EL NINO

Fer­nando Tor­res back at Atletico

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - CONTENTS -

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.

Diego Costa

Diego Sime­one

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