Looking to be back to his best again at Chelsea

Fernando Torres

The easy or even outright explanation is Jose Mourinho, because the Portuguese is so far distinguished from Rafa Benitez and Carlo Ancelotti.

It would also be incredibly easy to throw our arms in the air in celebration at the idea that the Fernando Torres of old – or young – is now back and ready to lead the Chelsea attack.

You have to ask, how many football fans don’t want to see the best of Fernando Torres again? It doesn’t even have to be the Torres that lit up the Premier League in his first season at Anfield; the player who at the time was deemed the best forward in Europe. Importantly, that was a little before the whole Lionel Messi phenomenon.

Torres scored 23 goals for Chelsea last season, mostly in Europe and crucially in the Europa League final against Benfica. But let’s forget that, because as others have offered to imply, any scoring record outside of the Premier League is irrelevant.

Prior to this season, I explored the benefits of keeping Fernando Torres at Chelsea. He had clearly lost his pace – an integral asset in his play – and the scoring drought – ahem – was becoming ever more problematic. Torres isn’t a 24-year-old anymore; physical decline is a natural part of sports and life. And yet I still maintained that Torres was an excellent player. I don’t know, maybe I was yet to escape his charm. As I said, who wouldn’t like to see him at his very best again?

There should be comparisons to older players who have had to adapt their game, even teammate Samuel Eto’o, who dropped deeper into the No.10 position while at Anzhi. The thing about Torres is that he is fit to be a centre-forward. He’s able to hold up play extremely well; despite not being characterised as a man mountain in the way players like Didier Drogba usually are, Torres still plays the lone striker role expertly. He’s therefore too good or even vital to be played out wide. What about playing dropping deeper into a No.10 role? Well that just causes more problems at Chelsea.

What if it’s simply just a matter of confidence? Torres’ miss against Manchester City on Sunday from point blank range would have decimated the confidence of the Torres of a year or two ago. Instead, he brushed it off and continued to act as one of Chelsea’s liveliest attackers, finishing the game with a goal and an assist.

But to go back to the easy explanation of Jose Mourinho, perhaps there is something in there. Whether it was Wesley Sneijder, Drogba or Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mourinho had a noteworthy and even different relationship with his players, something which is easily forgotten following the events last season at Real Madrid. But can the simple altering of an individual in a dugout really inject a player with the pace that many had deemed was lost long ago? What about intelligence? How many of the great players of the game, or even the really good ones, are void of intelligence? Torres had a capacity to electrify. He was more than a poacher in the mould of Pippo Inzaghi. So how, no matter the issue of confidence, do you become stupid over night?

You can lose interest, though – and that could be key. Torres was and continues to be a fantastic footballer, but a loss of interest can cripple the most inspiring. Chelsea never looked like a home to Torres in the way Liverpool and especially Atletico Madrid were in the past. Acceptance that life will be hard, as it was for Torres since swapping Anfield for Stamford Bridge, could force a player to spiral out of control. He may still be effective in some capacity – last season’s Europa League and the role he played at Euro 2012 as examples – but the player you thought you were getting, all £50 million of him, is gone.

Importantly, we saw the “interest” return to Torres in the game at White Hart Lane against Tottenham. He battled with Jan Vertonghen, he was a nuisance, but vitally he looked like he was enjoying it. Manchester City could be the defining point of Torres’ post-Liverpool career. Maybe there’s too much intrigue in the air, but after two goals in at Schalke last week, this definitely feels different.

Another false dawn, or is Fernando Torres on his way back to his best?

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