He is one of my favourite Spanish players of the last decade, and arrived in England from the Spanish capital five years ago amidst a flurry of publicity and goals. The last eighteen months, though, have been an absolute disaster for Fernando Torres. Now aged 27, the question has to be asked: will he ever recover that deadly form he showed in his earlier career?
He started out as we all know at his boyhood club, Atletico de Madrid. He was the darling of the Calderon, nicknamed El Nino because of his boyish looks, and boy could he find the net! He spent seven seasons in the Atleti first team, making nearly 250 appearances since his debut in May 2001. He left the club in 2007 having scored 91 goals. He never won the Pichichi award though.
His transfer to Liverpool cost the Anfield club around £25million, bringing with it obvious attention and pressure. It is reported that Liverpool had to fight off Chelsea for his signature. Torres had been quoted as saying Liverpool were the only English club he would have joined. I’ll be perfectly honest at this point; I didn’t think Torres would be an immediate success in England, due to his slight appearance and the pace and strength of the Premier League. I was delighted to be proved wrong though, as he plundered 33 goals in all competitions in his first season on Merseyside. This total is still by far his personal best return for a season. His exploits during this first season even saw him finish third in the 2008 FIFA World Player Of The Year Awards, behind Ronaldo and Messi! Scoring the winning goal in the final of Euro 2008 for Spain would have helped of course!
The 2008-09 season saw a few niggly hamstring injuries break up his progress a little, although he did still bag himself seventeen goals in all competitions. The following season was a mixed bag for Torres. He became the fastest player in history to score fifty goals for Liverpool, and of course he won the World Cup with Spain. He didn’t score in the tournament though, and again was struck by injuries during the domestic campaign. 2009-10 proved to be his last full season at Liverpool, as he completed his megabucks move to Chelsea in January 2011, for the astonishing sum of £50million.
Why was the figure so astonishing? I mean, after all, he was a World and European Champion who had a better than one in two strike rate for Liverpool (81 in 142). Well, the first half of 2010-11 was not particularly great, as he only scored nine goals and looked a shadow of the player that had electrified crowds and terrorised defences in seasons past. He showed a glimmer of what he could do, ironically against Chelsea, as he netted two brilliant goals to win the game for Liverpool. This prompted Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to spend the huge sum of money on Torres, seemingly without the blessing, or even knowledge, of then manager Carlo Ancelotti.
At time of writing, we are now one year and two days removed from this monumental transfer, and what are Torres’ stats for his new club? He has scored the magical total of five goals. FIVE. In forty four appearances. He only scored once in his first half season at Stamford Bridge, in a 3-0 win over West Ham, and even that was with the aid of a huge puddle in the penalty area! This season to date, he has netted twice in the Premier League, and twice in the Champions League.
This, then, brings us onto the question at the beginning of this article. Can Fernando Torres regain his mojo? The answer, quite simply, is yes. Of course he can. I just don’t think it will happen at Chelsea. Or in England for that matter. I think he needs to return to his homeland, a place where he is revered, a place where he will be loved once again. Maybe he’s just lost that little bit of pace due to his hamstring problems, and maybe that has dented his confidence terribly. Maybe every manager since Benitez hasn’t had a clue how to deal with him, or how to play him. Certainly, it doesn’t work having him and Drogba at Chelsea. Although with the Ivorian on his way this summer, maybe the team will be built around Torres next season.
And if not? I would take him at Barcelona, in a heartbeat. There was a niggle at the back of my head during January that Senor Rosell might just pick up the phone and offer to take El Nino to Catalunya to cover for the stricken David Villa. That didn’t happen unfortunately. I would love to see Torres in a Barca shirt, I have wanted him at Camp Nou for years, and the thought of him being supplied by Messi, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc gets me drooling just thinking about it!
I know it sounds fanciful, but there are rumours that Abramovich might cut his losses and sell Torres this summer. If he does, I doubt it would be to another English club. I think Torres has become homesick, or sick of England at least. A return to Spain would be ideal, but if he’s a diehard Atletico fan, then he can’t possibly go to Real can he? And who else could afford him!
Watch this space…