How do you want to look at Fernando Torres’ time with Chelsea? As the player who helped his club to victory in the Champions League and Europa League, or as the striker who failed miserably at warranting his £50 million price tag?
The Spaniard’s 23 goals in all competitions this season can hardly be seen as a disappointing return – at least that’s the way it looks on paper. Chelsea finished third, with a new manager appointed midway through the season, and added their third trophy in two seasons. But Torres has been hit-and-miss again for much of this campaign, with plenty of the latter. Whatever the club decide this season, it may be best for the striker to move on away from England.
One of the most obvious points from all of this is that Torres was always doomed to fail at Chelsea, or, to put it slightly better, he was never likely to rediscover his glory days. From the moment he was dropped into Carlo Ancelotti’s side in January 2011, Torres had the weight of his transfer fee, the presence of Didier Drogba and his injury problems to deal with. It didn’t matter that Roman Abramovich was just feeding his own desires in the market; Torres’ arrival did far more bad than good in Ancelotti’s second season in charge.
But it’s very difficult to paint the image that Torres is now a terrible footballer. From the heights he reached during his days at Atletico Madrid and then at Liverpool to what he is now hasn’t happened because he went to bed and woke up a poor imitation of his former self. The environment at Stamford Bridge, with its many managers and playmakers, was never right for the Spaniard.
And here’s the thing: how does Torres go on to move on from all that while still in England? As mentioned, there have been 23 goals this season, one of which was crucial in landing Chelsea the Europa League. But it is far too much of a gamble for any English club to explore. The transfer fee and wages aside, Torres doesn’t offer anything of a guarantee for Premier League clubs to put all their hopes into.
But once again, it’s not to portray Torres as a bad footballer now. During his difficult spells with Chelsea he has still managed to maintain a spot in Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain squad, including getting on the score sheet during the Euro 2012 final against Italy. That electrifying pace may be gone, but the intelligence it needed to be married with in order to make Torres the player he once was still remains. What you have now is a veteran striker who has to adapt his game. Juan Mata and Eden Hazard were seen as keys to fully unlocking this new-look Torres and helping him settle at Chelsea, and the fact that all of that didn’t happen doesn’t necessarily point to a player whose career is as good as over.
What we’ve heard at various points this season is that a move back to Atletico may be on the cards. Probably the safest choice for Torres considering his reputation there hasn’t been completely tainted, but also that Spanish football represents a good option to overcome the difficulties of most of his time in England. The Premier League won’t forget the struggles the forward has faced in England, and the questions about his current state will be an ever-present.
Of course, a question that needs to be put forward is whether Torres can remain at Chelsea considering his goal return and total of three trophies. Well yes, he can persist with the club, but it doesn’t make it the best choice. The striker spoke of his importance to this Chelsea team following the Europa League final, a position he feels he’s attained following the previously mentioned goal against Benfica. But as we’ve seen in the past, Abramovich won’t stand still this summer, and Jose Mourinho, providing he arrives, certainly won’t allow him to do so. Where does Torres stand when there has been such regular conversation about the club looking to land Radamel Falcao or a striker of his quality? What about Demba Ba and Romelu Lukaku? Whatever you may think of Torres, is he really at that stage of his career where he needs to start thinking about being a rotation striker rather than a regular in the starting XI?
It’s always been about the need to feel important for Torres. The confidence has at times been drained completely from the striker, culminating in misses such as the horrific effort at Old Trafford in 2011. But even more so, Torres has a reputation in England that will be hard to shake. When a goal drought starts to emerge, England won’t shy away from telling the striker that this is all too familiar. A move is still the best choice for Torres this summer, but one that is well and truly out of the Premier League.
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