The transformation of Fernando Torres
Stories have been written of his profligacy in front of the goal. Epitaphs in remembrance of his goalscoring knack have been produced aplenty. Liverpool fans derive extreme pleasure in taking a swipe at Torres after every match when he fails to score a goal.
The statistics may point towards a sharp fall from grace for a world-class striker who had, at one point, had the football world singing praises in his honour. He is suffering from a lack of confidence in front of goal, and the immensely-talented Spaniard seems to be going through what might be one of the most famous goal droughts in football history (briefly punctuated by a smattering of goals here and there). But the recent game against Benfica showcased a Spaniard who has reinvented himself,one who had sacrificed his predatory touch for a touch of finesse and creativity.
He is aware of his dip in confidence in front of goal. Hence he has adapted his game and changed it into a swashbuckling creative playmaking style. It is a mix of the flamboyancy of a striker, and the creativity of a playmaker. Torres has dropped deep, allowing Ramires and Kalou to drift forward into the box, while he dribbles past defenders with amazing skill and puts in crosses of which a winger would be proud of.
His assist for Kalou in the build-up to the winning goal against Benfica last night was sheer class. He got away from a Benfica defender, then dribbled all the way to the 12-yard area, where he laid a delicate chipped ball past two defenders, to which Kalou applied the required finish. Throughout the match, he was a joy to watch. His speed, coupled with scary dribbles and pin-point passes posed serious problems to the Benfica defence who were struggling to match up with Torres. His link-up play with Mata was excellent, and was heavily involved in many counter-attacks, most of which came to nought because of some interception or other.
One of the finest examples of his creative spark being awakened was against Manchester United. He might have borne the shame of missing a open goal in the previous fixture, but this time, he was simply superb. He linked up the midfielders and forwards expertly, creating space for himself and running through channels to whip in delicious crosses. His sublime cross to Mata for the second goal in the reverse fixture spoke volumes of a man who had been heavily criticized for his ineptitude to score in a Blue jersey. He showed that lost as he may be when it comes to goals, he has reinvented himself into a key attacking source for the Blues in terms of sheer pace and creativity. Indeed, statistics point out that Torres has been far more involved in attacking play for Chelsea than he did for Liverpool.
So the next time Fernando Torres does not score, please do not be surprised. He might have increased his number of assists, or might have been involved in the build-up to the goals. Genius never dries up, it only transforms into wisdom and creativity.