18 September, 2011, Manchester United vs Chelsea at Old Trafford: Fernando Torres had already scored against David De Gea to pull back a goal for Chelsea. In the second half, Torres was one on one with De Gea. He went past the Spanish goalkeeper and Man United fans expected the inevitable. Torres had given Manchester united fans a lot of reasons to be upset in the past. Torres had an open sight on goal. De Gea put his head down. Torres put his head up. His shot went wide. Man United fans jeered. De Gea looked up. Torres was down on his knees, which pretty much summed up his form then. Though he had started well under Villas Boas, the goals were not coming. Except for a couple of goals against an average side called Genk, Torres was still struggling for goals.
24 April 2011, Barcelona vs Chelsea at Camp Nou: Chelsea were defending for their lives with just a few seconds left for full time. A goal for Barcelona would have sent them through to the final in Munich. A long ball was played in. Ashley Cole cleared with all his might. The Barcelona midfield looked up to search for the ball. Meanwhile, Torres ran forward. Busquets, the last Barcelona defender saw the ball go above him. And suddenly the unthinkable had happened. Torres was through and had only Valdes to beat and about 40 yards to run. He ran towards Valdes, sidestepped past him, and slotted the ball into the open net and Chelsea are through to the Champions League finals on 3-2 aggregate.
The two instances paint a contrasting picture. The difference being Feranandont Scoress and Fernando Torres. The moment which Chelsea fans were waiting for had arrived. Torres sent a huge message across to his critics.
Fernando Torres’ time in Chelsea can be split into three periods.
1) The Ancelotti Era:
January 31, 2011 was a day to remember in British football. Fernando Torres joined Chelsea for a huge amount of 50 Million Euros. Roman Abrahamovich had spent heavily to get his man. But the question was whether January is the right time for a world class striker to switch clubs. Meanwhile, Ancelotti’s Chelsea were slowly but steadily gaining pace on Manchester United for the title. Their team was gelling together again.
When Torres arrived at Chelsea, it was pretty much a strong squad. The old guard were strong as ever and the squad morale was pretty good. However, Ancelotti was in two minds. Should he start Torres against his former club Liverpool? Should he give him his debut against the very club he had left? Ancelotti started the match with Torres in the line-up. He put on a really poor show, was repeatedly booed by the Liverpool fans. Liverpool won 1-0. It was the start of the end of Chelsea’s dominance that year. It took Torres two months to score his first goal for Chelsea against West Ham.
Torres ended the season with only one goal, a huge contrast from his time at Liverpool. Ancelotti was harshly sacked after two seasons. The Pundits put the blame on Fernando Torres. Though the criticism was harsh, it was not far from the truth. Torres had failed to shoulder the burden of a 50 Million move. He had now become the butt of all jokes along with Andy Carroll.
2) The Andres Villas Boas Era :
Chelsea ushered in the season with several changes in management. Andres Villas Boas was brought in to build a strong team. Villas Boas had put tremendous faith in Torres. He gave him chances and Torres took some of the chances. He put up good performances in the Champions League group stages, scoring a couple of goals against Racing Genk and providing four assists. Though Torres still struggled to score, his movement was better.
However, things took a nasty turn for Chelsea. Andres Villas Boas’ relationship with the old guard had deteriorated over the months. There were even reports of a revolt. Chelsea had their worst run of form in the Premier League in the Roman Era. Didier Drogba, who was key to Chelsea’s success in the past few years made way for Fernando Torres in the starting line up. Torres’ hope of revival has all but extinguished. His form deteriorated with Chelsea’s form. He was guilty of missing key chances, costing Chelsea many points in the Barclays Premier League. The critics were on his back again. First they said, Andres Villas-Boas had failed to improve Torres, one of the main criterion to determine whether he was successful or not. Then the critics pinpointed Torres’ lack of work ethic. A harsh statement.
Many missed Fernando Torres’ skill. He was a picture, not of decadence, but of pity. The final nail in the coffin came when Fernando Torres was dropped from the Spainish national team for the first time even though he was fit for a friendly against Venezuela. His replacement, a certain Roberto Soldado came on as a substitute and scored a hattrick.
Andres Villas Boas was sacked midway through the season after losing to West Brom. Torres again became the butt of all jokes and was blamed for the young mangers departure.
3) The Roberto Di Matteo Era :
Roberto Di Matteo was appointed as caretaker manager. Di Matteo did the simplest of things and made a huge impact. He put faith in the old guard at Chelsea. But what was even more surprising was him sticking with Torres. Many predicted Torres would not be used at all. Drogba was brilliant in Chelsea’s comeback victory against Napoli.
Di Matteo assured Torres that he would be given ample number of chances. Chelsea faced Benfica in the first leg in Portugal. Fernando Torres made the starting line up ahead of Drogba, a shocking decision for many. But Torres did not disappoint. He ran thirty yards and provided a key pass to Kalou who scored the winning goal. Torres then started mainly in the Premier League and the FA Cup. The confidence was back but the goals were still a worry.
Then Torres scored in the Nou Camp in front of thousands of Chelsea fans. He made a huge point . But the final transformation was complete on April 29 when he showed incredible poaching instincts to score a hattrick against haplees QPR.
The jokes ceased to exist. The revival was complete. Fernando Torres still needs to do a lot more to become the player he once was, but then again the signs are more promising than they ever were.