Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughFernando Torres – The Dormant Star - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Fernando Torres – The Dormant Star - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Fernando Torres – The Dormant Star

On 31st January 2011 the British transfer record was smashed by Chelsea, signing Fernando Torres for £50million on a five-and-a-half year contract. That same day Andy Carroll’s move from Newcastle to Liverpool for £35million made him the most expensive British footballer in the game. At first glance Chelsea had signed one of the world’s most prolific goal scorers for only £15million more than Liverpool’s deal for a young unproven 22 year old striker. Carroll’s inexperience is illustrated by the fact that he had only one season of Premiership experience.

It certainly appeared a brilliant piece of business by the London club, with Fernando scoring 147 goals in 316 games at his previous to clubs, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, a ratio of a goal ever 2.14 games, with 27 goals in 82 games for the Spanish national side. Seven months down the line, however, the Chelsea faithful could be excused for thinking they had been conned into signing Sergio Torres from Crawley Town not the player labelled as one of the best finishers in world football. By Chelsea’s first game of the 2011/2012 Premier League season, Torres had managed one goal in 15 games and a string of lacklustre, out of character performances. Many over the summer months have questioned his commitment to the game; have doubted whether he still has the same desire which brought him so much success in Spain and on Merseyside; and whether cashing in on the £50million flop would be the best for Chelsea Football Club.

What has happened to Fernando? Does he have a future at Chelsea? And will he find his feet again at one of Europe’s top clubs?

Torres has always been his manager’s first name on the team sheet since his days at Atletico Madrid. During his days in the Spanish capital, Sergio Aguero was only at the tender age of 19 and Diego Forlan was yet to join the club as Fernando’s replacement. Similarly, after his £20million move to Liverpool, unless injured, he could guarantee his place in the starting eleven ahead of Peter Crouch, Ryan Babel, Andrey Voronin and Dirk Kuyt. However, on arrival at Stamford Bridge, for the first time since establishing himself as a regular at the Vicente Calderon, the Spaniard was faced with a completely fresh challenge, one which could explain the difficulties he’s had in the London. Fernando had moved to a club who had two of the Premier League’s most established player’s in its ranks, in the shape of Ivorian Didier Drogba and Frenchman Nicholas Anelka. Drogba’s 98 Premier League goals in 202 games for Chelsea since joining from Marseillie in the summer of 2004, had made him a cult hero at the West London club. Similarly, experienced Frenchman Anelka had an impressive record of 123 goals in 343 Premier League games, making him a strong option to lead Chelsea’s front-line. Couple Fernando’s competition for places, with the fans and media’s expectation of a £50million super-star destined to succeed, it made the pressure immense. If he were not to make the impact he had at his previous club Liverpool, his reputation would seemingly become tarnished.

Certainly the pressure seemed to be getting to the once prolific goal scorer. In the 2010/2011 season for Chelsea, Torres’ goals to shot ratio was 0.11, the lowest of any Chelsea’s strikers or attacking midfielders. Equally poor were his mannerisms shown on the pitch, by a previously confident striker, whose name would once give Premier League and La Liga defences nightmares prior to a match. From February to May, we were given the impression that we were watching a player facing a challenge too great for him, a player who would complain incessantly towards referees, would look dejected on the field and spend more time on the floor than with the ball. Football fans across the world were all thinking the same thing, had we lost the Fernando Torres we’ve all grown to love or hate for the same reason, for his outstanding footballing ability? Torres certainly showed fatigue in the 2010/2011 season at Chelsea, and one can respect this after having five years without a summer break due to international commitments. So what would the 2011/2012 season bring after a summer break and a time of reflection on his poor start in the Chelsea blue?

On 14st August we were provided with a noticeably different Fernando Torres. His performance in Chelsea’s opening 0 – 0 draw against Stoke in the Premier League, gained him the man of the match award. Gone was the dejected, at times lazy Torres, we had seen in the previous season, and back were the explosive runs to beat and terrorize defenders. Fernando’s desire to win the ball and take shots on goal seemed to be back, and he gained plaudits across the board for his performance. All that was lacking was the elusive goal. However, one must ask the question, is one decent performance clouding a large majority’s judgement of the larger picture? Sure, Torres looked a completely different player to the one on display in the 2010/11 season, but his performance certainly was not game changing, and instead the title contenders had to settle for a 0 – 0 draw. What we must realise is that Torres upped his game from dismal displays last season to a merely decent display against Stoke, but by no means outstanding. He had certainly improved greatly, but he by no means has he justified his price tag of £50million. Torres will be treating the 2011/12 season as if it is his debut season for Chelsea, and if so his debut performance was commendable, but one has to only look at Sergio Aguero to see how a real debutant performs. The Argentine kicked off his English career, with two goals and an assist after coming on as a 59th minute substitute against newly promoted Swansea, and costing £12million less than Torres. An immediate return for City owner Sheikh Mansour bins Zayed Al Nahyan.

Torres has a long way to go before he’ll manage to win over the Chelsea faithful and an even greater task of keeping the confidence of Chelsea’s new manager, Andre Villas-Boas. Should Fernando’s performances begin to slide, he not only has Nicholas Anelka and fan favourite Didier Drogba on his heels, but two more challengers. England under 21s international Daniel Sturridge re-joins Chelsea from his successful loan spell at Bolton, where he scored 8 goals in 12 Premier League starts, a considerable amount more than Torres. Also joining the Blues is Romelu Lukaku for between £15-£20million from Anderlecht, an 18 year-old Belgian starlet tipped to be one of Europe’s top players. Torres certainly has a tough challenge ahead of him, he has the world’s media questioning his every run, pass and shot, he has a new manager to impress, has four top strikers breathing down his neck for a starting jersey & finally a packed Stamford Bridge to win over with his performances.

It would be a brave man to bet against Torres regaining his goal scoring prowess and the early indications of Fernando Torres in the 2011/12 season give a sense of a player refreshed, a player who has settled his mind and is ready to prove he is worth the money paid for him. He has been given a golden opportunity by his new manager to prove his worth at Chelsea. However, if Villas-Boas faith is not repaid, it is unlikely that man educated by the Jose Mourinho school of management, is likely to give him too many chances to get it right. In recent history we have seen extraordinary footballing talents fall from the pinnacle of football due to the pressure and stardom breaking their confidence. One only has to look at Ronaldinho and his fall from being FIFA World Player of the Year in 2004 and 2005, to now playing for Flamengo in his native Brazil. The picture painted by Torres and his mannerisms in the first six months of his Chelsea career draw stark comparisons to the Ronaldinho playing for Barcelona in the 2007/2008 season. Both periods gave an appearance of a player who had lost their way, who had lost confidence in the game and their ability. The pressure has cracked many a fine footballer in the past and it would be a catastrophe if we never again see the true quality that we know Torres can possess. This is the most challenging ten months of the Spaniards career. Come the month of May we will either be congratulating a player on turning his Chelsea career around or speculating which club may be daft enough to spend an extortionate fee for Torres, as Chelsea cut their losses. It would be unwise to write Fernando off though, as the natural talent he possesses cannot be questioned. The old notion “form is temporary, class is permanent” comes to mind.

David P Harrison

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