As football equations go, the mathematical conundrum of whether Luis Suarez plus Andy Carroll equals Fernando Torres (and a little bit more) does not really add up.
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Last winter, Liverpool Football Club found themselves in the crazy predicament of having to find a quick solution to the sudden problem they found themselves in when Torres, their talismanic striker, handed in a transfer request to coincide with a dangled cheque for £50 million, a record fee, signed by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
What to do? Well, turning down all that lovely lucre was never an option. Keeping hold of a player whose head had been turned seldom works out well. Liverpool decided to cash in on Torres and moved with daring boldness to spend the money on Suarez and Carroll.
There are plenty of football folk, many of whom have no particular attachment to either club, who feel that Liverpool were the clear winners in the deal. Their logic is simple enough. Torres in Chelsea blue looks a poor imitation of Torres in Liverpool red.
The statistics alone are persuasive: 65 goals in 102 league games for Liverpool; just three in 22 for Chelsea. His loss of form and confidence since moving to Stamford Bridge (although the slump actually began once Rafa Benitez was replaced at Anfield) is perhaps the most inexplicable enigma in the Premier League.
For almost a year Chelsea have waited patiently for the Spaniard to replicate his rampaging form of old. There have been flashes, moments to make you wonder whether he has found his turning point, but nothing substantial. In the build-up to this weekend’s rendezvous between Torres’s current and former clubs, the player took a moment to confess that he felt “in debt” to the Chelsea faithful who have not got on his back despite his obvious complications.
“Whenever I have had difficult times, I look at myself and say, ‘Yes, I can get back to my level.’ All that I need to do, above anything else, is to work,” he said. "If you do that and things do not work out, you have nothing to be ashamed of. And I promise the one thing I have never done, and will never do in my life, is give up."
At the age of 27, there is no reason why Torres cannot redisover his verve. Although he has endured some fitness problems, there has been no indication that the physical demands have taken enough of a toll to deny him another chance to flourish.
But the longer his labours go on, the more people wonder if he will ever return to the striker who was one of the most coveted in world football, a World Cup winner and European Championship conquerer. In the whole of 2011, it is hard to recall even a handful of times that he has looked happy on the pitch.
Watching a player who has been, at his peak, phenomenally powerful and focused, looking so palpably burdened and uneasy on the field is not a comfortable experience. Outside of the Chelsea family, observers are compelled to either mock or wince.
Inside the club, everyone has been unfailing in their support of Torres, always insisting he will come good. But, the wait is becoming increasingly difficult to bear.
The matter becomes even more pressing as Didier Drogba is struggling to sustain the power he had in his pomp, Nicolas Anelka does not score regularly enough (one in 14 this season), and Daniel Sturridge is still learning his trade at the highest level.
Chelsea appear to have accepted that both Drogba and Anelka, whose contracts expire at the end of the season, will more than likely be off to pastures new. Those kind of distractions are seldom helpful.
Torres knows that the spotlight will glare hotly over him on Sunday afternoon. The visiting support will undoubtedly try to get under his skin. They won’t easily forgive how he left Anfield. The player hinted this week in an interview with the Spanish newspaper Marca that there was more to it than meets the eye.
"The Liverpool fans have only paid attention to what the club made them see and they don’t know the true story of my transfer to Chelsea,” he said. "That’s why I don’t hold any grudges; they will always be special to me."
That sentiment is not going to be reciprocated in a hurry. Liverpool can at least feel that the move has not been as depressing as they feared. Reflecting on how well their club spent the Torres money, Liverpool fans are delighted with Suarez. He has enjoyed a positive impact on the pitch, and will be looking to focus on the good things that happened to him over the international break (scoring four times in Uruguay’s win over Chile) and not the bad (being charged by the Football Association of making racist comments towards Manchester United defender Patrice Evra).
However, Carroll has been a less convincing purchase. Goals have been hard to come by, with just two this season in the league, and the England manager Fabio Capello has spoken more than once about how the person who is responsible for making the most of the big man’s potential is Carroll himself – the implications that he is not making the most of his attributes all too clear.
As Torres says, if you work hard and it doesn’t work out, you have nothing to be ashamed of.