Having just watched Fernando Torres become the “hero” and grab the winner in the Chelsea vs Manchester City match today, the phrase ‘false dawn’ immediately sprung to mind. Torres’ career has been littered with them over the last couple of seasons, and after the hysteria and hype of Super Sunday dies down and he lines up against Newcastle next Saturday and spurns yet another guilt-edge chance; my subconscious will once again have been proved correct, as an overwhelming feeling of deja vu spreads across the football community.
The thing is, we’ve seen it all before with Torres. At the beginning of the 2012 Premier League season for example, once the shadow of Chelsea icon Didier Drogba has dispersed, Torres strung together a number of performances including one in a 2-0 win over Newcastle that led, manager at the time, Roberto Di Matteo to describe Torres as “immense”. But look back a month or so down the line and this ‘rebirth’ of El Nino was closely followed by some dreary, lacklustre performances; and the ‘lets all laugh at Fernando Torres’ bandwagon was back in full motion.
Anyhow, back to today’s game and what really triggered me to question poor Fernando. You see, throughout Chelsea’s 2-1 home victory I listened to Martin Tyler ask co-commentator Gary Neville in his theatrical match day voice numerous questions along the lines of “Is this the old Torres?” – and it got me thinking beyond the frequently asked – What has happened to Fernando Torres? And to a question much more difficult to answer… Will Torres ever become the player he once was? Or is a player who used to make headlines, now nothing more than a punchline?
Lets put this into perspective. This is a player who was once described as the best striker in the world. A player who was capable of becoming the fastest player to reach 50 league goals for Liverpool. A player who in 2009 as part of a Liverpool 4-1 win over Manchester United, was able to humiliate and embarrass Nemanja Vidic, widely regarded as the best central defender at the time, in his own backyard.
However, since joining Chelsea in the winter of 2011 for £50 million, Fernando Torres has become a sort of myth. A player who every football fan knows has greatness in him; but one if you were new to football within the last year or so, you might think Roman Abramovich was receiving a back-hander to put him in the starting 11.
Furthermore, this once great striker nicknamed ‘the kid’ scored the winning goal for Spain in the 2008 European Championships Final; nowadays he doesn’t even get a call-up to the squad. And when Chelsea realised their dream and achieved European greatness in 2012 Champions League, Fernando sat the final out on the bench. It really is a remarkable, yet curious fall from grace.
So anyway, will Torres ever get back to the form that in 2007 saw him score 24 Premier League goals for Liverpool in a debut season at a remarkable 1.39 goals-to-games ratio? Ed Chamberlain certainly thinks so as he greeted the Super Sunday viewers to the studio after the full-time whistle today with a typically hyperbolic statement; exclaiming that Fernando Torres was “back in business”. But in my opinion, no. There have too many of these ‘false dawns’ over the last couple of seasons and I’m afraid that this is just another. Not even Mourinho can get El Nino firing on all cylinders again – and it’s a sad situation. I’ve laughed at Torres in the past, for example when he rounded David De Gea in September 2011 only to stumble and miss an open goal at Old Trafford. But I didn’t mind because I always thought that he still had it, that this was just a prolonged dip in form. However, in more recent times the mockery has turned to pity, as the great striker that once was, now just kind of isn’t.
The reason I guess only Torres knows: injuries, fatigue, confidence – I’m sure you could make a claim for any. The only thing that is for certain, is that it is Torres, and Torres alone that has contributed to his demise. Hell, it can’t be his teammates – the current Spain line up are arguably the best international team ever assembled, and his club side Chelsea lifted the greatest club prize in Europe with him in the squad. And it certainly can’t be the manager, as the same fat Spanish waiter that coached Torres in the glory years at Liverpool returned to his life with absolutely no impact as the man in charge at Stamford Bridge in 2012.
All I know is that Fernando Torres will never be the player he once was. Whatever ability he had that made him at times unplayable, he’s lost it. This is no longer a dip in form – more so a transformation into where there is no return – a black hole if you will.
The black hole of Fernando Torres – where assists go to die.