Fernando Torres. World Cup, European Championships and Champions League winner. Why has he been so heavily criticised? It takes no genius to realise that ever since his first couple of seasons for Liverpool, even pre-move to Chelsea, the Spaniard has stuttered and stumbled his way through each title campaign. The Torres everyone knew and feared seemed to fade into the distance after the dreaded knee injury which he was rumoured to have acquired and played through at Liverpool took it’s toll. Ultimately and regardless of the deterioration, the striker still went on to win the Champions League, FA Cup, Europa League and European Championships ever since his 50m move. I look at the the player he was, turned into, and what he potentially could still be.
The arrival of El Nino, ‘The Kid’, was a record breaking barrier for Liverpool in 2007. A fee that was never really agreed upon between media outlets ranged from £20m-£26m, and in today’s game, that was one of the best buys. Fernando Torres became the best foreign player in their first PL season, scoring 33 goals, more than the likes of Van Nistelrooy in his first season.
Statistically for this season, the numbers are quite unbelievable. In terms of Premier League football, he scored a goal every 106 minutes, with a shot accuracy of 50%. And although more recognised for his finishing instead of creation, he made a chance every 59 minutes in the total 2542 he played.
The following seasons, marred by niggling injuries and only short-term returns from them, it couldn’t be said that Torres suffered from “second season syndrome”, but he was just not as invincible as he was in his first. A lesser 31% of dribbles were successful in his last full season at Liverpool, and only 9 goals in 2010/11 months before his move to Stamford Bridge. Still impressive, of course, but the bar was set extremely high after that first unbeatable year. However, vital goals such as doubles against, ironically, Chelsea, and involvement in Champions League ventures under Benitez still meant that the Spanish Golden boy was in the spotlight.
It wasn’t until his final months for Liverpool that his motivation, and physical capability was questioned. Failing to complete the World Cup final due to injury was what seemed to be the final straw for Torres in what had been a torrid year for him. Although, the picture described on Liverpool’s website as being “The best pic you’ll see all year”, was the number nine draping a Liverpool scarf around his shoulders while holding the World Cup aloft. But as we all know, come 12 months down the line it might as well have been blue.
The Chelsea Move
31st January 2011 changed the complexity of Fernando Torres as a player. No longer the main man, but one of many. His first goal for Chelsea eventually came after 903 minutes without hitting the back of the net, and the first season could be seen to be a bit of a write off- a “transitional period”, like many of our clubs are told to have gone through. In contrast to the first Liverpool season, only 33 dribbles were attempted, and Torres only managed to scoop one league goal in his first half season for the Blues.
Although Chelsea were subject to several manager changes, the Spaniard did look unsettled on the pitch. Describing the first couple of seasons as being the ‘worst moments of his career’, were backed up by the fact that more than a third of games he played in the Champions League winning season were from the subs bench. Perhaps not first choice for some of the managers Abramovich brought in, Torres did make a name for himself on some of the big occasions. The infamous Gary Neville ‘unbelievable’ scream being the most significant. The Barcelona semi-final goal that helped Chelsea on their way to their first ever European glory was what Fernando needed in terms of a boost to show his importance to the squad, especially as he wasn’t used until late on in the actual final. All of the good spells that the number nine seems to have are disrupted by needless red cards, international breaks or small niggling injuries – although, these have been very few compared to his Liverpool days.
The current 2013/14 season hasn’t yet brought the spark for the striker. In the 6 league games he’s so far made an appearance in, he’s only managed to get 2 shots on target, and is yet to score. However, a bright performance this week in the Champions League has shown the he’s worked hard over the period of time he’s had off (suspension and injury), and that certainly showed with his two goals.
So what next for Fernando Torres? The phrase ‘many a false dawn’ does spring to mind as relevant, but talent backed up by the likes of the stats shown does not disintegrate over a few years. Now that we’re officially in the time for world-cup selection, he’ll be looking to impress for international level, and having not even reached the grand old age of 30, you could say that these are still his peak years. Undeniably, being at the hands of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea does spark the excitement of years previous, and if anyone can get the best out of a star striker, ‘The Special One’ can.