Is Fernando Torres damaged goods?
Sometimes transfers magically work out - think Eric Cantona, Leeds to Manchester United.
Sometimes they take time to develop - think Thierry Henry, Juventus to Arsenal.
Sometimes they’re a bust - think Robbie Keane, Spurs to Liverpool and then…there’s Fernando Torres!
During the last transfer window in January, we witnessed the biggest blockbuster move in the history of the Premier League. Torres decided that Liverpool no longer matched his ambition and demanded a move away from Anfield.
Chelsea, or more importantly Roman Abramovich, decided that he would be the signing to push them over the edge towards multiple trophies. He wouldn’t come cheaply though.
$82million later, the Blues had in their possession a man who they thought would find the back of the net with ease. This was a striker who had scored 65 goals in 102 BPL appearances for the Reds and when 100% was practically unplayable.
In London however he hasn’t yet managed to click and I believe it’s because someone didn’t peel back all the layers. Fernando Torres just might be damaged goods.
With a no-money-back guarantee sewn up in the deal, Chelsea has seemingly bought itself a lemon.
The Spaniard looks a pale imitation of the player who arrived in 2007 from Atletico Madrid and immediately starting ripping up the Premier League. It’s blatantly obvious that his confidence is shot especially after waiting 903 minutes before scoring his one competitive Chelsea goal to date.
His touch reminds me of a pub player after a heavy night partying, while his finishing skills have completely deserted him.
Incredibly though this is not the first time Chelsea have bought strikers for vast sums of money and been short-changed.
Andriy Shevchenko cost $50 million and couldn’t even break into double figures - scoring just nine goals during his Stamford Bridge stay. Meanwhile Adrian Mutu, despite being something of a cult figure to the Stamford Bridge crowd, hardly justified his $26 million price tag. The Romanian contributed a paltry six goals during his time in West London.
It makes you wonder what kind of research Chelsea is conducting before they decide to spend big. It was immediately obvious to even the most uneducated of football fans that Shevchenko no longer had the physical attributes required for the task. It was as though the seven years of exhilarating play and scoring in the Serie A had been nothing more than a mirage.
As for Mutu, surely his party lifestyle must’ve attracted some attention. After all this was a man who got married LIVE on Romanian TV.
El Nino by all accounts is neither a party animal or finished physically, so we must ask how he can reclaim his form especially as he now moves into what supposedly is the peak of his career. At age 27 we should see five more productive years:
1. It sounds ridiculous to say but he’s got to stop trying so hard. Goal scorers when they’re in the zone make the most difficult art in football look incredibly easy.
2. He must be adaptable and be able to change his style of play. Instead of relying on his pace and power he must develop craft and guile. Alan Shearer would be a great example to follow.
3. Andre Villas-Boas must recognize that Torres will be more productive with a partner rather than leading the line as a lone striker in a 4-3-3.
4. He must get his hamstrings sorted out. The number of strains he has picked up over the last few campaigns reminds me of Michael Owen. Without that initial burst over the first five yards Torres is good but he’s not special.
5. Fix his psyche, which right now must be brittle. Whether Villas-Boas is the man to do that or some high-priced shrink, who knows, but if I was signing his substantial checks I’d be willing to try anything.
During the match versus West Brom on Saturday and after Torres was subbed in the 60th minute I tweeted the following, "does anyone feel sorry for Fernando Torres". The answer was overwhelmingly no! - however I want him to succeed. Torres on song is a joy to watch, a natural, gifted footballer who has that rare ability to lift you out of your seat and make you shake your head in awe.
Ultimately though Torres will be judged on one thing and one thing only…goals. If he delivers, he’ll look like the smartest move in the history of Chelsea and Roman Abramovich. If he fails, it’s damaged goods.
Nick Webster has been the voice of the Barclays Premier League, FIFA World Cup's and UEFA European Championships in America since 2001. Insightful, provocative and entertaining, you'll always find him at the heartbeat of the action with stories that matter.