Rewind a few years and AC Milan’s newest recruit had it all: the pace, the effortless skills and, most of all, the goals of a player filled with confidence and ability. Liverpool fans loved him and he was in love with the club, the city and the culture. The man it seemed had it all, but like all men who have it all they always strive to get even more, and this was in part his downfall. When Chelsea’s Russian owner presented Liverpool with £50 million to secure their star asset, to win the 2010-2011 Champions League, Torres presented Carlo Ancelotti with an immediate problem: how could he fit Drogba, Anelka and Torres into the same side? That was a conundrum that the Italian never managed to solve, and that summer he was dismissed.
Torres was damaged goods by the end of that season and would never look like the same player again. Sturridge emerged as a genuine new talent and Drogba continued to be suited to the Chelsea way. Confidence for a footballer is the most vital attribute, one that defines a striker, and once it is gone it is hard to reclaim. Confidence is a must and Torres has never had it at Chelsea. There were brief glimpses that he might re-emerge as one of Europe’s feared strikers, and many Chelsea fans will smile at the memory of that fateful goal in Nou Camp which put Chelsea into the Champions League final, a final that Chelsea would ultimately win and ironically one that would once again put Drogba centre stage. A stage that he rarely disappointed on, Drogba the striker defined a Chelsea generation: powerful, explosive and aggressive. Such qualities are never mentioned in the same breath as the name Torres and that unlikely to change. The relationship between Chelsea and Torres was always likely to end in a messy divorce. Managers have come and gone during the Torres era but so finally has Torres himself.
Torres of course can say that he is not the only high profile striker to exit London’s biggest club having been deemed a failure: Kezman, Shevchenko, Sturridge and Lukaku all fit into that growing club of Chelsea misfits. Chelsea managers used to talk of the Ghost of Mourinho but forwards should also be talking about the Ghost of Drogba. Ultimately Chelsea never quite moved on from either and it is not surprising that both have ended up back at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea have let go of four strikers during the transfer window and have been left with Drogba and Costa, with the possible arrival of Loric Remy coming in before Monday transfer deadline. So why does Costa suit Chelsea and Mourinho much better than Torres?
Gary Neville suggested recently that Costa was like and old fashioned and uncomplicated English number nine, someone who would thrive in the Premier League. Neville is not wrong, it seems never is, but the point is there is nothing complicated about Chelsea newest striking recruit. When he smells a goal he will shoot and not over-complicate matters as Torres often did. Costa has added steal, aggression and presence upfront to the Chelsea team. A front man not afraid of a scrap and certainly not afraid of the physical nature of the Premier League. Mourinho has finally found the perfect front man to complete Chelsea jigsaw and make them into a title winning force. Sometimes it only costs £32 million to get the complete forward.
Mourinho demands a lot from his players but the instructions for his front men have always been simple: hold up the ball, be a target man, rough up the defence and score goals. Torres was unable to follow through on any of these instructions, ones which will not trouble Chelsea’s new number nine. It is hard to know what quality Mourinho admires most about Costa but his aggression is sure to be high on the list. Certainly his style of play does seem to be suited to the English game and once again Chelsea have a winner upfront. Chelsea were missing that figure last year, now there is no excuse and Mourinho knows it.
Mourinho likes his player following his instructions and no one elses, his rules and his directions. The transfer of Lukaku to Everton on a permanent basis highlights just how tough he is on his strikers. Lukaku was to clever ,to outspoken and not a willing disciple and was unwilling to conform. In the era of Twitter and 24 hour news, Lukaku was to high maintenance for Mourinho, the most important rule in the Special One’s handbook is that he has to be number. Not the first among equals but the first. Lukaku is bright and would be likely to have offered tactical advice to Mourinho. Martinez would probably value the input: a manager who loves his players and is an arch diplomat. Mourinho is not a diplomat but a fiery dictator and the relationship faulted quickly.
The summer has shown new pecking at Chelsea, and the Roman empire seems to be no longer run by the owner. Mourinho has taken the hot seat both on the bench and in the board room. He is the first manager to get full control of transfer policy at Chelsea in the Ambramowich era. Lukaku, Ba, Torres, Eto’o, Lampard and Cole all departed the club this summer and acted swiftly to rectify the gaps in the squad. No Rooney saga, no bad headlines and no drama: an unusual summer. The drama has instead been passed onto Manchester United. The Premiership never stands still and evolves at serious speed and there is never an accepted status quo. It is why it is the best league in the world and why it will remain so.
Torres was not the right fit for either Mourinho or Chelsea. He was not a man in Jose’s image and at times looked scared in the blue kit of Chelsea. Mourinho players need to be aggressive enough to put up a good fight but timid enough to back down, Torres was just timid. It is testament to the strength of the Premier League that when players want the easier life they head abroad. England has the best league and the most competitive league. Torres should not be ashamed of his time at Chelsea he has just become yet another ex-Chelsea striker, that together make up the misfiring strikers club. Costa maybe lucky enough not to join that club or maybe luck has nothing to do with it and he is just a better fit.
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