Fernando Torres. The player who had it all. The speed, the technique, the movement, the ability to stick the round object into the rectangular thing to a ridiculous standard.
The player who won it all, except the Premier League. A World Cup, the Champions League, a Europa League and a couple of European Championships.
The 34-year old is now playing out the twilight years of his career in Japan for J-League club Sagan Tosu. The last two games have seen Torres-type form as the Spaniard has scored two goals and grabbed two assists for his new employers but there was one time where ‘El Nino’ was the prodigal son of the Kop.
Torres signed for Liverpool in 2007 for a then club record transfer fee of £27 million from his boyhood club Atletico Madrid.
It was a Salah-esque first season in terms of output from Torres, as he became the first player since Robbie Fowler in the 1995/96 season to score more than 20 league goals in a season. After hat-tricks in consecutive games against Middlesbrough and West Ham United in February 2008 he had become the first Liverpool player since Jack Balmer in November 1946 to achieve such a feat.
This was seen as ground-breaking at the time and earned Torres iconic status on The Kop. Little did we know that Mo Salah would come along, net 44 goals in his debut season and walk away with the Golden Boot, earning him the iconic status.
After a golden first season Torres then held the accolade of becoming the fastest player in Liverpool’s history to score 50 league goals. He truly was one of the greatest strikers ever to play for the club. Salah is right on schedule to smash that breathtaking record.
But it all ended in heartbreak. For fans. For the club. Arguably for Torres himself. A British transfer record fee was broken at the time as Liverpool’s number nine then became Chelsea’s for a fee of £50 million in January 2011.
The reasons behind Torres’ departure are complex and not as straight-forward as initially thought. His interview in Simon Hughes’ book ‘A Ring of Fire: Liverpool into the 21st century: The player’s stories’ offers an extraordinary and honest insight from the man himself about the reasons behind his move to Stamford Bridge.
There were lies and false promises given to Torres about where the football club was going and questions about their ability ‘to win.’ One of the world’s best footballers at the time was plying his trade at Anfield but left to a domestic rival because he believed he could win more trophies there.
And win he did.
The FA Cup and Champions League in 2011-12. The Europa League in 2012-13 in which he scored in the final, all achieved while at Chelsea. While you’re at it lets mention the two European Championship wins in 2008 and 2012 for Spain and the big one, the World Cup in 2010.
Torres left because he wanted to win. And he pretty much won it all.
But from the outside, I’ve always thought its not all appeared as happy as it should have been for Torres. All those trophies, everything he had ever wanted, the reason he left Liverpool, he had it. He had achieved everything he had set out to.
‘They made me feel like anything was possible, that everything was real. I was lucky. They did not have any reason to love me that way but they made me feel different to any other player.’
That quote from Hughes’ book is from Torres in a period of hindsight and reflection. Love is the key word. The fans loved him, adored him, took him in as one of their own. That love was reciprocated.
‘I know I am never going to feel the way I felt at Anfield again, even in my dreams.’
Torres had won all these honours but not at the club he had loved, not at the club that loved him.
He managed to get his happy ending of sorts by going back to win the Europa League with Atletico Madrid last season.
But there will always be this feeling on both sides that something was missing from Torres’ time at Liverpool, and that is silverware.
Comparing Torres’ situation and dilemma to the Liverpool of today is interesting because there could be a few similarities.
Mo Salah. Sadio Mane. Roberto Firmino, maybe even Naby Keita.
All are players who have tremendous quality and may reach the peak of their powers while wearing the Red shirt.
But if the trophies don’t come the question will always linger about whether they fancy pastures new?
Except this time the club is in a healthy state, on and off the pitch. Ambitious, in sync and with a world class manager at the helm.
There is also the fact that the connection between supporters and players looks to be at its closest in years, love is all around us, powered from the stands and felt on the pitch.
The players have developed and will continue to develop a relationship with the supporters.
Now its time for the players to set out to achieve their ambitions at the club.
And for the fans to make them feel like ‘anything is real’.
Maybe players will want to leave but theres no doubt that they will ‘never feel the way they felt at Anfield’, no, not even in their dreams.
It’s vital to compare the situations of Liverpool circa 2007/08 the Liverpool of now.
The club have a superstar in the making in their ranks in Salah, like Torres, and to keep your superstars you need to be proving you are ambitious and aiming to win trophies every season.
It didn’t work out like that for Liverpool and Torres, and we lost our superstar.
The club is different now, in more ways than one and you’d have to ask why Salah would want to leave this?
Idolised to the extent he even has the lids invading the pitch mid-game to give him a hug. Love. Adored. And with a team and manager vying to win the league.
We enjoyed Torres’ goals and adored his every move. We are doing the same with Salah.
We can be made to feel by these superstars that ‘anything is real’.