Fernando Torres would have been watching last weekend’s Champions League final with great interest. A lot of it was riding on his boyhood club Atletico winning the European Cup and adding it to their La Liga triumph the week before.
Muted celebrations followed Torres’ opener when Atletico travelled to Chelsea in the semi-final on the competition, and deep down the striker wouldn’t have been too fussed at Chelsea losing out to the team he grew up with.
But the other interest for the Spaniard would have been on the condition of Diego Costa. Fully fit, Diego Costa would have been Spain’s first-choice striker at the World Cup. But the Atletico forward isn’t fully fit. He lasted less than 10 minutes in the Champions League final in Lisbon and less than 20 a week earlier in what was the league ‘final’ against Barcelona.
We’re at the stage now where Costa may not travel to with Vicente Del Bosque’s squad. You feel he will, though. There was such a big song and dance about him committing to Spain over Brazil that it would be the most laughable anti-climax if he didn’t actually take part in the tournament.
Torre has had a terrible time since moving to Chelsea in 2011 – and he knows it. The trophies are great. The Spaniard has won everything worthwhile there is to win in football, bar a league title in either of the two countries he’s competed in. But a Champions League semi-final goal won’t assure him of a starting place in Spain’s World Cup team, nor will Chelsea’s participation in the title race, which Jose Mourinho will vehemently deny.
This is a player who needs a significant change to find happiness. Not a change of manager – Chelsea have been through five during his time at the club – but a change of environment, a change in attitude and expectation. Torres, speaking to French magazine So Foot, noted that it was a case of playing one game then finding himself on the bench the next. It didn’t change, no matter who the manager was.
He misses the player he once was, because despite not seeing silverware during his time at either Liverpool or Atletico, he was the player everyone expected him to be. He delivered a standard he expected from himself. Maybe there is a future for him at Chelsea, even if it’s under Mourinho, but why should Torres be led to believe things will change eventually if he persists at Stamford Bridge?
Torres will never get back to his best, the Torres that arrived on Merseyside from Madrid in 2007 and blitzed Premier League defences for, let’s say, about thirty-ish months in total. The pace he once had is gone; his invention hasn’t, but a player like that, a striker who relies so heavily on speed, can’t produce to the same levels if his legs won’t allow it.
Let’s assume he goes to Atletico in some form of a deal, either in isolation or as part of a transfer that sees one of Diego Simeone’s go the other way: is Torres good enough to lead the line for a team like that, a defending champion also competing in Europe? Yes, but it’s a phenomenal gamble.
This isn’t the same Torres, but it’s still a player capable of brilliant performances. I question whether he, however, has the tools to play as a lone centre-forward and be successful. He’s able to create, but you wouldn’t play him as a No.10; putting him out wide would be equally odd. Pairing him with another forward makes the most sense. Pairing him with a manager like Simeone, who has shown a talent for coaching improvements in players, makes the most sense.
And why not push for a move back to the Vicente Calderon, where the image and affection towards Torres is unchanged? Why stay on at Stamford Bridge where opinion is so divided and where there is no hesitation in labelling him a waste of money at £50million?
Torres should never have moved to Chelsea, but as always hindsight is 20:20. There have been numerous points where he could have exited this difficult journey. Another one is approaching this summer and he should take it.