January 31 2011 saw some frantic, yet historical transfer activity in English football.
Two of the leading English clubs, Chelsea and Liverpool were involved, three strikers changed clubs and over £100 million were spent.
Both of Liverpool’s strikers left a legacy- for opposite reasons. While Luis Suarez went into the Premier League folklore, Andy Carroll became the butt of jokes up and down the country.
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The third player in this list, who directly swapped Liverpool for Chelsea, Fernando Torres, is a unique case.
While he may be regarded as one of the biggest transfer failures alongside Carroll and Angel Di Maria, Fernando Torres left a certain mark as a Chelsea player.
Make no mistake, as Torres joined Chelsea, there was a sense of optimism and belief that Chelsea can get their act together in the second half on the season and possibly retain the title, as they had signed one of deadliest strikers in Europe. However, what culminated on the pitch went well and truly against that script.
Torres’ game relied on his ability to burst into space from through-balls, running on the shoulder of the last defender, beating him for pace and eventually slotting past the goalkeeper. Torres thrived at Liverpool, due to the vision of Steven Gerrard, Dirk Kuyt and Xabi Alonso. He tormented opposition defences regularly and won games by himself.
However, not only did Chelsea play different brand of football (preferring a striker who can operate on top by himself such as Didier Drogba or Diego Costa), Torres had lost his pace and mobility after his knee surgery of 2010.
Thus even before he was bought, Torres had lost two key attributes which made him one of the most feared forwards of the modern game. His loss of acceleration threatened to turn such a talent into a very mediocre striker.
Reportedly, Liverpool rushed Torres back too soon and he could never have the necessary rehabilitation program.
In order to fit into Chelsea’s style of play, which needed a physical presence on top, Torres became more muscular. He tried to become the focal point rather than a goalscorer.
However, this experiment failed as he attempted to play as a complete striker, which he had never done before. He struggled with his first touch, couldn’t run past defenders and lost his eye for goal. His level of football dropped and the striker, who once destroyed the likes of Nemanja Vidic found himself lost in traffic of ordinary defenders.
Interestingly, Torres showed glimpses of his talent and again went back to how he was playing. This made his case even more awkward. He was backed by Chelsea faithful for his hard work which couldn’t transpire into consistency.
Sadly, when he appeared to get into his groove, he did things that took his confidence away. While he was enjoying the best run of form for Chelsea, he did a reckless two-footed challenge against Swansea. While he scored a wonderful goal against Man United, he missed an open goal after running past David de Gea later in that match. He often flirted with getting back his form but always ended up on losing side.
However, Torres also had his fair share of memorable highlights while playing at Chelsea. He scored a hat-trick of real quality against QPR, scored a frantic winner against a seemingly unbeatable Manchester City, had a six goal campaign as Chelsea won the Europa League where he scored in quarter finals, semi-finals and one of his best goals in a Chelsea shirt in the final.
He also played a crucial role in the goal which all but ended Liverpool’s Premier League dream, but his best performances he saved for Europe. Running half of the Nou Camp pitch, slotting past the hapless Victor Valdes and eliminating the mighty Barcelona remains the iconic moment in their Champions League success.
In fact Torres left Chelsea as their third highest goal scorer in Europe, just behind Drogba and Frank Lampard.
Now a debate arises that what be Torres’s legacy at Chelsea?- his Nou Camp goal, which personified Chelsea’s title winning campaign, his work rate and inability to produce results or his failure to perform for his the astronomical transfer fee.
Logically, this point can’t even be debated, he was an expensive mistake which miserably backfired. However, take logic out of this argument and we can see that Torres gave memories which a ‘True Blue’ will cherish for his life.
Be it his winner against Man City, his part in the goal which ended Liverpool’s dream to become champions or knock Barcelona out, the memories will be forever cherished by Chelsea fans.
Finally, some may say his Chelsea career was a complete catastrophe while some will say his career had certain individual moments of brilliance. He was a player in decline but tried his best to perform for his club and in the course of his stay, gave some special moments.
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