Now that the dust has settled on his departure it’s far to say that Fernando Torres and Chelsea were a pairing who complemented each other as well as chalk and cheese.
The now infamous decline in the Spaniard’s abilities, which happened to coincide with his £50 million switch to Stamford Bridge in 2011, has resulted in few Blues fans contesting Jose Mourinho’s decision to ship him out on loan to AC Milan for the next two years.
45 goals in 172 appearances simply didn’t cut it in west London, and a last campaign wherein a lack of goals was the primary cause for Chelsea’s failure to win silverware was the straw which broke the camel’s back.
Torres was ostracised by the fans, lambasted by critics and generally a thorn in the side of the managers he worked under. His form was enough reason for him to be dropped, the small fortune spent on acquiring his signature enough to ensure that his place in the first-team was solidified.
Along with Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba he was finally cast out by Mourinho, who will be acutely aware that a lack of major trophies this year could well cost him his job. The stuttering frontline was revamped, revitalised and re-assembled. By the time the new season had found its feet Eto’o, Ba and Torres had become Diego Costa, Loic Remy and Didier Drogba.
It’s impossible to argue that the money spent on luring Costa to the Premier League, £32 million to be precise, was wasted. The 25-year-old is unstoppable on his day, and his record for Atletico Madrid last season propelled him to stardom at a rate that must have had even him feeling nauseous.
It’s also extremely difficult to criticise Mourinho for deciding that Remy would be the idea backup. The France international was long overdue a move to a Champions League side, and the idea of clinching the signature of a player who was at one point expected to become the first-choice forward at either Liverpool and Arsenal is one that virtually all Blues fans will be comfortable with.
Yet the closing judgement Mourinho made regarding his attacking options, and the one which saw Torres leave, can be questioned. If one realistically recognises that the 30-year-old would have been the third-choice striker behind Remy and Costa, it makes sense to determine that Drogba is in the same boat.
If that is the case then essentially Mourinho has subbed Torres, and any attributes he has, in order to facilitate his love for Drogba. It’s a bold, and in my opinion ultimately futile, decision.
Drogba's return wrong?
Though the emotional return of the big Ivorian was initially praised by all those associated with the club, even the staunchest of Drogba’s defenders have to accept that he’s not the player who left in 2012.
His pace is gone, his ability to bully centre-backs effortlessly has been ravaged by his sabbatical from the Premier League and the fear factor which once gave Chelsea the edge whenever he was on the team-sheet is resigned to the history books. As a dressing-room influence and cult hero he is impeccable, but as a player he simply doesn’t offer enough to warrant a place in Mourinho’s squad.
Just how The Special One can justify his anticipated return is simple. With Frank Lampard’s exit to Manchester City and Petr Cech’s importance somewhat lessened thanks to the arrival of Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea were in need of experienced leaders to take the strain off the young talents vying to compete for both the Premier League and in Europe.
What Mourinho seems to have favoured this time around is the presence of an individual the likes of Eden Hazard and Oscar can draw strength from when the going gets tough. That’s all Drogba offers on the pitch.
With Costa and Remy ahead in the pecking order that’s fine. The 36-year-old can occupy a spot on the bench and enjoy the occasional run out in the competitions deemed low priority by Mourinho when it comes to suitably impressing Roman Abramovich.
Yet if Costa, or indeed his immediate replacement, should fall foul to injury, fatigue or lack of form, Drogba becomes the first reserve. His natural abilities as a player mean he’ll never be a useless asset, but does Mourinho honestly believe he’ll be more dangerous than Torres if brought on?
Torres should have stayed
Yes the ex-Liverpool ace has more naysayers than people ready to throw their weight behind him in support, but that doesn’t mean that he’s as over-the-hill as most believe. His last two seasons with Chelsea saw him contribute largely in a supporting role, looking to provide assists and open holes in opponents’ defences rather than be the sharp-shooter he was in his Anfield days.
As he could well prove over the course of his maiden campaign in Serie A Torres still has enough in the tank to be at the least a pest in big clashes, and if he enjoys a return to form then Mourinho might well regret relinquishing him in his exodus of natural strikers.
Of course that’s not to say Drogba won’t aid Mourinho in ways that Torres couldn’t, and if Costa and Remy remain fighting fit, and firing on all cylinders, then the decision to welcome the fan favourite back into the fold will go down as another decision to be celebrated.
Call it controversial, call it the ramblings of a man who represents the minority or simply call it a word of caution to those hailing Drogba’s return, and Torres’s consequent exit, as a masterstroke, but in my mind Mourinho’s crowd-pleasing decision might be one that he ends up being left to rue.
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