Many people see Fernando Torres' career going in one direction. However, the 30-year-old Spaniard is and forever will be a favourite at former club Atletico Madrid. On Tuesday night, Torres will return to his true footballing home. His form for Chelsea last season was impressive despite numerous condemnations of his performances. 22 goals in a turbulent season saw Chelsea win the Europa League with a goal in the final.
Having scored 28 in total for Spain and Chelsea in all competitions last year seems to have gone unnoticed, and despite his blistering best form seemingly gone forever, he can still be a world class player.
Upon his move to Liverpool in 2007 for what turned out to be a justified fee of £26.5m, Torres claimed to be making the move because of the prestige and history Liverpool had as a club. At that time of course under fellow Spaniard Rafael Benitez, the Reds were enjoying success on the highest European stage and challenging regularly for third and fourth place in the league. As soon as he arrived, he was loved by the Anfield faithful, something Torres needed upon entering a new stage of his career.
At Atletico, Torres grew up there and was endeared through the youth side to become their youngest ever captain aged just a tender 19. After helping the Rojiblancos achieve promotion in 2002, he enjoyed many years with a stellar side in La Liga. The atmosphere at the Vincente Calderon is absolutely deafening over in Spain with the passionate fans unwavering. Similar is Anfield, a different kind of theatre in which to perform, but incredible nonetheless. The famous European nights a chapter by their own right.
Torres was celebrated by fans, netting 33 times in his debut season, with his first coming against Chelsea in a 1-1 draw at Anfield on the first day of the new term. He broke all sorts of records, the fastest to score 50 league goals for Liverpool with just 72 games and the most Premier League goals for a debut season at 24. He continued that record despite some niggling injuries. At the end of his Liverpool career, he had scored 65 goals in 102 appearances. Prolific.
At Chelsea, he went to try and be more competitive in the big competitions. Torres had not enjoyed the Champions League success that Liverpool had in the 4 years before his arrival and Benitez had left the club with Roy Hodgson taking over. Everything about Torres' departure seemed fair enough for a career which, even at its longest, does not last long in the big picture.
Stamford Bridge offered a different prospect though, a team in which he was not built around, but had to fit in, and not a constant first choice either. All of a sudden, his confidence was hit and he had to earn his place. In truth, if he had faith in himself as world class, he would have performed at the same or similar level. Instead, the media were counting every minute, second that went by in which he failed to bag his first goal. Never in the history of the Premier League has a goal at home against West Ham been celebrated so much. It was a big moment, but already his experience had been tainted.
The fans at Chelsea needed to see why Carlo Ancelotti had spent £50m on this man. They had seen it against them the month prior at Anfield. This pressure was different, new to Torres. The atmosphere was nothing like he had enjoyed before, the crowd was tense and held their breath every touch he took, waiting for that magic. He still had it, but - like when you practice a trick and then go to show someone - that magic deserted him. Quickly, almost a year had passed, and the fans were on his back.
Since then, Torres has shown that he is capable of exactly what he had, the pace may have receded due to a year or so passing by, but he is the same man, the same player. The fans have never attached to him and he has had to develop a thicker skin in the blue of Chelsea. He has not enjoyed the trophy wins, because he has not felt valued.
On Tuesday night he will feel appreciated, but most likely more by the home fans. He will go where he is loved. He will go home.
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