Since his £50m move to Stamford Bridge Fernando Torres has been dubbed a flop but he was never going to succeed in this Chelsea team
As one of the most talked about topics in 2011, albeit for all the wrong reasons, Fernando Torres must be wishing for a much better 2012 in the spotlight of English football. Wherever a discussion on anything football related took place the former Liverpool strikers' name was mentioned. If he wasn't in the tabloid newspapers he was trending on twitter. If he wasn't every online bloggers dream he was the talk over every journalist, fan, peer and every other living, breathing entity on earth. People just couldn't get enough of the Spaniard. People feel sorry for Steve Kean at Blackburn and rightly so but I am of the opinion that the criticism levelled at Torres is also unjust.
I have been following Fernando Torres ever since he was Atletico Madrid's 18 year old captain and in that period he has gone from a wonder kid who terrorised La Liga to a world-class striker whose world-class finishing led Spain out of International exile. His career is probably best remembered for his time at Liverpool purely because of the impact he had at the club and the relationship he developed with the fans. Liverpool are famous for idolising players, especially their strikers, but that's not just because The Kop like to do that. You have to earn the love and respect at Anfield and Torres did more than that.
Despite his questionnable fitness levels which has seen him lose a yard or two of pace I still don't think that Torres is deserving of the criticism that has gone his way at Chelsea. All this talk that he is finished and will no longer be the player he was is misguided and irrational at best. The conclusions that so many have come to in the last 12 months would suggest Torres has been playing in the Championship his whole career. We are talking about a World Cup and European Championship winner here.
If we assess the levels of performance he reached as a young man in Madrid you could say the pride and responsiblity that came with wearing the arm band helped him build the foundations for his career. It gave him the mentality a player needs at the top level.
It's when Rafael Benitez brought him to Liverpool where his career really took off. Spains prodigy was now at English footballs most successful side and was their record transfer fee for good measure. The expectation on him was astronomical as Liverpool themselves were desperate to find a striker that has rarely been a problem position at the club but Micahel Owen's departure to the Spanish capital a couple of years before meant it was so.
A goal on his home debut against Chelsea was the start of an unbelievable run of form that would see Torres become the quickest player in the clubs history to reach 50 goals. He terrorised defences in the Premier League and across Europe as he quickly became the worlds most feared center forward. He didn't do all of this on his own though. His goals were largely down to the play making skills of Xabi Alonso and the telepathic partnership he seemed to have with Steven Gerrard who, during Torres' best years at the club, was arguably the best midfield player in the world and enjoying the best form in his career too.
Even as the scorer of the only goal to win Euro 2008 against Germany he was surrounded by world class talent. Xavi, Iniesta and David Silva aren't bad when it comes to creating chances and Torres was allowed to shine because of this.
But a series of recurring injuries led to various spells on the sidelines which halted his momentum and everytime he seemed like coming back to peak form his hamstring would go again for another 3 weeks. But even in those periods he was still fantastic. His real problems began when he left for Chelsea. Not a year before that, not 6 months before that and not even the last few games for Liverpool. You take one look at that Chelsea team and it pales into insignificance compared to the calibre of player that helped Torres enjoy his best years.
There is no Xavi or Iniesta at Chelsea capable of producing a defence splitting pass that requires two touches at most for the finish. There is no Xabi Alonso at Chelsea who from 50 yards could pick out a pass with such ease sending you away for a one on one with the keeper. And most of all there is no Steven Gerrard at Chelsea who could attach himself to you with an imaginary belt stretching 20-yards so that for every minute in the game he knew eactly where Torres was and exactly what movement and what pass to make to send the Spaniard away. The connection them two had when it was at it's most effective was untouchable in world football.
Since Roman Abramovich took over at Chelsea the type of center forward who fits in to the side is of a specific nature. Torres shares attributes in common with Didier Drogba in as much that they are both a physical presence that opposition defences find difficult to contend with. But Drogba is another beast entirely. Like a monster in a rage who is simply unstoppable when in the mood. Torres has a little more finesse about his play to compliment his physical attributes and it is the technical type of striker that has rarely been allowed to flourish in a Chelsea side renowned for it's combative midfield and collossal defence and much less credited for a team who play the game in a beautiful way. You only have to look at Andriy Shevchenko for proof of this. He arrived from a Milan side that had the creative talents of Andrea Pirlo and Kaka. These players would bring the best out of any kind of striker. Chelsea lacked this type of player instead opting to instill their faith in the industrious types such as Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel and now Ramires. As a result the Ukranian never hit the heights he once did at the San Siro and is widely regarded in football circles as the Abramovich era's biggest flop. Arjen Robben, a winger though it must be said, didn't last long in that Chelsea team because he just wasn't brute enough to stay there and has since grown into one of the top forward players on the planet. Nicolas Anelka has probably been the best example of striking the finest of balances. He posessed the right amount of technical ability coupled with the physicality required to prosper at Stamford Bridge and as a result has left Chelsea having been an important part of their recent success.
Moving momentarily away from Chelsea and towards Spain I must also disagree with those who think Torres had a poor World Cup in South Africa. I emplore you to watch every single game again and see how for every goal David Villa scored was in small or large part down to Torres' movement that often dragged at least two players at a time away from the play. He may not have scored all the goals expected of him but he did well enough for Villa to claim all the plaudits and the videos are there for everyone to see.
I look at this Chelsea team and I see nothing of the same quality that Torres was once surrounded by and he is a player who cannot flourish without the quality of his team mates. He hasn't lost it. He isn't a poor player and he isn't a shadow of his former self. He is just in a team that is ageing as much as it is trying to mature with such an imbalanced mix of old and young players who are managed by a personality who at the present time is struggling to find his own identity in football let alone help Torres rediscover his. And as much as the Stamford Bridge faithful try to they haven't come in the slightest bit close to showing Torres the kind of love he received at Atletico Madrid and then Liverpool. That is not a dig aimed at Chelsea fans but it is well documented that for Torres to do well he needs the full backing of the crowds he plays for.
I have read thousands and thousands of words, more newspaper articles than I have eaten hot dinners and spoken to enough people to last me a life time of conversations about how poor Torres is and I just can't buy it. He is a product of a Chelsea team that is not designed for him and as a result will never score the goals that once saw him admired by all in the game. Roman Abramovich is trying his hardest to transform the physcial and ugly nature of a Chelsea side that needed to create itself in such a way in order to succeed quickly but he is slowly learning that to win trophies playing the beautiful way is very tricky and is going to take more than a 'special' one and millions of pounds to become a reality. Sadly Torres is stuck in the middle of this transition.
At present it looks as if he is turning into a failure of a player that he never looked like becoming and one that Chelsea seem to have a tendency to create. But if Abramovich, and luck more importantly, allow it to be then Torres could be the beacon of hope to drag Chelsea Football Club from the depths of their less than pretty style of play and emerge as the beautifully powerful footballer he once was that can and might lead the club into an era of success that has the potential to be remembered more for it's aesthetically pleasing features and less for it's ugly qualities.