No. 40 – The Day Fernando Torres Arrived
Fernando Torres became Liverpool’s record signing on July 4, 2007 and netted 33 goals in his first season in English football and got the Kop bouncing again. A phenonimal achievement for his first season in English football….
Before joining Liverpool, The striker had spent the previous 12 years at Atletico Madrid, the club he supported as a boy. The Spanish giants snapped him up at the age of 11 after he netted 55 goals in his first season at amateur side Rayo 13. Torres was destined for big things since he was voted the best 15 year old in European Football after leading Atletico to the Nike Cup in 1998. He signed his first professional contract in 1999 but had to wait until May 27, 2001 to make his debut against Leganes. Still, at 17 years and 68 days, he was Atletico’s youngest ever player.
Within a week he’d scored his first goal in a match against Albacete. Atletico spent the 2000/01 and the 2001/2002 seasons in the 2nd division after a catastrophic 99/00 campaign saw them relegated. It meant that Torres first full season wasn’t in La Liga. He scored 6 goals in 36 games for Atletico which may not seem impressive, however they won promotion with him leading the line….. Meanwhile, he was still making waves on the international scene. Torres was top scorer and player of the tournament in the 2001 European Under-16 Championships and 2002 European Under-19 Championships, both of which Spain won.
He made the transition to top flight football particularly well, scoring 13 goals in 02/03 and the whole of Spain was soon talking about the wonder boy!! The 2003-04 campaign was when Torres really hit the headlines. Not only did he score 19 goals in 35 league appearances, but he was also handed the club captaincy. At 19, he was the youngest skipper in Atletico’s long and illustrious history. On top of all this, the youngster was also called up into the senior Spain squad, making his full debut in a friendly with Portugal on September 6, 2003. The following April he scored his first international goal against Italy. He was then part of the Spain squad which travelled to Euro 2004 in Holland and Belgium. He was then selected for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, where he scored three goals.
The following year, in May 2007, Torres hit the headlines when he revealed the phrase ‘We’ll Never Walk Alone’ on the inside of his captain’s armband during a match between Atletico and Real Sociedad. Two months of speculation and paper talk ensued before the striker was finally unveiled at Melwood.He left Atletico with a record of 82 goals in 214 league appearances. Fernando Torres became Liverpool’s record signing on July 4, 2007. Leaving the Vicente Calderon was a huge wrench for Torres. He’d been with the club since 1995 and if Atletico could have provided him with with the opportunity of success and to fulfill his ambitions he’d probably be still their now!
On July 2 it was reported that Torres had cut short his holiday to fly back to Madrid to finalize the move. The next day Torres passed a medical for Liverpool and it was annouced that a farewell press conference would be held in Madrid the on 4 July to bid farewell to the AtlÃ©tico Madrid fans. Later that day, AtlÃ©tico officially confirmed his transfer to Liverpool on their website.
Torres said when he joined…. “My objective now is to be an idol at Liverpool and if I keep scoring goals like this then hopefully it will help me become a favourite for the fans. I know that many people have doubted me because of the size of the transfer fee but my answer will always be with the goals I score. That is the most important thing in the world, especially for me as a striker who feeds on goals. I don’t want to set a target but if I avoid injuries and stay in good form then I want a minimum of 15 goals. That will be a good number for me in what will be a very hard first season in the Premiership.”
It took him just those seven months to reach 21 goals in 31 games, the first Liverpool forward to achieve that total in a campaign since Michael Owen five years ago.
He got his 2nd hat-trick against Middlesbrough which destroyed an effective, organised team. Torres had already managed a previous trio in a Liverpool shirt, the one bagged in September at Reading in the Carling Cup. But this was different. It was his first at Anfield, finished off in front of an adoring Kop.
When Torres first signed for Liverpool it left critics questioning whether the 23-year-old Spanish striker was overpriced and whether he could handle the physical demands of the Premiership. But Torres has been an instant success at Anfield. Torres scored 33 goals in his first season (24 at Anfield and 9 away goals)…. Of those, 4 were scored with his left foot, 24 with his right foot and 5 were headers!! He got 30 goals inside the area and 3 goals outside the area.
Fernando Torres became the most prolific debut season of any striker in Liverpool’s modern history. The Spanish hitmanÂ notched up 33 goals in 46 games ‘“ or one every 1.40 matches. That’s more than John Aldridge (a goal every 1.55 games), Ian Rush (1.63), Roger Hunt (1.65), Robbie Fowler (1.83), Michael Owen (1.91) and Kenny Dalglish (2) managed in their first full seasons. He got 24 goals in the Premiership and 6 unforgettable goals in the Champions League….
His goal against Manchester City in May was the eighth home league game in a row in which Torres found the back of the net – equalling the record set by Roger Hunt back in the 1961-62 season when the Reds were playing second division football. He also beat Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s record as the highest scoring overseas player in his debut season in the Premier League.
Torres has firmly established himself as one of the most dangerous and prolific forwards in the game. The way Torres deploys his speed with clever positioning on the last line of defence is fantastic. In fact, he rarely, if ever, gets caught offside……. It’s one thing having scorching pace, quite another using it well. The Spaniard combines speed, a willingness to take defenders on and a goal-scorer’s instinct into an explosive offensive package. 33 goals…… An absolutely amazing achievement and clearly Liverpool’s Player of the Season….
A series of hamstring injuries disrupted Torres’ second season at Liverpool during the 2008-09 campaign, though a haul of 17 goals from 38 appearances aided Liverpool’s best title charge since 1990.