In an interview with Ian Cruise of talkSPORT in April, football pundit and ex-Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy had the following to say about Fernando Torres, who recently departed the unforgiving world of the Premier League for AC Milan of Italy after a harrowing spell at Chelsea:
“I remember when he was doing well at Liverpool talking to a couple of the lads there and they were a bit negative about his technical ability and what he didn’t have, rather than what he did have, which was pace and power. But the rest of his game has never been perfect, far from it, in fact.
“There was a spell at Liverpool when he was unplayable because of his power and his pace, but once he lost that and his confidence went he became reliant on his technical ability, which he’s not very good at – his hold up play, his passing, his decision making, which is terrible.”
This particularly revealing insight goes a long way to explaining the Spaniard’s unmitigated failure at Stamford Bridge, whilst also leaving those enthralled by the way in which Torres first burst onto the scene at Liverpool with melancholy thoughts of what might have been had he resisted the seductive charms of Abramovich’s millions and stayed at Anfield.
For Torres was the subject of instant adoration amongst Liverpool fans, and remained so until his departure on deadline day in January 2011. Unlike his replacement and subsequent crowd favourite Luis Suarez, who has since himself left the club himself, Torres was an immediate success in the Premier League. Indeed, his first season proved to be his most fruitful, scoring 24 league goals and in the process breaking the record for the most prolific foreign goal scorer in a debut season in the Premier League.
In Liverpool, Torres had found a club where he was universally loved. Crucially, it was also a club where he was able to successfully deal with his technical shortcomings. His rapport with Steven Gerrard was instantaneous, the Liverpool captain frequently linking up to provide pinpoint assists which the Spaniard would more than happily convert. The move to Chelsea, however, saw Torres lining up at Stamford Bridge with a glaring Gerrard-shaped hole in midfield. Though the Blues had an enviable selection of midfielders at their disposal, none could replicate the synergy between the striker and his captain at Anfield. Consequently, his deficiencies were laid bare, and with his pace and power also deserting him Torres proceeded to trip, stumble and slip through three-and-a-half seasons of squeamish impotence as Chelsea’s ‘star striker’, managing just 20 league goals in over one hundred appearances.
By moving to AC Milan for what, on paper at least, is a two-year loan, both Torres and Chelsea have finally come to accept that the £50 million gamble was a catastrophic faux pas. It is perhaps at the San Siro that Torres will be able to meticulously repair his shattered confidence; like him, the club has fallen on hard times recently and is nowhere near the force to be reckoned with that it was in the past.
An ideal fit though it may turn out to be – and any compassionate football fan would surely want to see a happy ending to the Spaniard’s career – one cannot help but think that things may have turned out better for Torres had he stayed at Liverpool, even at a time when the club was in the midst of its darkest days. Torres may never have been able to reach the same heights as he did when he first arrived at Anfield, and with the arrival of Suarez he may not have been the club’s first-choice striker. Yet what is for certain is that in Steven Gerrard, he had a teammate through whom Torres could exploit his own strengths whilst simultaneously ensuring that his flaws didn’t affect his game. There is no doubt that the inhabitants of Anfield would have made sure that Torres continued to feel loved, either.
As we bid arrivederci to Torres and quickly turn our attentions back to the ever-evolving, cutthroat world of the Premier League, let us not forget the impact El Niño once had in England, nor his breathtaking ability that at one point made him one of the most feared footballers on the planet. By remaining a Red instead of turning Blue, however, such a reminder may ultimately not have been needed at all.