I’d love to see the look on the face of Fernando Torres at this moment. Now that Rafa Benitez has become the latest temporary of Chelsea.
Torres and Benitez – once close friends and allies – fell out big style at Liverpool.
I shall never forget an exchange between the pair, in Spanish, that I heard crystal clear when sat behind the dug out at Anfield. It was in Rafa’s last season as manager of Liverpool and he had lost the confidence of Torres and club captain Steven Gerrard. They really didn’t know what Rafa was doing tactically.
No scousers around me knew what Fernando called his manager that day. I did because I’ve been called that name once or twice by angry motorists in Spain. Or by the bread delivery van driver when I told him his bread was better for hammering nails into a wall than a hammer!
Fernando Torres enjoyed his best years in English football while working for Rafa Benitez. But all that changed in their final season together.
Since which time Torres has been in a state of almost permanent sulking.
Sorry. Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable to hear. But the truth is…
Fernando Torres really isn’t all that.
I recall saying that when Liverpool paid a then club record fee to Atletico Madrid.
Everyone in Spain was amazed at the time. He has never been highly rated in is own country. Before and even after he scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2008 European Championship final. Atletico Madrid snatched around twenty million pounds from the hands of Liverpool. Torres had, up to that point, been more a miss than a hit in front of goal.
But then Torres came to Liverpool and was a sensation. He scored on his home debut, ironically against Chelsea. Benitez made Liverpool play to the strengths of Fernando Torres. They began to play the ball through the middle, or over the top, in the way a former Liverpool side did when Michael Owen was at his best and fittest.
When Torres was banging in goals for Liverpool, along with many other watchers of Spanish football, I had to eat my words. He did very well and was a much more exciting player to watch for Liverpool than he ever was for Atletico Madrid or for the national Spanish side.
He scored 82 goals in 214 appearances for Atletico Madrid. But at Anfield his strike rate was much better, 65 goals in 102 League games.
But his last season at Liverpool was his least successful. He fell out with his fellow countryman Benitez and could not relate to his replacement, Roy Hodgson. He only fleetingly gave 100% for Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool did well to get 50 million pounds for a striker who had lost both his touch in front of goal and, crucially, his confidence.
Since that time Torres has looked dangerous in front of goal only sporadically. More often than not he has seemed petulant. And regular Chelsea fans have witnessed this more than most.
Chelsea season ticket holder, and Talksport radio presenter Andy Jacobs, said today: “If I was Fernando Torres today, I would be ashamed of myself. I wouldn’t be able to look in the mirror.
“I feel sorry for Roberto Di Matteo. He dared to drop Torres.
“But last night’s result has been coming. We have an unbalanced side. In David Luiz we have a centre half who, despite being useless, gets picked every game and a striker who can’t score. And yet the owner demands he plays.
“The owner dictates transfers. He bought Torres. He allowed Drogba to go to China. The problem at Chelsea is that Roman Abramovich is incapable of admitting when he has got it wrong. My ideal solution would be for Jose Mourinho to come back next season, but for that to happen the owner has to admit he got it wrong when he showed him the door. And in his world, Abramovich is never wrong.”
The next manager to be appointed long term (don’t laugh) at Stamford Bridge must convince the owner that Torres should be sold. That they must cut their losses and, instead, get in a proven regular goalscorer. Or two.
At Chelsea it is always a period of transition in the office of the manager. Benitez is just the latest through the revolving door.
But now it is also time to make changes on the pitch. Stalwarts like John Terry and Frank Lampard have held that side together for so long. But their days are numbered. Age and injury don’t care how good a player you have been, nor how much money you are paid.
Fernando Torres will either find his way back to Liverpool or go back to Spain where a couple of clubs with new owners are splashing the cash. Liverpool fans will always remember him fondly and the feeling is mutual.
But, in retrospect, I think I was right after all when, back in July 2007, I said…
Fernando Torres is not as good as he thinks he is.