Fernando Torres and this Philosopher’s Stony Heart

By Tim Treacy

Today, I awoke to an insane twitter stream and an inbox full of speculation regarding Fernando Torres. I first heard mummers that Chelsea are looking to offload Torres about four weeks ago, and I first heard the £20M price tag that is rumored to be the magical figure that Chelsea would sell Torres for about three weeks ago. Since then, I have had plenty of time to ponder and agonize over a hypothetical situation, spending time thinking about it on my own, while also discussing at length the pros and cons of such a move with
fellow fans here in Boston and around the world via twitter, facebook, skype, and email. You have to wonder if Liverpool would take Torres back, should Liverpool take Torres back, could Liverpool afford it, would Torres want to come back, and of course, how does he rebuild so many burned bridges with the Anfield faithful. Then you have to wonder if Chelsea really are going to sell him, and for £20M at that.

Like so many millions of fans, I adored Fernando Torres. He was brilliantly awesome at times for Liverpool. While I am not one for getting players names on the back of my Liverpool jerseys, last January a friend here in Boston bought me a Torres shirt. Ten days later, Torres signed for Chelsea. I was gutted and my lifelong self-reasoning for not getting players names on the back of my jerseys was reaffirmed. Although the £50M Chelsea paid for Torres helped ease the pain for myself and other fans, as did the arrival of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, it was ultimately a heartbreaking dagger delivered by Fernando Torres into the heart of the Kop which adored him so. Torres was loved unconditionally by Liverpool fans and like in any walk of life, when love turns to hate it gets ugly quickly. At what point did love turn to hate for me? It was the moment Torres appeared in a Chelsea shirt on TV.

All this reminded me of something not related to football. Recently, I was consoling a friend of mine who had just gotten divorced and as the divorce was being finalized my friend rhetorically asked, “How does the deepest love turn so easily into the most intense hatred.” Of course I could have answered with philosophical phrases that proved I had at least some grasp on the concept but I didn’t. I just sat and listened, mulling over the phrase and my pint without offering any opinion or reassurance to my friend. However, when Torres left Liverpool, I was very much full of opinion, and a mass of brokenhearted-inspired hatred flowed from deep within me towards El Nino whom had just very publicly divorced our club. I was constantly shouting vulgarities at my TV every time I saw him appear on it. Anytime someone mentioned his name on-air I would shudder, filled with rage and sadness all at the same time. I felt physically sick when in Feburary 2011, I began seeing Chelsea shirts with Torres’ name on the back of them here in Boston and on TV. To me Torres had become ‘he should not be named.’ He had become my Voldemort. To quote one of my favorite TV shows of all time “Don’t mention the war,” well for me it was don’t mention Fernando Torres. That was my mantra following transfer deadline day last January. I didn’t want to ever think about him again.

In October of this year, I felt another strange shift in my feelings for Fernando, from one of adoration a year ago, to utter hatred this year, onto something new and very peculiar. For some time I have noticed Torres at Chelsea, and he looks a pale shadow of his former self. Dejected, alone, isolated, it is clear his time  in London is not what he had hoped for and it’s plainly obvious for everyone to see that he is now a deeply unhappy and lonely person. For some strange reason — maybe because I have worked in the field of mental health for the past 4 years and my natural instinct is to help people I see in need of help, or maybe it is something else entirely — I have over the past 6-8 weeks started feeling sorry, I might even say deeply sorry, for Fernando Torres who is literally and figuratively out on the sidelines at Chelsea. Then I wonder what on earth is going on with me? I’m a dedicated Liverpool fan. Why do I still care about Torres? He’s a Chelsea player now. I could care less for Raul Meireles since he left Liverpool. I am completely void of emotional feeling for the Portuguese player. What is different about Torres then? I have wished and hoped 100’s of times for him not to score at Chelsea, for him not to be a success. I have shouted the most vile unpublishable things at my TV when I see him on it. I hated him as much as I once loved him. Is something wrong in the cosmos that I am now feeling sorry for the guy?

My love for Liverpool Football Club is unwavering, often tested but never faltering and always enduring. The last thing I do each night and the first thing I do when I wake is to check the Liverpool website and the Liverpool echo for Liverpool related news. Since the invention of smart phones, I can now check these sites from my bed just before I fall asleep, but just minutes after I have closed my laptop while checking these same sites before going to bed. It’s a love affair with all things Liverpool. I am constantly checking twitter  for Liverpool related news and apart from when I am sleeping, I am probably thinking something Liverpool related 90% of the time. The club is something I could never tire talking or thinking about. This all makes this Torres situation with me, more difficult to understand. I have begun to wonder if I am alone in my thoughts on Torres, although I have found more than a few like-minded fans in my recent discussions on the topic.

There are fundamental questions that need addressing though. Would Liverpool take him back? His friendship with Steven Gerrard was well documented, could Stevie accept him back, could Carra and the others do it too? Could and would Kenny Dalglish accept him back at Liverpool? We know Dalglish has a history of accepting players back to the club after they had left previously, Ian Rush and Craig Bellamy are prime examples. Rush especially broke Liverpool hearts when he left for Italy, only to be welcomed back a year later with open arms. There is also no one better to resurrect Torres’ career than the King. Dalglish and Torres had also become close at Liverpool after Dalglish came back to the club in an ambassador role during the summer of 2009. The pair even did a photo shoot together on the streets of Liverpool for The Times in London. There was a lot of respect between the two. It’s probably, at least in some form, still there.

So if, and yes it is a very hypothetical and large if, but if Torres was to come back to Liverpool this January, he would have an immense amount of work to do to win over fans’ hearts and the players once again. With so many burned bridges, it would take some serious endeavors from him in front of the Kop for the Anfield faithful to ever wholeheartedly sing his name with pride again. He may even, at some hypothetical stage over the next few years, have to kiss the Liverpool badge, a step no player, especially Torres following his comments earlier this year, should ever take lightly.

What about Torres then? Well, in three months’ time, Torres will turn 28 years old. He is slap bang in the middle of what every footballing expert believes to be the prime of a footballer’s career. He should have at least three to four more years at that athletic level before any sort of decline, plus a few more years of goal scoring after that similar to all truly great strikers. His form however has dipped dramatically over the past 18 months, but there is that somewhat overused phrase in football, “form is temporary but class is permanent” that offers some reassurance over his ability. Remember, there was a time at Liverpool when Fernando Torres was said to be the best striker to have ever played for the club and arguably there was also a time when he was the world’s best center forward. The statistics from his time at Liverpool support this. In total, he scored 81 goals in 142 appearances with 17 assists for Liverpool, and he also reached 50 league goals faster than any other striker in the history of the club, in just 72 appearances, all this is the most competitive league in the world. ‘Torres’ was also the most popular name to feature on replica Premier League shirts sold across the world in the 2009–10 season. He was incredible.

Now no one knows for sure if Torres has what it takes to succeed at Liverpool for a second time as he is suffering from 18 months of devastating physiological blows. No one knows for sure if Chelsea would even consider selling him back to Liverpool at such a huge loss, and no one but Kenny Dalglish knows for sure if Liverpool would ever take Torres back to Anfield but I can pose an hypothesis.

After returning from injury at the 2010 World Cup, he always looked a step short for Spain and down on confidence. He then found himself playing under a dark cloud during the latter stages of the Hicks and Gillett and ill-fated Hodgson era, to then deciding to join Chelsea but failing to deliver even one single decent performance for the Stamford Bridge outfit and failing to settle into life in London. It’s clear that Torres has made some bad life decisions while also under-whelming on the pitch. It’s also clear that there are many issues surrounding the man that need some serious consideration and it would be a huge gamble for Liverpool to take him back. It may even be a huge gamble for any club to buy him from Chelsea. There is no doubting his physical ability, but if his psychological issues cannot be overcome, then Torres will forever continue to underwhelm for any team he plays for.

If the £20M is the fee Chelsea are rumored to be willing to take for Torres is true, then coupled with the £9M Torres earned in wages this year at Stamford Bridge, the Blues stand to lose £39M on him in just 12 months. That’s enough to start Occupy Stamford Bridge in my view but then, who cares about Chelsea, their shambolic dealings, and their fans. Liverpool received £50M for Torres from Chelsea, and after spending £35M of that fee on Andy Carroll, they had £15M left over from that deal. As far as basic accounting goes, for basically that ‘spare’ £15M plus an extra £5M they could have Torres and Carroll for a combined total fee of £55M — £50M of which is money straight from Abromovich’s pocket. Now I’m no accountant or financial wizard, but somehow you can see something very interesting developing here, Liverpool’s very own trasnfer coup. Another way of looking at it is that Torres and Carroll will end up costing Liverpool just £5M (Yes, five million) in transfer fees combined when you balance the books over 13 months, providing of course that Chelsea do sell him for £20M that is and that is one staggering fact.

Torres would also have to be more than willing to play for Liverpool, because he wants to and not because of a huge paycheck encourages him to do so . He should pubically be biting at the nail to come back up North to Liverpool. He would also have to be willing to play for at least half of what he currently earns a week at Chelsea, possibly even taking more than a 50% pay-cut to return to Anfield. He has to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wants to play for Liverpool. Kenny Dalglish has said time and time again that the most important players at Liverpool Football Club are the ones that want to be there. Torres has to prove that otherwise this whole thing is a non-starter.

Taking everything into consideration, including rampant rumors, hard facts, financial figures, what ifs, and countless questions that begin with could, would, should, will, if, buts, may be, and maybes, this is a deeply complicated issue. It may be a non-issue and prove to be nothing more than silly stories and tabloid generated rumors, and I may have wasted four hours writing this article on this topic, but it may also be a very real issue worth looking at and seriously considering.

January will tell all but in the meantime, we can dream the impossible (Carroll and Torres for a combined spend by Liverpool of just £5M over 13 months) or the probable (Torres remains a £50M outcast at Chelsea for the next 4.5 years costing the club £50M in wages over the course of his contract). But since it’s the holiday season, ponder if it is indeed conceivable to forgive someone who broke your sporting heart just one year ago and accept him back onto a stage he once seemed destined to earn legendary status on, the stage that is Anfield and the player that is Fernando Torres.

What do you think? Please comment below.

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11 thoughts on “Fernando Torres and this Philosopher’s Stony Heart

  1. I became a Liverpool fan shortly after getting access to premier league soccer (fox) on a regular basis. For me that was about a year & a half ago. Always a big World Cup fan, week in, week out action wasn’t available to me (w/out going to a pub) until recently. Anyways, Torres’ issues were obvious at the world cup and I can’t forget the TV feed of the Spanish national team on the plane home from South Africa. All the Barca players (and the few Real players) were understandably joyous and celebrating, etc. Torres was in the background and was noticeably low-key about it. Sitting in his seat watching Villa, Xavi, and the rest jumping around, drinking, etc. Long story short, curiousity about what the transition for him back to week in, week out club football would be like for him was one reason that I began paying more attention to Liverpool than the other premier league teams …. Torres left, but I stayed with Liverpool, but have continued to watch his career with a similar interest as the author. Hope he can find a way to re-connect with the love of the game that he had to have as a young one. I really do wish him well. (Hard to get too worked up over someone making 9 million a year, though!)

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  2. Torres doesn’t suit Chelsea’s system whatsoever, as it’s been designed to help a player like Drogba perform to his full potential, so it’s no surprise that it hasn’t worked out – much like Andy Carroll for Liverpool really.
    We play to a style that suits Torres, shown by his goal record, and his confidence would be instantly boosted if Dalgliesh put his faith in him.
    But we won’t sign him, Dalgliesh wouldn’t risk spending £55 million on two players who’ve been established as EPL flops over the last 8 months.

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  3. Great article, Tim. Plenty of food for thought. As all Liverpool faithful, I was gutted over the sale of El Niño this past January. I remember all the media coverage leading up to the sale. Outlets confirming that Torres was looking for Champions League glory, and the possibility of our great striker joining the hated blue rats from London. I convinced myself that Torres was different from the norm. I was sure that Torres was honest, earnest, and most of all, faithful. When the news hit in January, I found it incredibly hard to grasp. On top of the pitiful form that LFC had been displaying, now I had to put up with my star forward thrusting a metaphorical dagger in my football heart, while moving south to money-bags Chelski? I was at a loss for words. I was infuriated to say the least. I lied to myself, and thought, if not publicly clamored, that £50 million was outrageous! I was convinced that we were the ones that had ran away with the steal of the century. I mean, seriously…£50 million for a striker that had obviously declined in form, and was performing at half of his former capacity- at best. This was an economic home run! Furthermore, we acquired Luis Suarez, and splashed the cash by grabbing vertically-adept Andy Carroll. We had the King back under the helm, and new owners willing to due whatever possible in order to restore our rightful place in the Premier League. For weeks, I watched Torres, not Chelsea- just as you and millions of red-loving, beer-drinking, cursing Liverpudlians did- for a catastrophic collapse. And in glorious, if not ironic fashion, we were treated to a marvelous show. I cursed at the screen in joy, watching the shadow of a former great fall from the pedestal of excellence. IT. WAS. DELIGHTFUL. Now, I feel as if the novelty of watching Nando not score has worn off. I don’t really feel any sympathy for him, but the disdain that overcame me earlier in the year has left. After having read that there is a possibility that Chelsea will part ways with their once prized asset, I felt as if I were a young stud receiving news that his former knockout of a girlfriend had been dropped like a bad habit. Sure, she’s not as young, maybe a few pounds heavier, she may have even gotten that short hair cut you always told her would look hideous, but the personality is still there, and the most important part of all, she has regained the passion for being with someone that truly wants to be with her too. If I were Kenny, I’d definitely look into seeing what numbers are in the mix for a Torres sale. I’d see what I could offer from our stables to maybe lower the number, and sweeten the deal. Let’s be honest, Downing, Hendo, and Carroll haven’t exactly impressed during their tenure at Anfield. Maybe we should cut ties with one of them, and regain the ol’ warhorse. Of course, all of this has to be done, if Nando does in fact wants to come back to Liverpool and give his all, as he once did. His pay should be lowered from that of the blues, and he’d have to show some humility in accepting having made a bad decision for leaving in the first place. But seriously- spite, grudge, and pride aside- what red would not want Torres back? Especially at a discounted rate. It would be foolish for us to not inquire about regaining him, seeing as how we haven’t really seen Carroll hit his stride, and are in need of a powerful scorer to join our ranks. Sure, Suarez is a STUD, but he needs someone to compliment him in the front. It’s in Kenny’s and John Henry’s hands to decide whether it would be prudent to make such a move. In my own humble opinion, I would welcome back Torres with a pint and a new LFC scarf. I only hope the management, and Liverpool think so as well.

    – Fed

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  4. Nicely done, Tim, really well-thought out. I feel similarly: I hated Torres when he left, referring to him only as El Douchebag (your divorce analogy is spot on–Liverpools fans adored him beyond measure) though lately, I feel almost sorry for him too. It’s just such a waste.

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  5. Will not happen in a million years. Chelsea maybe muppets but they are not stupid. Selling low to a rival and strengthening said rival is not going to happen.

    Torres is a curious case. He does look pitiful there on the Chelsea sidelines or the 80th minute substitute role. Heck, he even looks pitiful and lost when he starts in those Carling Cup matches. I do not feel any sympathy for that plight; I rather find it amusing. A striker who was a terror now surrounded by the best talent money can buy and he looks as comfortable as a fish on a bicycle. However, Chelsea is a work in progress at the moment, and AVB is starting to adjust and find his best team. While I do not think he is a card carrying member of the Fernando Torres club, he will not let him go on the cheap, and not to somewhere that can potentially hurt him. The kid will not return.

    One more bit about the formerly ours, and current Spanish misfit. He reminds me a bit of another want-away striker. One Michael Owen. An electric lad that left for the greener pastures of Real Madrid, where he did actually have a decent goal scoring record but was relegated to substitute and cameo appearances. As Owen’s burst of speed and electricity was gone for the game and he had problems adjusting to a role as a poacher and struggled to make a big impact matches. Torres reminds me of the same. He was devastating when, like Owen, he had that 1/2 step quickness that just allowed him to shred through defences, skin defenders, and give him that extra half yard of space. Father Time has robbed him of that. Without that speed, he now exists in a shadow world, on the periphery – occasionally able to produce a sublime touch or two but no longer able to strike terror in the hearts of opposition defences.

    So 20m, no thanks. Liverpool needs cover for Lucas, a creative player (winger or attacking midfielder) and a nasty little poacher of the Kevin Phillips {I refuse to type Ole Gunnar Solskjær other than in brackets} type, not a return of an old girlfriend.

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