Is Torres back to his Best?
The Chelsea career of Spain’s Fernando Torres was turbulent to say the least, whilst goal spurts did sporadically materialise the World Cup winner’s four year tenure was largely a failure. With only 20 Premier League goals in 110 appearances, the club finally took Torres off the Stamford Bridge books this month. The performances of Diego Costa, Loic Remy and Didier Drogba made it clear that Torres’ chance of a return were virtually non-existent.
Last summer, Italian giants AC Milan signed Fernando Torres from Chelsea on an initial two year loan deal. It looked a transfer that suited all parties, Torres is still a class player and maybe the Spaniard would find the Serie A environment better suited to his game. Meanwhile, Chelsea at the time didn’t want to necessarily sell the player so giving Torres game time in Italy with the option to bring him back heavily appealed.
However, mediocre performances in Italy followed as goals once again proved difficult to come by for the 30 year old front man. Despite this, Torres’ career for the Rossoneri did get off to lightning start upon scoring a looping header against Empoli on his first start for the club. Currently, this remains his only goal for the seven time European Cup winners despite nine more starts in the league.
Seemingly, only one goal in ten games would surely have put AC Milan off keeping Torres for the whole two year loan deal they had agreed. Incredibly, however, Milan made the shock decision this January to in fact sign the ex-Liverpool hit man permanently. For an undisclosed fee, Chelsea finally departed with the striker they paid a then record fee of £50 million for.
In a further twist though, only two days after signing permanently for Milan, the situation became even more complicated. On the 7th January 2015, Torres agreed to leave Italy on loan in a return to his original club Atletico Madrid until the end of the 2015-2016 season. After struggling to settle in Spain, Italian midfielder Alessio Cerci went on loan to AC Milan in return as Torres sealed a dream come back to Madrid, even if it wasn’t permanent.
Returning to Atletico proved not only a dream come true for Torres but for the club’s fans as well who had witnessed the Spaniards magic for six years (2001-2007). In fact at the 6’ 1” forward’s presentation saw an incredible 45,000 ‘Atleti’ fans crammed into the Vicente Calderon stadium to welcome home their hero. Anxiety did still remain, however, with Torres’ poor form in Italy, there doubts that Torres could reach anywhere near the heights he did for club earlier in his career.
These worries seemed to have been confirmed on ‘El Nino’s’ debut for his childhood club, in the first leg of a Copa de Rey clash with bitter rivals Real Madrid. Whilst Atletico did win 2-0, Torres was lack lustre at times and his final ball was certainly shady in the final third. In the next league game, Croatian Mario Mandzukic was preferred up front and responded by scoring in a 3-1 defeat.
Regardless to a shaky start, Diego Simone kept faith by starting Torres in part two of their Cup clash at Real, this time under the daunting battlements of the Santiago Bernabeu. It proved a dream come true for Torres, a true mark of his return and a reminder that the fire of the Torres of 5 years ago still persisted to flicker inside his once-famous right boot.
In the first minute of game, Atletico’s super signing Antoine Griezmann burst down the wing after finding substantial space behind Los Blancos’ back line. The Frenchman curled in a beautiful ball to the unmarked Torres at the back post, as Keylor Navas scrambled across his goal mouth. It seemed quite an easy finish; however the form of Torres in recent years saw many Atleti fans avoid celebrating too prematurely.
The Spaniard made good connection with his left boot, the ball rising, rising, rising over? Navas was but a spectator as the ball passed him, swirling towards the far top corner as his opponent’s eyes lit up. Goal. The ball found the top corner magnificently and Torres reeled off joyously in celebration, pointing to the Atletico fans high in the Bernabeu’s towering turrets.
The game finished 2-2 with Atletico Madrid subsequently winning 4-2 on aggregate, with Torres scoring both goals for his team. El Nino’s second goal saw a taste of the old Torres, after receiving a pass from Griezmann yet again in the first minute of the second half. As Navas ran out to meet the Spaniard, he was helpless as Torres slotted it past him and into the netting.
So, after an incredible individual performance at the Bernabeu it looks like Fernando Torres might be back to his best upon returning to his home club of Atletico Madrid, is the very best of El Nino truly back for good?
Kobe, YJA Sports Correspondent
Priory Academy LSST