When Fernando Torres made a last-minute move to Chelsea for a record £50 million fee in January, the pressure piled higher than ever over the striker to re-find his form for both club and country.
Torres had three brilliant seasons at Liverpool, and in the time he has played for the senior Spain side, he’s scored 27 goals in 87 appearances.
But for some reason, the 27-year-old doesn’t ever seem to have recovered from his knee surgery two months previous to last year’s
World Cup, and something needs to be done fast before Torres loses his Spain place for good.
Torres didn’t score at all for Spain in the World Cup, and didn’t start when the side took on the Netherlands in the final.
And in his last 25 appearances for Liverpool, he scored nine goals, suggesting that he was no longer the star of the team where he had scored 31 goals in the 2007-08 campaign.
At Chelsea the statistics are even worse. Andre Villas-Boas, his teammates and football pundits have all predicted that Torres would bring in the goals when he finally broke a drought lasting over 1000 minutes and scored at Stamford Bridge against West Ham.
The goal was handed to him by an unpredictable ball on a water-logged pitch, but hope was restored that he would prove his £50 million worth.
But alas, so far no good form has materialised for the Spaniard. His goals to shot percentage at Chelsea stands at around 1%, with just the single goal to his name.
Torres’ exclusion from the Spanish team last night, as they romped to a 6-0 win over Liechtenstein to seal Euro 2012 qualification, was further proof that he needs to find that form that brought him 66 goals in three seasons at Liverpool and a goal to shot average of over 40%.
"[Torres] is an important player, but those who stand out with their clubs will get the call to the national team, not the other way around," Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque said of the selection decision.
Even if Torres can recapture some form, he’ll be competing with Juan Mata, David Villa and Alvaro Negrado, who has now scored five goals in seven appearances for Spain, for a place on the international squad. Scoring a few goals won’t be enough – Torres needs to find the brilliance that put a £50 million price tag over his head in January.
So was it that he never fully recovered from his injury? Or is a lack of confidence messing with his mental state?
Luckily for Torres, Chelsea are displaying a faith in him where other clubs might have given up. Despite his fledging form, he has started all three matches under Andre Villas-Boas’ command this season, and while he hasn’t scored, the Blues have won two out of three matches and survived a tough opening away fixture against Stoke 0-0.
And with Villas-Boas encouraging more attacking, free-flowing football, should Torres get on track with his confidence and/or injury recovery, the goals are there for the taking and he could indeed be one of the best strikers in the world again.
Time will tell, but changes for the striker need to happen fast, or he could well not feature in many more matches in a Spain shirt, or a Chelsea one.
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