According to Baltic legend, when the Arctic storm wind blows down from the mountains across the tundra it heralds the arrival of the Great Wizard, Nischergurje, from the north. In his left hand he carries a gold drum hammer and in his right a Magic Drum, with which he summons his comrades.
‘Do you hear it on the wind? Do you hear its beat! beat! beat!’. The call goes out, enticing the listener to inclusion with those who are already under its spell.
The ancient legend may have its origins in the frozen wastes of Lapland, but its effects are currently felt in the fertile environs of the Premier League. A storm wind has definitely arrived in L4, this time blown not from snowy peaks but London SW6, where the mountains are symbolised by the dizzy heights of the Champions League and the challenge for a title. Roman Abramovich’s gold hammer has been beating, and the sound of his magic drum has carried to the ears of one Fernando Torres. Like a siren’s insistent cry comes the call, and the allure of inclusion, not to mention gold, is proving impossible to resist.
This footballing wizard from warmer, southerly climes has often woven his magic on the lush field of Anfield Road, but he appears to have finally succumbed to his own sense of importance by believing he deserves greater immediate reward for his art than he has been able to realise up to now, apparently citing promises made that haven’t been delivered. This is perhaps forgetting that he has 24 others around him who would also like to have been more richly rewarded with silver in the time he has been with them. They may even wonder whether his ability to weave magic is itself on the wane. For a couple of summers he has been courted by those in the hierarchy desperate to hold onto his ability to cast spells. However, they were in some part reacting to populist suggestions that he would leave should results not be forthcoming instead of being brave enough to stand their own ground. Significantly they are not the hierarchy now in place, and the sense of business professionalism is more spell-binding than anything shown previously.
The question is not, ‘should Torres go?’ but, ‘should he be sold?’, and there is a subtle difference. The former infers the decision of the individual and the agreement of those around him, the latter carries the weight of those who have the authority to make the final decision. Once a player reveals his hand, and his heart so clearly, it changes the emphasis of the question and ultimately the answer.
An argument exists that LFC should force Fernando to stay, (this has been the public statement of their stance so far), and then sell him in the summer window. This seems, on the surface, to find a middle ground whereby the team benefits from an extended use of his ability whilst accepting the inevitable and allowing him his wishes to leave once the need for everyone’s labours is complete. However, I believe this is counter-productive. Prospective suitors, whilst being made to wait, will also account for the fact he no longer wants to remain where he is and will effect a buyer’s market based on that knowledge. Come the summer, Liverpool’s owners would still need a good return for their asset but Torres’ value will diminish by the nature of him wanting out. We have already seen price arguments on the same basis elsewhere in this transfer window. Even for über-wealthy clubs, if you have to pay a lot why pay more than is necessary? At least by deferring now to Torres’ own wishes it is possible to benefit from the financial return that it will generate, and perhaps this could now be the position taken by FSG.
“There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright”. Those lyrics, written 35-odd years ago, have proved incisively prophetic, especially so as they were addressed to a character called Fernando. Given the timing of his transfer request it seems El Nino has been intoxicated by a new romance, and it raises obvious suspicion as to the ‘why’. Why now? What has caused him to ‘suddenly’ turn his back on the efforts of a new support structure? He had said himself he wanted to remain and work hard to see things turned around at LFC yet has delivered a body blow at the eleventh hour, something which the supporters are finding hard to swallow. It would be easy to jump on a bandwagon of unrest against him, but did we all seriously misjudge him in the first place? Unlikely. Rather his action speaks of impatience seeping through the cracks and an inability to see beyond the immediate future – analogous of a cataract to a soothsayer.
Undoubtedly there will be those that vilify Torres, unable to disguise their shock and disappointment by launching abuse at him. Perhaps his exit strategy sucks, but as a human being he does not deserve such vituperation. Nonetheless, erring being human accepted, forgiveness in this instance may take a little more divinity than a magic drum can offer.
On a cautionary note, there is a strange phenomenon that takes place whilst waiting in queues at a ticket desk, post office counter, motorway hold-up etc. After standing for a while without any obvious progress, watching the other lines move more quickly, the temptation to jump across proves irresistible only to then discover that the line you just left flows smoothly onward whilst you wait around even longer. Chelsea’s line may have an appearance of moving quicker than Torres’ current one, but does that guarantee it will not suffer its own obstructions later? Ian St. John has already alluded to this. The lure of something hitherto out of reach has proved for Torres a spell too strong to resist. The wind has brought the call of the promise of magic. The real question is whether it is actually on the wane in SW6.
Can you hear the drums, Fernando?