FERNANDO WANTS TO BRING EURO GLORY HOME

Striker Tor­res con­fi­dent his club can be­come kings of Madrid and Eu­rope

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back

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.”

Atletico’s phi­los­o­phy

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

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