Fernando Torres’ future at Chelsea appeared to be called into question this summer, when new manager Jose Mourinho signed Samuel Eto’o from Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala.
The Spaniard has not been himself for a while, and the arrival of the Cameroonian international at Stamford Bridge could have been seen as a nail in the former Liverpool star’s coffin.
However, it was never ‘El Nino’ discussed when it came to letting a player go in the opposite direction during the transfer window.
Demba Ba was set to make a possible loan exit, before the Special One opted to send Romelu Lukaku on his way. The young Belgian impressed at West Brom last season, and will hope to do the same again at Everton this term.
Had Ba left, then more serious questions would have been asked about his future. The Senegalese star is, at 28, not a player looking to develop his game for the long-term good of a parent club.
He appears to be the man out of favour under Mourinho, and has once again been left out of the Blues’ squad for today’s clash against Everton.
Torres is on the bench at Goodison Park, and it’s not a place the man signed for £50million would want to be. It’s not the first time he’s been among the substitutes this season either, with the manager overlooking his forward in favour of an attacking midfielder in the ‘false nine’ position at Manchester United.
But, rather than getting downhearted, Torres must look on the brightside, because his time to shine will come this season, and his improved goals return last term offers cause for optimism.
His initial struggles in west London were well-publicised, taking what seemed like an eternity to get his first goal for the Blues. Injured before and during the 2010 World Cup, Torres was never at his best after the tournament despite the huge fee paid by Roman Abramovich.
Throw in the weight of expectation, and his initial failures can at least be partially explained. The next term, under Andre Villas-Boas and then Roberto Di Matteo, showed signs of improvement, although his goal return wasn’t as high as both he and the supporters would have liked.
That showed signs of changing last term, with 22 goals in 64 games in all competitions. Torres also showed his ability on the biggest stage, scoring with a wonderfully composed finish in the Europa League final victory against Benfica under Rafa Benitez.
He’s gone and Mourinho is back on the King’s Road. Fresh from his time in Madrid, the Portuguese tactician has little time for reputation, and has no problem ruffling feathers.
He’s found what he believes to be an area of weakness up-front, and turned to a player he knows and trusts in Eto’o.
There is little doubting the player’s credentials, winning all the major trophies in Europe during spells of note with Barcelona and Inter Milan.
And, he’s been scoring goals for fun in Russia on astronomical wages. But, his reputation is one of a fiery character, with Anzhi boss Roberto Carlos far from complimentary following his exit.
His fitness would also be a concern, given that the 32-year-old has not been playing at the highest level for the last two years. Can Eto’o really handle the pace of the Premier League at this stage of his career?
I would suggest not, and Mourinho knows that, whilst draws away from home are a solid base to build a season, it’s victories at home which could ultimately hold the key to success this term.
Torres would be wise to bide his time on the bench, and come to terms with the fact that he might start in that situation for a while. But, as the season goes on, his importance will almost certainly grow.
And, when the time comes, he needs to be ready to fire Chelsea to the title.