Pep Guardiola suggested Ferran Torres could fill Sergio Aguero’s boots as Manchester City’s leading striker next season after the Spaniard scored a hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Newcastle on Friday.
With a third Premier League title in four years already sealed with three games to spare, Guardiola again took the chance to hand a number of his fringe players an opportunity to shine two weeks ahead of the Champions League final.
Torres made the strongest case to be involved against Chelsea in Porto on May 29 with a trio of fine finishes to take his tally for his first season in England to 13 goals.
The 21-year-old, who also scored a hat-trick for Spain against Germany earlier this season, was bought by City in August off the back of his impressive performances for Valencia as a winger.
But with City’s all-time record goalscorer Aguero leaving the club at the end of the season, Guardiola talked up Torres’s ability to fill the void left by the Argentine.
“It’s his first season in England and his numbers are exceptional,” said Guardiola. “When he has played, he’s had a sense of goal.
“This is a smell of a striker, to know where the ball arrives one second before.”
Guardiola also handed 35-year-old goalkeeper Scott Carson his City debut and a first Premier League appearance for almost 10 years.
The former England international has been on loan from Derby as third-choice at the Etihad for the past two seasons.
Carson was beaten three times, but was also unfortunate to see his penalty save from Joe Willock in the second-half rebound into the path of the on-loan Arsenal midfielder to tap home the rebound.
City dominated the opening stages, but fell behind on 25 minutes when Emil Krafth powered home Matt Ritchie’s corner.
The visitors turned the game around with two goals in three minutes when Joao Cancelo’s deflected shot flew into the far corner before Torres audaciously flicked Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick over Martin Dubravka.
The Magpies levelled again in first-half stoppage time when Nathan Ake was adjudged to have tripped Joelinton and after a VAR review, referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot.
The Brazilian striker stepped up to smash the spot-kick past Carson and make it 2-2 at the break.
Three of the City back four also started a 5-2 home defeat to Leicester in their first home game of the season when they conceded three penalties and Guardiola’s men were guilty of more rash challenges inside their own box.
Friend pointed to the spot for a second time just after the hour mark when Kyle Walker tripped Willock, who to slotted home his sixth goal of his loan spell on the rebound.
However, the lead last just seconds when Torres stabbed home Gabriel Jesus’ driven cross to make it 3-3.
Torres completed his hat-trick 24 minutes from time with another nimble finish after Cancelo’s curling effort came back off the post.
“Every day I am improving,” said Torres. “I just have to keep working towards the Champions League final.”