Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Fernando Torres bites the dust

Fernando Torres is the most expensive Spanish player ever. 58 million euros paid Chelsea FC for him. A price that definitely shows the prestige of the player at the moment of the signing for the club of London. Since always a precocious kid, the flag of the clubs he played in. However, nowadays, he is probably living the worst moment of his professional career in Chelsea and the Spanish NT. Target of the attacks of the English tabloids, relegated to a secondary role in the Spanish NT, Torres' career walks on a thin line in this moment.

Fernando Torres was a star before he was a professional. After the historical error of Raúl, who left Atlético Madrid to join the eternal rival after Jesús Gil closed several youth teams, Fernando Torres was considered the diamond of the Atlético academy. Being 15 years old, Fernando Torres led Atlético to the Nike Cup, an Under-15 tournament, in the year 1998. At this point, Fernando Torres could hardly imagine that he was the one to carry a big club like Atlético Madrid on his shoulders in the worst moments of the history of the colchoneros.

In 1999, he signed his first professional contract and, only one year later, only being 17, he joined the first team. At that moment, Atlético had been relegated to Segunda División. "One year in hell", said the slogan of the commercial to attract ticket-holders. Sadly for him, an injury kept him out of the pitch during a long part of the season, although he could make his debut at the end of the season, scoring his first official goal with Atlético Madrid. Still, the year in hell was extended one more year, since Atlético failed to return to Primera División.

In Segunda
But the turning point for him was the summer of 2001. Fernando Torres was called by the Spanish NT to play the U-16 Euro in England. Fernando Torres led Spain to the victory in this tournament, scoring the only goal of the final against France and being chosen the best player of the tournament. His childish face made him get the nickname that made him famous: El Niño (The Kid).

Back in Madrid, Atlético and the fans put all the faith on him. With only 4 games with the first team, Fernando Torres, a 17 year old kid, was given the responsibility to drive Atlético to Primera División. He was the new hero, the hope of the future Atleti. Luis Aragonés, the fan hero returned to the club and did not hesistate one second: Torres had to play. He ended up scoring 6 goals in 36 appearances, perhaps not a great record, but his movements and personality already impressed. Atlético won the Segunda División title and returned to Primera. That was not enough and, as he had done the previous summer, Fernando Torres was called by the U-19 Spanish team for the Euro. Spain won the title and history repeated itself: Torres scored the only goal of the final against Germany and was chosen the best player of the tournament.

No one had any doubts in the Manzanares: Fernando Torres was the man. Fernando Torres was 18 years old and made his debut in Primera División in the 2002/2003 season in the Camp Nou against FC Barcelona. Fernando Torres started to show his value scoring 13 goals in his first season, not an easy year for an Atlético that was adapting to the top division after the years in hell. Fernando Torres did not fail to those who put the faith on him.


The 2003/2004 was special for Fernando Torres. El Niño was given the captain armband. 19 years old and captain of one of the biggest clubs of the continent. This fact did not have any effect on him, he wore it with pride and ended up scoring 19 goals in Primera División, only surpassed by Ronaldo (Real Madrid CF) and Julio Baptista (Sevilla FC). All these great performances gave him the chance to play for the Spanish NT for the first time, called by Iñaki Sáez, a man that had always put the trust on El Niño in the youth categories of the national team. During the summer, Atlético had to reject several offers from big clubs of England to retain their home star and local hero.

During the following two years, Fernando Torres did not stop growing. Despite the instability of the club, he always was the reference of the team and the top scorer. At the same time, the Spanish NT started a new era.  After the failure of the Spanish NT in the Portuguese Euro 2004, Fernando Torres started to be constantly called by the Spanish NT. A young and new generation of players started to appear made their way towards the World Cup 2006 at Germany. Players like Torres himself, Cesc Fàbregas, Iker Casillas, Xavi, Andrés Iniesta or Xabi Alonso, all of them under-25, were there. The Spanish NT impressed by their good football during the group stage, but failed against the first important rival: France. Luis Aragonés claimed that Spain had enough talent, but these young players needed to learn to compete.

Fernando Torres did not stop growing and the offers from important clubs were bigger and bigger. Fernando Torres was a sensation in Europe and Atlético Madrid failed to surround him with good players. While El Niño kept performing in a superior level, the club failed to give him a squad to fight for titles. In the spring of 2007, there was an eloquent picture, Atlético Madrid got a historical 0-6 beating by Barcelona at the Vicente Calderón. Everyone knew that Fernando Torres' heart was broken, it was a non-return moment. Barcelona trashed the team of his heart and his life and the image was Fernando Torres, alone in the middle of the pitch, looking at an uncertain point of the horizon and then falling on his knees grabbing his head. He had to leave in order to grow... and all the atléticos understood why. He had served like a good soldier, but he was too big for an Atlético that also needed the money to build a stronger squad.


This is how Fernando Torres ended up signing for Liverpool, convinced by Rafa Benítez, in the summer of 2007 for 36 million euros. Liverpool FC is one of the biggest teams of England and Europe, and the reds had played the Champions League final in May, 2 years after their last continental title. Fernando Torres was the star that had to complete a winning squad. Fernando Torres had a fantastic season, he scored in his debut at Anfield against Chelsea. Fernando Torres broke his personal record, scoring 24 goals during the season. Liverpool did not win any title, but the future looked bright. El Niño was part of the team of the season of the Premier League and one of the nominees for the PFA Players' player of the year, the PFA Young player of the year and, for the first time, for the FIFA World Player Award. But, despite the great season, he did not know that his moment was yet to arrive.

It was in Austria, in 2008. Fernando Torres and David Villa had the task to make people forget the Spanish ever top-scorer, Raúl. Luis Aragonés "killed" the national and, especially, madridista hero and, against the opinion of the press, put all the faith in the young pair of strikers. The early polemics were left behind when the ball started to roll. David Villa was the main reference and top scorer, but no one had doubts that Fernando Torres was the perfect partner. It was the team that broke the Spanish curse of the quarter finals, beating Italy in the penalties. Destiny gave Torres all the responsibility of the attack of Spain. David Villa got injured in the early minutes of the semifinal and Luis Aragonés did not give him a striker. On the other hand, Torres had to fight against the World, escorted by a brilliant generation of midfielders (Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Silva and Senna).  In the final, some expressed their doubts on Torres, since he had only scored one goal in the entire tournament. Villa was out of the team and Spain's number 9 was Fernando Torres... and it was the night of his life. It was the 33rd minute of the first half, Xavi raised his head to make a long pass for Fernando Torres' run, not very precise, to the space, but Fernando Torres used his speed and skill to beat the German fullback in the run to kick the ball, with a subtle touch, over Lehmann's body. The goal of the night, the goal of the final, the goal of the tournament... the most important goal of the Spanish NT history since Marcelino's in 1964.

The goal of his life

Fernando Torres was a global star, a World class player. In the 2008/2009 season, Liverpool really went for it. Despite Torres could not repeat the figures of the previous year, his contribution was important once more. In the first games of the season, Torres kept his good goal record, but several muscular injuries in games with the Spanish NT broke his season. Liverpool fought for the title in a tight run with the eternal rival, Manchester United. It was near, but not possible. In the Champions League, the historical 4-0 against Real Madrid did not pass from the anecdote after being defeated by Chelsea in the quarter finals. Despite the club failures, Torres was chosen the 3rd best player of the year only behind Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Besides, The Times chose him among the best 50 players in Liverpool's history.

Rafa Benítez surprised everyone with a revolution that ended up punishing his team. Liverpool sold important players like Xabi Alonso, Hyppia, Sissoko, Robbie Keane or Arbeloa and the reinforcements did not match the level of the players who had left the team. Fernando Torres was the main reference and big star of the team, but the muscular injuries that started to punish him the previous season, kept following him. Torres was able to score 18 goals in 22 Premier League games, but the team failed in the domestic league (ending up 7th, out of the Champions League spots) and out of the Champions League in the group stages. From a personal point of view, Torres' season was perfect until an injury punished him in the second half of the season. His team noticed his absence and, ironically, he missed the chance to help his team to face Atlético in the semifinals of the Europa League. The team of his life beated his Liverpool to get a ticket to a historical final for the atléticos, who won their first title since El Doblete of 1996.

But the injuries made the alarms ring. Fernando Torres' recovery was slow and the World Cup was in the horizon. The specific work helped him to reach the tournament of South Africa, where Spain was one of the main favorites to win the title. Despite his bad preparation, Del Bosque did not hesitate and Torres was in the initial lineup of the Spanish NT, but his bad performances and the lack of goals raised the doubts about him. Torres lost his position in favor of the blaugrana Pedro in the semifinals against Germany. For the first time in a long time, Torres was sent to a secondary role in the key moment of the competition. The historical victory of the Spanish NT hide the personal problems of Torres, who started to lose the favor of Del Bosque. Still, Fernando Torres was there in the highest moment of glory of the Spanish football. Five minutes before the end of the World Cup final, Navas connected with Iniesta and Cesc in midfield, the Sevilla player saw how Torres opened the field and gave him the ball. Fernando Torres was the one who took the decision to risk the ball looking for the winning goal. El Niño raised his head and looked for Iniesta, who was out of mark, the pass was too short, but created the chaos in the defense of Netherlands. Cesc took the lost ball and made a soft pass to the space where Iniesta appeared and prepared the ball to kick it with the heart of the whole country. Torres had reached the top and his teammate Pepe Reina, in the celebration of the World Cup title, said about him: "Everything started 2 years and 13 days ago, scoring the goal against Germany, he made us dream, he made us believe in it and this is why we just won this cup... Fernando Torres!".

He touched the top, but his hell started there too. Rafa Benítez, his protector at Liverpool, had left the club and, even though Roy Hodgson tried to convince him to stay, Torres thought that his stage at Liverpool was over too. He had left Atlético to triumph and he saw himself in the same vicious circle he had been in his last years with the club of his life. In the Winter of 2011, Chelsea completed the most expensive transfer involving a Spanish player. What it was a step forward for Torres became a nightmare in very few weeks. The biggest hope of Chelsea turned to be a failure. Torres never was comfortable with his team and only completed one goal in 17 games and he became a favorite of the English tabloids, who had no mercy with him.

The new season has just begun, but Fernando Torres keeps living the worst moment of his career. The lack of goals are punishing him, despite the new coach Villas-Boas clearly bets on him. However, his references about his teammates, calling them "too slow" earned him some enemies and some suggested a possible transfer. Besides, in the first games of the Spanish NT this season, Del Bosque who had been roaming the idea since the World Cup, left him in the standings, while Negredo took advantage of his chance to convince the coach with his goals. This weekend, Fernando Torres scored the only goal of Chelsea in the visit to Old Trafford, where the blues lost 3-1. It probably was the best game of Torres in a long time, but everyone will recall his huge error in front of the empty net in the last minutes of the game.

Fernando Torres is 27 years old. Since 10 years ago, he has hold important teams on his shoulders and it never was easy since his good personal performances were never backed by a winning squad, aside the international titles. El Niño looks sad and down, everything conspires against him... even himself and his words to the press. He feels in a hole, Chelsea has become a hostile place and the Spanish NT starts to make their way without him with an Euro in the horizon. But we are talking about Fernando Torres, the kid who was the captain of Atlético Madrid being 19, the man who made Liverpool dream in the Premier League for the first time in a long time, the striker who scored a goal that showed Spain the way to the victory. Fernando Torres has touched the bottom and has bitten the dust.

Touching the bottom

This is a key moment of his career. His first real chance in a club that can actually win titles. The maturity of his football. Maybe the chance of his life in the club level, never forgetting the challenge of the Spanish NT, where he just lost his place. Now that he knows the loneliness and darkness of the hole, it is his time to prove what Fernando Torres really is. This season will be all or none for the kid that once left Fuenlabrada, a town near Madrid, to be a goalkeeper in a school team and ended up scoring the goal that made Spain be a winner team. This is his challenge: to convince all the ones who doubt about him... like me. But let me tell you, Fernando Torres always had the ability to close the mouth of those who ever had doubts about... like mine.

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