Legends of Club Football: Fernando Torres
A swift dribble through a rather amateurish Spanish goalkeeper straight out of the sets of ‘Rise of the planet of apes’. A clear opportunity to net it and pull Manchester United back to a one goal lead. A position he was famous for scoring from, those exquisite lovely chip shots, leaving the goalkeeper both in indignation and, unwillingly, in awe. A goal already to his name, Andy Gray of FIFA games fame would say he was ” ready to double his money”. The shot was taken, and it went wide, well wide. The player crouched, as if he was praying, what for? Was it better skill? An opportunity to rewind time? A chance to go back?
One seldom labels a player as a club ‘legend’ if he isn’t a product of the youth academy, one who was born for the club, lived for the club, and would ultimately, die singing the club anthem. They might assign him the lofty title of club legend if he sticks around for some time, delivering year after year, or wins them a significant amount of silverware, bringing them great honor and glory. Yet, defying these odds, stands one kid tall, clad in a blue jersey, bleeding the purest of red. Yes, it is none other than Fernando ‘El Nino’ Torres.
It is not every day one sees the mighty Madridistas of the Calderon being led by a lad of 19. But for the rare few who witnessed the same nearly 8 years ago, their initial worries couldn’t have been less called for. A natural goalscorer was amongst them, willing to make tackles, make runs so perfectly timed it seemed so unavoidable to pass the ball to him and of course, those lovely chipped goals just beyond the keeper’s reach.
Had Rafael Benitez not had the good fortune of signing him successfully for the club’s then- highest transfer fee, it wouldn’t be audacious on my part to say Liverpool might have not even finished in the top 10. One generally takes some time to adjust to a league’s style of play, especially if it is the Premier League. After all, many established foreign talents, the likes of Shevchenko and Ballack, had failed to recreate the magic they had weaved in their respective leagues. Breaking the trends, however, just seemed like another day at the office to Fernando Torres. After all, he broke the 7-year-old record set by van Nistelrooy for the most goals scored by a foreign player in their debut season, and it still remains unbroken 5 years later, finding the back of the net an astounding 24 times.
He might not have been the best player in the world that year (that honour went to Cristiano Ronaldo, very rightly so), but his contribution couldn’t be measured in trophies and awards alone. He transcended all that, even going to the extent of reminding us of the Hungarian legend Puskas; immeasurable in his contribution, yet nothing to show for it in polished silver. He had become a firm favorite of all the Reds, who now possessed their first amazingly deadly and world class striker since the legendary Robbie Fowler. The Reds knew they had their main man, their future captain, the one who would inspire generations of young and dashing forwards, and perhaps, people would look at his bronze statue outside the Anfield in due time. The Scousers sang their hearts out whenever they saw the flash of blond hair darting past them at breakneck speed and lofting the ball ever so gently straight into the net.
“His armband proved
he was a Red
You’ll never walk alone it said
We bought the lad from sunny Spain
He gets the ball
He scores again
Liverpool’s # 9″
Truly Liverpool’s last deadly #9, Torres went on to achieve back to back international success at the Euro 2008, in which he scored magnificently in the finals, and in the World Cup 2010, where he came off the bench and played a vital part in Andres Iniesta’s winner; but his career at Liverpool seemed to be going nowhere. Of course, he continued to win matches, continued to score goal after goal, becoming the fastest Red to touch the 50-goal mark, very surprisingly so, given his nationality and style of play in the (contrasting) demanding rough British football. All of Liverpool seemed to revolve around the blossoming partnership between him and Gerrard, a truly amazing strike force indeed. After all, both of them ran circles around the mighty Galacticos defence featuring stalwarts such as Cannavaro and Metzelder, and young guns such as Ramos and Pepe, and ending up scoring 4 goals, and qualifying with an astonishing aggregate of 5-0. Torres featured on the Time magazine’s list of ‘Most influential Liverpool footballers’ on the 50th rank, something which is very surprising for he had yet to complete even two full years with the Reds back then, such was his talent.
However, it was his second season that led to a gradual slump in his form due to a muscle injury suffered in a match against Aston Villa. His goal tally dropped down from an astronomical 33 in all competitions to almost half as much at 17. Yet, he remained a firm Scouse favorite, there was much to achieved for him, there was supposed to be a resurgence, a fight back, another 30+ goal tally. Although he delivered year after year, in spite of constant injuries plaguing him, he never could recreate the magic of the first season.
Torres ultimately decided to set aside loyalty and follow his heart. And his heart wanted to win trophies. After a 7th place finish and a first round exit from the Europa league, Torres knew he couldn’t achieve his desires of not only winning trophies, but reaching his zenith as a player, and thus, the man who never lost a final left for long time suitors Chelsea. The Scousers were never the same. No more racking up goals, their top scorer that season was Dirk Kuyt with a measly 15. Steven Gerrard wasn’t the same, after all; a play maker is only as good as the player at the receiving end of a delightful throughball. The Scousers never treated him like a legendary player following his transfer, and he continued to rub salt in to their wounds by achieving his reason for leaving Liverpool in the first place. But never was Torres the same player, he seemed to have become docile, having lost his blinding pace and selfish attitude for goals, and, neither was Liverpool the same team.
Mention Torres and a Scouser can only get angry on the outside, but cry on the inside; after all there was so much to be achieved, so much more to give, to the fans, to the team, and to himself. But for now, all that remains is a memory of a legend who won’t be remembered as one…
Here are some of Torres’ best moments at Liverpool F.C.
Read more such Club Legends here