If Manchester City had felt differently, Ferran Torres could have been 6,000 miles from Wembley trying to win an Olympic gold medal for his country.
The Spain international, along with Rodri, was selected for the tournament but his employers and Pep Guardiola felt it was more important for him to rest up after the European Championship and be ready for the start of the new Premier League season.
Three days after his first training session back, Torres led the line for City in the Community Shield against Leicester to show just how central to Guardiola’s plans he is currently viewed.
It takes seriously impressive levels of fitness to do that; Jack Grealish returned to training with Aston Villa on Monday yet was not considered fit enough to make his full City debut, while wantaway star Bernardo Silva actually played in the friendly against Blackpool on Tuesday but was left on the bench.
Guardiola made it crystal clear on Friday in his first press conference of the season that City want to sign Harry Kane in this transfer window, and it would take Rafael Nadal levels of top spin to justify not signing him given the ‘competitive and aggressive’ window that was promised by the chairman this summer and the fact that a No.9 has been planned for since before the beginning of last season.
However, Guardiola certainly sees a lot that he likes in Torres – and he’s not alone, given how Luis Enrique used the 21-year-old at the Euros this summer. While he arrived last year at the Etihad as a winger, his knack for goals has excited the manager in a way that few players can and Guardiola was left purring at the hat-trick against Newcastle in May.
Torres was fairly anonymous against Leicester, struggling to get the ball and looking short of rhythm. He is not the answer to the question of who replaces Sergio Aguero.
The fact that he started here at Wembley though, ahead of Bernardo and rather than being allowed to go to the Olympics, shows that the manager is suitably impressed enough with his ability and attitude to suggest he will still have an important role to play even if City are able to land their top target Kane before the transfer window is out.
There are many games to play in a season for a club like City challenging on every front, and while doubts linger over Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus – who is not yet back training after his summer rest – Torres is set for plenty more opportunities to keep his place in the team.