Fernando Torres back at Atletico
ONCE one of football’s brightest stars, Fernando Torres has only scored 21 times in the last four-and-a-half years. However, as El Niño returns home to Madrid, could he be reborn?
Around 45,000 Atletico Madrid fans packed the Vicente Calderon for the 30-year-old’s presentation after he re-joined the club on an 18-month loan deal from AC Milan.
The Spaniard, who was at his most prolific during his spell with Liverpool, suffered one of the most drastic plunges in form seen in professional football when he joined Chelsea in 2011.
Averaging a goal every other game for both club and country, El Niño became one of the most feared strikers in the world while at Anfield and, while he won no club honours, earned himself European Championship and World Cup winners’ medals in 2008 and 2010.
Several theories have been put forward as to why Torres failed so spectacularly after his £50m move to Stamford Bridge.
Former team-mate Yossi Benayoun believed the price tag was the problem. In a 2013 interview, he said: “It has been a hard time for him. The situation from the beginning was managed badly. When he joined Chelsea, he was on the bench, then on the pitch, and so he did not get the confidence when he came in. And with the £50m above his head, it is not easy for any player.”
Former Chelsea manager and Ballon d’Or winner Ruud Gullit was less kind, accusing Torres of not trying hard enough.
“I am getting impatient with him,” he said. “He is not involved. He is not in the places he has to be. For a player of this standard, I want more from him.”
Spanish football pundit Michael Robinson claimed the problems for Torres were a combination of the wrong playing style with Chelsea and psychological problems.
However, it is entirely possible that it was a combination of all of the above that prevented him from succeeding at Stamford Bridge.
At 30, can he re-stake his claim to being one of the best strikers of his generation? A key factor in his move to Atletico is the influence of boss – and ex-team-mate – Diego Simeone.
The fiery Argentine is one of the few men who rival Torres for popularity with the club’s fans and took a teenage El Niño under his wing, educating him on the hard knocks of the game and encouraging him to adopt his own steely, intense approach.
The pair have remained in contact ever since and Torres has never hidden his great admiration for his new boss. Now they are back together, he will benefit from Simeone’s ability to drag someone’s ability out of them.
Current Chelsea striker Diego Costa, for example, had never scored more than ten goals in a season, despite his raw talent, until the Atletico manager got hold of him.
Indeed, there could be no better place for Torres to have a final swansong than at the Vicente Calderon. While he may only be a supersub at first, with Mario Mandzukic ahead of him, this is the striker’s best chance to return to the player he once was.
His two recent goals against Real Madrid suggest he is on the right path.