There was a time not so long ago when if you typed “Fernando Torres” into Youtube’s search engine, all you would get was video after video showcasing a collection of goals and skills that would take your breath away. These days, you don’t have to look too hard to find what used to be a mercurial beast of a striker being ridiculed in merciless fashion. This is not the first time that somebody has tried to explain the reasons behind Torres’ colossal plummet from superstar to laughing stock and it will not be the last but the patience of Chelsea fans with “the £50m man”, as he’s often cynically referred to, is now wearing extremely thin. Their willingness to listen to “explanations” is also on the wane. Perhaps they will lend their ears to one more.
It can now be said that Torres is a broken man. His performance against Steaua Bucharest was that of a player who appears to have lost all sense of what he used to be, with a botched dribble and a goalscoring chance so emphatically squandered that it turned into a clearance, being the only highlights. The formula for Torres’ demise is in fact very simple. Firstly, his body was pushed beyond the limits of its capacity to perform at the highest level, followed by an incessant wave of pressure from the media and fans that has destroyed all measure of confidence.
In the opening months of the 2009/10 season, Torres played through the pain barrier for Liverpool. After pushing his body to the max, the inevitable happend and he went under the knife, prematurely curtailing his campaign, leaving him struggling to be fit for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. During 2008/09, he was similarly injury-hit, but it was during the World Cup that the first signs of decline began to surface. Over-shadowed by David Villa and lacking a cutting edge, Torres’ only memorable moment was pulling up with a hamstring injury as La Furia Roja closed in on making history in Johannesburg.
He began the following season slowly, but by the time Chelsea came knocking in January 2011 he appeared to have rediscovered his form having scored 3 goals in his final four games for Liverpool. As his love affair with the Reds came to the most bitter of ends, Chelsea and their fans thought they had signed the man to spearhead their quest to firmly establish themselves as the leading force in English football. It was at this moment that the psycological demons that have plagued Torres ever since first appeared. His debut for Chelsea was an unprecedented occasion and should never be underestimated in the significance of his subesquent downward spiral. Roman Abramovich’s latest and most lavish acquisition would be cutting his teeth in blue against the team he had left so dramatically just six days earlier. It was a Hollywood script, and the Stamford Bridge stage was set for Torres to put Liverpool to the sword, as he had oft done to Chelsea during his Anfield days.
I was at that game. In the Liverpool end. I have never known an atmosphere or a goal celebration quite like the one that day. Prior to the match, there were blue Torres shirts everywhere and the Chelsea crowd were baying for blood, to see Torres punish his former team. The abuse he received was vitriolic and utterly unforgiving, but I simply could not bring myself to join in. Some Liverpool fans deep, deep down, still have affection for Torres. I believe the same can be said of Torres towards his former club. That day, so soon after signing for Chelsea, doubt was instilled in the Spaniard’s mind. Publicly, he did his best to convince himself that he had made the right choice in the months that followed and his Champions League and FA Cup winners medals would suggest that to be so, but there are signs that privately Torres may regret his decision.
By this stage, after having already lost a yard of pace, the reality of life at Chelsea set in. Didier Drogba was the main man, something Torres was not used to. The longer the wait for his first goal in blue went on, the more the pressure and incredulity at his failure to make an immediate impact took effect. After a conveniently placed puddle put an end to the 903 minute drought, Torres’ Chelsea career seemed to be finally off and running. But it was a false dawn. The first of many since.
2011/12 saw him show flashes of a rebirth, but will ultimately be always remembered for his horror miss at Old Trafford. This season he has 15 goals, something regularly overlooked, but the coldest statistic of all is that he only has 27 in 114 Chelsea appearances. As much as his transfer fee is something that he cannot be blamed for, it is ultimately the pressure of this and the weight of expectation upon his arrival in London, combined with his weakened physical prowess that have resulted in his current predicament of being a fallen star.
On the 2oth of March, Fernando Torres will turn 29 years of age. That undeniably means that he will probably never again be the player he used to be. It is widely expected that he will leave Chelsea this summer and he has always maintained that he would one day return to Atletico Madrid. That would seem to be his most likely port of call. Whatever happens, he has had it all during his time in England both high and low. He may yet surprise us all, but that looks unlikely given the turbulence and animosity at Chelsea towards Rafael Benitez and the loss of faith of Chelsea fans in Torres. Considering what he gave us Liverpool fans, especially in his first season, it’s been a sad story.