do you look to to learn things from?

My reference was always David Villa; when I joined Valencia, it was the era of Villa, Silva and Mata. I wasn't lucky enough to have coincided with Silva at City but all three were references and key players for me. I also remember watching Villa at the World Cup in 2010. He also played out wide in spite of bring a striker and I have tried to model a lot of my game on him.

Now you don't seem to be taking on opponents but looking for spaces to move into to get into goal-scoring positions…

That's true, before I would be trying to get past rivals, but the teams we have been facing tend to drop deeper. A lot of the time I am looking to to make a run to open up spaces and take defenders with me - not so that I receive the ball. But ultimately, it's about adapting to the game you are playing.

Luis Enrique has a lot of faith in you, but how did you feel when he left toy out of the side against Poland?

There are 24 players in the squad and any of us can play. Right from the first day, the boss has showed confidence in me that even I didn't have myself; in the end, it something which you have to make the most of because there are a lot of very, very good players in Spain and self-confidence is high. When you're not playing to your best level, there are others who can come into the side ahead of you. I was relaxed about it, supported the team like everyone else and when I got my next opportunity, I tried to make the most of it.

But no player likes being on the bench!

I know! All of us want to play, but here we can't let egos get in the way. We all need to help because this is the Euros - who wouldn't want to win the Euros, whether you are in the starting XI or on the bench?

Like Thiago - he hasn't featured in the starting line-up but he is always supporting the rest out on the field of play.

That's very important. When you see someone on the bench, who isn't playing but encouraging everyone else, you really appreciate that. The boss will give every player an opportunity.

In what ways are Guardiola and Luis Enrique different or similar?

As coaches, they are quite similar. Both of them had careers at Barcelona have very clear, similar ideas about maintaining possession of the ball, pushing rival teams back into their own half and above all, pressing as soon as you lose the ball. That's what characterses them.

In what ways are they different?

There aren't many differences between them. Spain is more about passing the ball around, although against Croatia we reverted to long balls when they started pressing us high up the pitch.

When you play for Spain, do you feel that the whole country is watching? Do that feel like a huge responsibility?

More than anything, when I am listening to the national anthem and you think that the whole country is listening with you... look (shows his arm), it puts your hairs on end because there is no feeling quite like it.

Most of the big favourites at Euro 2020 - Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, France are out...

That just shows that you cannot afford to relax, any team can make things difficult for you and everyone wants to win the Euros. Football is getting harder and more physical all the time.