Four days removed from his 30th birthday, it’s fair to say Fernando Torres hasn’t become the striker most expected him to.
We’re a long way from that electrifyingly clinical finisher we saw at Anfield upon his arrival in the Premier League. And after his move to league rivals Chelsea, the home away from home in Liverpool is gone, and the only place Torres is unconditionally loved is at Atletico Madrid.
There is no easy way to explain Torres’ demise. Managers, some of the best in Europe, have come and gone, and none have been able to answer the riddle. Jose Mourinho looked to have struck gold when Torres hit form earlier in the season, not just finding the back of the net but looking like the Torres of old. It proved, however, to be another of many false dawns.
Chelsea are making do, rather than offering the kind of adulation that was so prevalent for Didier Drogba. The transfer fee shouldn’t really play too much of a part in discussing Torres’ time at Chelsea. It’s an obscene amount of money for a footballer, but it’s the norm now. This past summer alone, three forwards changed clubs for more money than Liverpool received in 2011.
It could have gone another way. It could have been so spectacular that Torres, as we hoped to see him, would have justified the enormous outlay and hunger from Roman Abramovich to capture the Spaniard.
Torres still has some of the magic. There have been fleeting glimpses of what he was capable of showcasing on a regular basis in the past. Interestingly, we speak so rarely of the experience the former Atletico striker now has. He’s won the lot bar a league title. There’s Champions League experience, with that goal in the Camp Nou top of the list. For Spain, he’s been involved in finals at the World Cup and European Championship. Vicente Del Bosque, up until recently, regularly saw value in Torres.
And that’s part of the problem, part of the reason why we speak of false dawns. Chelsea don’t want him, the club have made their intentions known that adding a world-class striker this summer is the priority. There’s no room and no point in retaining the three strikers currently in Mourinho’s squad. And even now, Mourinho will rather look to Samuel Eto’o over Torres. There’s inconsistency to his involvement in the starting XI, some of it lies in trouble with injury; the majority is a lack of faith from the manager, who spoke unreservedly of a lack of top striker holding back his sides’ credentials in the title race.
Incidentally, Atletico striker Diego Costa is on Chelsea’s shopping list and both clubs may look to include Torres in a deal when the window opens. Atletico have never been short on fantastic centre-forwards, even while struggling in the wrong half of the league table. Torres on current form and the expectation we have of him isn’t a match for what has come before: Costa, Radamel Falcao, Sergio Aguero, and the man chosen to replace him initially, Diego Forlan.
But at the Vicente Calderon, Torres will have an opportunity to be the man, the central iconic figure and talisman he was never allowed to be at Chelsea. He may be a different Torres to the one that arrived in England in 2007, but Diego Simeone has a way with players – Costa is one of many examples. A change of setting, with the familiarity of Atletico, and a manager who has had such a positive effect on Atletico as a whole should be enough to reinvigorate the striker permanently.