It has been a season of pros and cons for Fernando Torres. The Spaniard is still yet to live up to his £50million transfer fee, recording just eight Premier League goals in 36 appearances, but it has been by far his most successful campaign to date since signing for Chelsea from Liverpool back in January 2011.
Having now reached the age of 29, it is unlikely the forward will ever return to the form that earned him his big money move to Stamford Bridge, and his tenure with the Blues appears to have reached the point where Roman Abramovich is presented with the decision to stick or twist, with reported interest from Fiorentina and the potential for a swap deal involving surplus cash on Chelsea’s part for Atletico Madrid’s Radamel Falcao.
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Should the Chelsea owner move his failed investment on this summer or keep him put? Would it make more sense to get as much as possible on the transfer market for Torres, considering he is about to enter the tail-end of his career, or simply accept that the forward will never return to his old form but can nevertheless remain a useful tool in the West Londoners’ pursuit of the Premier League title?
In fear of doing Torres a disservice, his eight domestic goals hardly tell the whole story of his season. In all competitions, the Spain international has netted on 23 occassions in 64 appearances. It is still perhaps some way shy of the type of ratio you’d expect from a £50million striker, and indeed it is a far less return than the forwards who will be available in the coming transfer window – Radamel Falcao, Edinson Cavani and Robert Lewandowski for example – but his nine goals in Europe have been a crucial factor in Chelsea’s successes in the Europa League – the club’s only piece of silverware to add to the trophy cabinet this season.
Furthermore, the continental title adds to a prestigious list of achievements for the 29 year old that are only attainable to the world’s elite footballers. Torres now has at club level a Champions League winners medal and a Europa League trophy on his CV, and on the international stage two European Championships and a World Cup. It’s the type of pedigree and experience that you simply cannot buy, at least without spending considerably on a single individual, and in regards to judging Torres’ capabilities as a footballer, the accolades should not be ignored.
Yet the Champions League medal was little to do with Torres himself; he may have scored an unforgettably important and thrilling goal against Barcelona at the Nou Camp during last season’s semi-final, but the Spaniard did not feature in the final against Bayern Munich. Similarly, Chelsea are yet to win a Premier League title whilst Torres has been at the club, and indeed the forward does not have any major domestic title on his list of accolades, which is in no small part due to the striker’s lacklustre form in the English top flight since his move to West London, with just 15 goals in 82 league appearances for the Blues during a three year period.
Similarly, although Torres has by far produced his best performances in a Chelsea shirt this season, he is still a long way shy of the form that produced the 81 goals in 142 appearances we saw whilst he was at Anfield, which at the time justified his hefty transfer fee. Furthermore, his lack of confidence is still as evident as ever, with the Spaniard often going missing from games, and seemingly only ever in full flow after finding the net – which unfortunately for the Chelsea man only happens on occasion. His average of 1.9 shots per game in the Premier League is way below the majority of his divisional counterparts, with Suarez recording an average of 5.7, Robin Van Persie recording 3.7, and even the likes of Michu and Christian Benteke finishing up with 3.1.
Should Chelsea make a serious bid for the Premier League title next season, they will not be able to do it relying on their current berth of strikers. Demba Ba is useful and has an eye for goal, but will never be a world beater, whilst it seems that 19 year old Romelu Lukaku will be farmed out for another year to gain more first team experience. The likelihood is that one of the big names in European football set for a summer transfer, Cavani, Lewandowski, Falcao and Wayne Rooney, will find their way over to Stamfod bridge through the course of the next transfer window, however which one will depend largely upon whether or not Jose Mourinho will be at the helm next season.
Either way, Torres will be forced to take a back step in terms of game time, which can only further hinder his confidence considering he’s just come to the end of his most successful period during his Chelsea career. Any club challenging to become champions of England will need strength and depth in their strike force- both Manchester City and Manchester United have won the Premier League title with four forwards all capable of featuring of a regular basis on their books, and a number of top flight clubs this season, including Chelsea, have felt the negative effects of only having two senior strikers in their roster -but is it worth keeping Torres on if he is only to maintain a bit-part role at the club as a second or third choice striker, considering his contract does not expire for another three years?
Of course, it largely depends upon what kind of offer the Blues could receive for the former Atletico man. A return to his former club as a replacement for Falcao would suit the Blues perfectly, however it may only be little more than wishful thinking, whilst it would be difficult to estimate a fee for a cash-only deal with any potential suitors. Considering he’s been out of form for the last three seasons, Abramovich will most likely not even receive a return that halves his initial investment.
There is an old adage however, often used in the world of politics, that states; ‘it is better to have your man peeing out of the tent than peeing in’, and that is undoubtedly the concern for most Chelsea fans. With the weight of an inflated price-tag finally off his shoulders, there’s every chance that Torres will not neccesarily return to his best, but at least have his domestic goal tally reach double figures for the first time since 2010 should he depart from Stamford Bridge for pastures new in the summer.
The Fernando Torres saga has become a lose-lose situation for the Blues; they will never get the best out of him, and Abramovich’s investment will never be fully returned, yet letting a World Cup, Champions League, European Championship and Europa League winner depart for a miniscue amount in comparison to what he was purchased for hardly seems to be in the club’s best interests either. At this point in the Spaniard’s career, it seems he may as well stay put at Stamford Bridge and respect the tenure of his contract.
I’m sure Blues supporters are hoping, with the potential appointment of Jose Mourinho, that the Special One’s unfaltering confidence will rub off on the lacklustre forward, and he will be able to recapture at least some of his old form.