Roman Abramovich has stamped his authority on Chelsea yet again, with Roberto Di Matteo becoming the latest in a long line of managers to be sacked by the Russian oligarch.
It was announced yesterday that Rafa Benítez is the new interim manager for the Blues, with rumours Pep Guardiola could take over in the summer. This news has been met with outrage by Chelsea fans, with Benítez seemingly deeply unpopular with supporters. In 2007, he even talked about how he would never accept a job as Chelsea coach.
However, one important factor is that when Rafa Benítez was coaching Liverpool, one of his star players was, of course, Chelsea struggler Fernando Torres. It was Rafa Benítez who was responsible for bringing in the striker to Liverpool from Spanish side Atletico Madrid. During his Liverpool days, Fernando Torres scored 81 goals over 142 matches with the club, 33 of those being scored in the first season he played with Liverpool. How many has he scored since joining Chelsea last year? 19. And he scored just once in 18 games during his first season with the Blues. So, inevitably speculation is raging that Rafa Benítez has been brought in to try and return Fernando Torres to his previous form. But can employing the man who was Fernando Torres’ boss in his heyday really get the £50 million Spaniard scoring goals regularly again?
Well, it is unlikely that bringing in Rafa Benítez will make Fernando Torres have a miraculous turnaround and suddenly start scoring a stream of goals. However, hiring Benítez, who Fernando Torres once called “the most important coach” of his career, could boost the striker psychologically and improve his performance for the club.
It is known that discipline and concentration are of great importance to Rafa Benítez in his management style. And perhaps that is what is needed for the new interim manager to help Fernando Torres return to his former glory, and to see Roman Abramovich’s dream of Chelsea becoming world-beaters become reality.
And Benítez is already known to have been a positive influence on Fernando Torres in the past. For example, once when Torres got a hat-trick for the Liverpool team, when he got to the dressing room rather than lavishing him with praise, he pointed out which aspects the striker had lacked in. And perhaps that is what is actually needed to get Torres to score more goals and perform better, pushing him to improve and challenging him, rather than trying to do everything possible to accommodate him. As Torres said last year: “He has been the only one who knew how to help me improve.”
Another reason why Rafa Benítez could greatly help Fernando Torres is because he could give the striker motivation, desire and belief, which many have claimed is lacking. It has been reported that Roberto Di Matteo and others had been having serious doubts over Torres’ motivation and his commitment to Di Matteo’s Chelsea project. When he was with Liverpool, 69% of Torres’ goals (56) had been created through defence-splitting passes, but players including Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, as well as newer signings Eden Hazard and Oscar, prefer passing through opposition. Bringing in Rafa Benítez may be able to influence Fernando Torres to become more motivated. It is probable that Fernando Torres could be suffering because of self-doubt over goal scoring and his current ability. Benítez could be able to help improve the striker’s belief, motivation and self-confidence. Additionally, Benítez’s side could show greater caution in play, which could increase the space in which Torres can work.
However, it may be too much to ask of Rafa Benítez, and is it perhaps not realistic for Torres to return to his previous form? For instance, much of his success with Liverpool seemingly came from the way he worked with his then team mates Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard. He does not seem to have managed a similar connection with the Chelsea players. The players at Chelsea have not been changed yet, so can his problems really be fixed?
Even Benítez himself said during a coaching seminar this Wednesday that he is unsure if Torres can return to his former level, though he thinks he is able to improve. He said: “He’s still trying very hard but I still think he’ll improve. Can he get back to that level? I’m not sure but he can improve, especially if he can improve his confidence, he can get back to high levels.”
It is likely that Rafa Benítez could help improve Fernando Torres and get him scoring more goals. However, it could be said that Fernando Torres has to put the work in himself. It remains to be seen whether he can return to his old form.