Where did the free-scoring livewire that was Fernando Torres disappear to?
One minute you couldn’t stop him scoring and producing the kind of form that schoolboys and Sunday players only dare dream of emulating, and the next he was fluffing his lines constantly and missing they type of chances my dear grandmother could have scored.
Starting out with Atletico Madrid’s youth system, he was immediately destined for bigger things, and played in the first team for six years, scoring 82 goals in 214 appearances. In the 2003/04 season Torres became a highly acclaimed player in Spain when he scored 19 league goals in 35 games and made his full international debut on 6 September 2003 against Portugal. “I was captain in Atletico at 19, playing in the same team as Demetrio Albertini who won three Champions Leagues and Sergi Barjuan from Barcelona, who had won everything, and they were 32, 33,” Torres said. “I was a kid as captain, so I wasn’t the real captain, just a kid learning from them.” Torres became the star player in a mediocre Atleti team before the bright lights of the Premier League flashed before his eyes.
The now 31 year old Spain international was a sensational buy for Liverpool in 2007. £20m was paid for his services and he was never as prolific as he was at the Anfield club. He was the fastest player in Liverpool history to score 50 goals. He became a fans’ favourite in no time and his goal record for the club speaks for itself. 81 in 142 appearances in all competitions for the Spaniard, plus never scoring fewer than 22 goals a season in his four campaigns in the red, is something that all clubs would give their right arm for today.But upon learning that Chelsea had offered £50m for him, Torres then requested a transfer after declaring earlier that season that his commitment and loyalty to the club and to the fans was the same as it was when he first signed.
We all know that meant little.
A British record fee of £50m took Torres to Chelsea on deadline day in January 2011. However, after his exploits in a red shirt, blue didn’t appear to be his colour. Many pundits speculated that Chelsea would find it difficult to accommodate Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Torres in the same team… and they were right. Torres scored once in his first half-season at Stamford Bridge and then followed that up with 19 in 92 appearances.
His form dropped alarmingly and although it improved slightly when his old Liverpool manager arrived (Rafa Benitez), it was really never enough for the club. There was one bright spot for the blonde striker, and that was Chelsea’s win in the Champions League. It was his breakaway goal in Barcelona that will be remembered by most Blues fans. He was heavily criticised for his low return and missed some glaringly obvious chances. Frustration and a lack of confidence affected him and on this occasion it was ‘adios’.
After three and a half years as a Chelsea player the 30-year-old striker agreed to move on loan for two years to Italian club AC Milan. He had only scored one league goal in 589 minutes for the Milan club when it was announced on 27 December that he was going to make his move permanent in January. Only 48 hours later Milan loaned Torres for 18 months to his boyhood club, Atletico. Torres hoped to reclaim his former glory on the pitch as he told Atletico’s official website: “I’m going to Atletico in the pursuit of my happiness. When I was a child, my dream was to play for Atletico. I achieved that and to come back now is another dream I get to accomplish again. I’ve been fine with other teams, but there isn’t one like Atleti.”
In a career than included over 100 caps for Spain and 38 goals, Torres has played at EURO 2004 and the 2006 FIFA World Cup (scoring ten goals in the tournament, qualifiers included) before starring for La Roja at EURO 2008 and hitting the winning goal in the final against Germany. Torres then appeared in all seven matches of Spain’s 2010 World Cup winning-campaign in South Africa, coming on as an extra-time substitute in the final triumph over the Netherlands. Despite starting just twice at EURO 2012, his three goals and an assist proved enough to earn him the Golden Boot as Spain retained their European crown.
So, what next for Torres? The former Liverpool and Chelsea forward is out of contract in the summer and so far Atletico boss Diego Simeone has been evasive when asked about whether he would like the player to extend his stay in Madrid.
Torres, speaking to ESPN, said: “[Simeone] said it was something personal and that it would remain between us. Today the window closes and there are no proposals but there is the summer still. I have never hidden my feelings, from here on in it is not up to me. My job is to score goals. No one should take attention away from what is important here, and that is the team.”
Torres is hoping to end his long wait for his 100th Atletico Madrid goal, which has been on hold due to injury. “I have been with this club since I was 11 and I only want to score this one goal, the other 99 have been gifts.”
It just goes to show that no matter how good you are or were, keeping that consistency going is near enough impossible for the best of us.