FERNANDO WANTS TO BRING EURO GLORY HOME
Striker Torres confident his club can become kings of Madrid and Europe
There was a three-year spell when Fernando Torres was regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in world football. During that time at Liverpool the Spaniard was unplayable as he combined intelligent movement with searing pace.
He would fire 50 Premier League goals in just 72 games and appeared to be at the peak of his powers. But a series of injuries stunted his progress and during a near-five year stay at Chelsea he was written off.
It appeared a player who had been instrumental in Spain dominating world football would simply disappear as his career petered out.
But there has been a welcome renaissance back at his spiritual home, Atletico Madrid, and now Torres stands on the verge of winning the Champions League for a second time.
Surely even the man himself could not have imagined he would be in this position when returning to Atletico?
“You do dream of these things, but when it’s reality it is different,” Torres tells 7DAYS. “I knew when I returned that this club was capable of special things and we have proved that.
“Now it is time to go and show what we are capable of in the final.”
‘We can do this’
The 32-year-old does already possess a Champions League winner’s medal, having come off the bench as Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich on penalties in the 2012 final, but Torres admits he was “not in a good place” during that period of his career.
A win with Atletico, he admits, would mean much more.
“To win the Champions League with Atletico would mean everything. I could not even imagine what it would feel like,” he says.
“There is a lot of confidence here. Beating Barcelona and Bayern is a big achievement, but it won’t count for anything in the final. Real Madrid have beaten some big teams on the way as well, they will be a big threat. But there is real confidence that we can do this.”
This unerring belief runs throughout the club and is instilled in them by manager Diego Simeone.
The Argentine has masterminded Atletico’s rise, transforming the side into European giants.
Since he took over in 2011, Atleti have won the league title, the Copa del Rey, the Europa League and reached two Champions League finals.
No longer are the club in Real Madrid’s shadow, and Torres is adamant that this success is down to Simeone.
“Every game with him is like he is preparing for a battle,” reveals Torres.
“It is not just when we play Real Madrid or Barcelona - every single game for him will be like he is preparing for a war.
“Everybody respects his dedication and you can see now his players have the same dedication on the field. Atletico have started something special. I feel we are now at the level or Real Madrid and Barcelona. “Everybody has worked hard, but so much credit has to go to Simeone.”
It is perhaps little surprise that the former tough-tackling defensive midfielder has made Atletico a nightmare to play against. In 38 games in La Liga they conceded just 18 goals. They are well organised, alert and extremely hardworking. “This is such a special team to be a part of,” says Torres. “We are willing to die for each other. Not one player here plays for themselves - everybody is playing for each other. “Of course Madrid have [Cristiano] Ronaldo and other great attacking players. “So to stop them we need to work as a team defensively and not just rely on our defenders. We will do that though - we will all work for one another.” It is a philosophy that every Atletico player has bought into to.
It is also one that Real would struggle to implement with some rather large egos at the club.
But it is this togetherness that has led Atletico to the final, having overcome reigning champions Barcelona and German giants Bayern Munich along the way.
Now they face the team that denied them the European Cup in heartbreaking fashion in 2014. But revenge isn’t Atletico’s motive.
“The motivation is to win the Champions League - that is it,” says Torres. “The last final doesn’t mean anything.”
Of course Torres was not part of that side that crumbled in extra-time as Real ran out 4-1 winners. Even when he re-joined Atletico in the summer after that final defeat few would have imagined he would have played such a key role in the club’s European adventure.
He may have scored just once in the Champions League but it was a vital goal at the Nou Camp against Barcelona.
“I am really playing with confidence again,” he adds. “It’s so important as a striker to be playing with confidence, and I am in that place again. I have my coach and my teammates to thank for that.
“As a senior player I am helping the younger players but I am also learning off them. Their energy is infectious.”
He may have endured a difficult spell in his career and lost some of his pace, but you wouldn’t put it past Torres producing on the big stage one more time.
“Every single game for him will be like he is preparing for a war.” – TORRES ON DIEGO SIMEONE