Following the unanticipated £28million departure of Romelu Lukaku to Everton, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has declared that no more first team strikers will leave the club this summer.
The news has come as great surprise to the many who understandably assumed that after a nightmare three-and-a-half-seasons at Stamford Bridge, goal-shy striker Fernando Torres would be flogged on the cheap before next season.
Indeed, 20 goals in 110 Premier League appearances is hardly a value-for-money return from Chelsea’s £50million signing, and now 30 years of age with recurring knee complaints, it’s unlikely the Spain international will ever come close to paying back his club-record transfer fee. Breaking up the numbers, the Blues have paid £1.1million for each of Torres’ 45 club goals over the duration of nearly four years.
But Jose Mourinho is more than happy to keep the former Liverpool star within his ranks until at least next summer, when his contract will enter its final year.
It’s time to look at the bigger picture. There’s no escaping Torres’ pathetic goal record in the league; he found more Premier League goals during his first season at Anfield than throughout his entire Chelsea career.
But across all competitions, the wayward striker has been an effective force for the Blues. Over the last two seasons, he’s netted 14 times in 26 European outings and was a major factor in Chelsea claiming the 2013 Europa League title. The year previous, he found the winning goal against Barcelona that saw Chelsea through to the Champions League final, which they went on to win over Bayern Munich. For a club that intends to compete for every trophy available to them, Torres’ proficiency in Europe is a vital contribution.
Likewise, the Spaniard’s pedigree is undisputed – just a matter of years ago he was amongst the best strikers in world football, not only due to his lethal touch in front of goal but because of his exceptional all round game.
Torres is quick, strong, intelligent, surprisingly effective in the air and consistent with his link-up play. No one can doubt the goals have dried up, and no one can doubt that sense of fearless aggression we often witnessed at Liverpool has all-but evaporated, but the Spaniard remains a very complete, multi-dimensional striker who offers Chelsea a variety of avenues in attack.
Whilst Diego Costa and Didier Drogba are both very similar forwards that relish the individuality of the lone target man role, Torres provides an intrinsically different service , utilising his intelligence as a footballer and often bringing the midfield into the game – for better or worse – much earlier.
Thus, one could argue, recent scoring form aside, that Torres is in fact a much better option for Mourinho than Lukaku, considering the complexion of his already big-and-burley strike-force. The Chelsea gaffer has already commented on this, stating his plans to use the 30 year-old in a front-two at times next season.
Furthermore, although the misfiring Spaniard has received justified criticism throughout his Chelsea career, his work-ethic, attitude and professionalism can’t be faulted. Other strikers, crumbling under the weight of such a monumental price-tag, would have demanded a transfer some time ago, but regardless of the scepticism of the fanbase and intense spotlighting by the British media, he’s persevered through three-and-a-half campaigns of continual disappointment at Stamford Bridge. In the modern transfer market where player power rules supreme, Torres’ continual loyalty and dedication to the Blues deserves greater recognition.
Mourinho appears to feel the same. Upon his return to west London last summer, the Portuguese commented on his surprise at Torres’ impeccable work-rate in training, despite at the time being heavily linked – as usual – with a move away from Stamford Bridge. For a manager who has ousted several players already due to their lapsed attitudes towards a competitive training environment, namely Lukaku, Juan Mata and Kevin de Bruyne, that’s an enormous testament of his faith in the Spaniard.
Although it’s not been successful, Torres has dealt with his continually poor form in the most admirable way possible; hard graft and a clear desire to change his game into a manner that can still service the Blues, even without posing a consistent goal threat.
Torres will never be the player he once was. Jose Mourinho claims it’s a prolonged crisis of confidence, suggesting rediscovering his self-belief could instigate a dramatic revival in form – at this point however, too much damage has been done.
But ignore the price tag; ignore what we knew about the Spaniard from his time at Liverpool. A dedicated professional of undisputable pedigree that remains as committed to Chelsea as ever, Torres still has an important role to play at Stamford Bridge. It may seem counterintuitive, but in comparison to Lukaku and other striking options on the market this summer, through form good or bad, Torres is a player Mourinho knows he can trust.