If there was one player forw hom Aston Villa wish they could turn back time, then Fernando Torres may well be that man.
The Birmingham Mail revealed that Villa actually wanted to sign him when he was just 15 after seeing him action during a visit to Madrid. It was suggested that the club’s youth team coaches were pleading with then-chairman Sir Doug Ellis about signing him, but he “wouldn’t loosen the purse strings.”
A source revealed to Birmingham Mail: “Yes, we looked at him, but there were that many clubs vying for him at the time we were just nowhere near making it happen. You know what Doug was like, he just wasn’t interested.”
Since then, Torres developed into one of European football’s most feared marksmen, really breaking onto the scene with La Liga giants Atletico Madrid.
His time in the Spanish capital saw him make a high-profile move to the Premier League, where he joined forces with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool and netted an incredible 81 goals in just 142 games for the Merseyside club.
Torres’ on-pitch chemistry with the former Liverpool skipper has been much discussed, including by Gerrard himself, who said: “If you asked me who was the best player on a daily basis consistently, Suarez was an animal but my best years were alongside Torres in terms of how I felt.
“My relationship with Torres, I was getting a lot of goals at that time. I was at my peak and felt fantastic.”
Torres then made the move to Chelsea, and while things didn’t perhaps work out on a more personal level – he managed just 45 goals in 172 games – they did for the Blues as a whole. The London side won the Champions League and then the Europa League in back-to-back years.
The striker’s biggest success, however, came at international level with Spain, winning successive European Championships in 2008 and 2012 as well as lifting the World Cup in 2010.
While Villa could not have envisaged how Torres would grow after seeing him at 15, given the career the Spaniard would enjoy elsewhere, there’s surely a sense of regret at Ellis’ shocking decision not to “loosen the purse strings”.