The news that Fernando Torres wants to leave Liverpool came as a bombshell. The idea of losing one of the most iconic strikers in world football seemed unthinkable even a few days ago. It has caused shock, sadness and disappointment to Liverpool’s loyal fans.
The last few seasons have been defined by boardroom unrest and a lack of silverware so the threat of losing Torres always hung in the air. He had lucrative offers from elsewhere and, despite looking and often playing like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, he articulated a desire to remain loyal to the club he “loved”. It seemed that, after years of disappointment and enforced underachievement due to broken promises, things were finally on the up. It still seems that way, but it is rather sad that Fernando Torres might have chosen to turn his back on the club.
With Kenny Dalglish coming in and endorsing a significantly improved brand of football, it seemed that Torres would finally be appeased and fans would see the best of him again. The timing of the transfer request, the fact that Torres seems to have manufactured a move to Chelsea and the fact that he has remained silent on the matter has caused widespread disappointment. It all looks so devious.
Coming at the end of the transfer window, this will surely come as a devastating blow for Kenny Dalglish. The initial £35million offer is lowball, and offering Sturridge as a makeweight is laughable. You would expect that Dalglish would be the perfect manager to use £50million+ to rebuild the squad. He would have liked to have had Torres as part of that squad, however, this last-minute departure would leave him with no time to reinforce. The whole situation and the way Torres’ “people” have gone about it is insulting.
Torres does not have to give the fans an explanation. It would be nice to think that, for a man often praised for his humility, loyalty and “getting” the club, he would offer one. It would also be nice if that explanation rang true. Chelsea is not Barcelona playing jaw-dropping football and sitting on top of the tree, after all. They have their own issues at Stamford Bridge. For the spending and supposed dominance at the start of the season, Chelsea sits a mere 9 points above Liverpool in the table. Winning the title looks highly unlikely this season and, with Barcelona around, so does Abramovich’s dream of the Champions’ League.
There is a sense that the club has to appease Torres, as though HE is the only one with ambition. There is little doubt that he deserves to have more world-class players around him. Strangely, even when surrounded by the world’s finest players in last summer’s World Cup, he looked off-colour. Undoubtedly, the club has signed too many flops and mediocre players in the last twelve years. However, he is extremely well-paid for doing a job that millions would do for free. It is his job to contribute to the team and score goals, something he has not done with the same regularity over the last year. This is not to dismiss his feelings, but even the new owners have set out areas they intend to improve. They do not see, to be burying their heads in the sand. Signing Luis Suarez and bringing in Kenny Dalglish as manager should serve as strong statements of intent. There is clearly a desire there to push the club on.
To pull on the number 9 shirt for one of the most decorated clubs in world football should be a joy. No-one could begrudge Torres feeling disgruntled at how things have played out. The fans, whose loyalty and devotion supports Torres, have felt that more keenly than anyone. For a club that is so used to winning and being the best, recent events had been particularly damaging. It is a shame that Torres has never savoured winning any silverware at the club, but you get the sense that he might be leaving when the club is on the cusp of turning a corner.
Playing for Liverpool is an incredible privilege. It is a path that many of the world’s finest players have desired to tread. Despite what some in the media might say, that’s not delusion, for Liverpool Football Club remains one of the top 10 clubs with instant, worldwide name recognition. Things may have been bad for a while, but sometimes you just have to do what is right and come through the tough times. It builds character. If the club is lucky enough to taste league glory again, it will be a particularly rewarding experience for those who have persevered.
Chelsea and Manchester City, amongst many others, have tried to buy prestige and have thrown outrageous contracts at some of the world’s best players. This is designed to raise their profile and make them competitive. Money does not guarantee success, but it can certainly increase the possibility of it. Money cannot buy history or generate passion. The problem is that, while Liverpool’s rivals have bolstered their squads, progress at the club has been slow. Undoubtedly, Torres has been unhappy at winning nothing since joining in 2007. Moreover, he has been fed lies by the previous regime. The point is, that was the previous regime and this new regime has not broken any promises. It also has a winning pedigree. If Torres wants to learn about betrayal, perhaps he should speak to Ray Wilkins.
For most of his career, Torres has seemed to grasp the significance of the “Liverpool Way” and shown immense pride in being associated with the club. That has been clear for all to see. Indeed, his enthusiasm when he first joined the club was infectious. He has, up to now, rejected the advances of richer clubs and knocked back the chance of “instant success”. Sadly, a lot has changed in recent times. Either Torres remains a man of great integrity who will see out his contract or he has had his head turned. Perhaps he has bought into his own hype. Perhaps he sees himself as bigger or better than the club. He would be wrong to assume that.
Make no mistake about it, Torres is a very special player. When motivated he is, quite simply, a phenomenal striker. 65 goals in 101 games confirms that. The fans appreciate the brilliance of the guy, but they do not appreciate even the notion of anyone belittling their club. Torres has made the right noises, of course, but his delay in committing to the cause last summer was revealing. There was a sense that he was trying to manufacture a move back then. The fans do not like to be taken for fools. They are the ones who spend their hard-earned cash buying into Torres. To think he would be duplicitous is hurtful. Liverpool fans have seen many brilliant players leave over the years, but there is a classy way to do it.
Torres, a hero at Liverpool who is absolutely adored, will surely find he’s just another “big star” at Chelsea. That is the price of being involved with a club that has largely bought, rather than cultivated, its success. It seems highly unlikely that Torres will establish the same rapport with Chelsea fans as he enjoys with Liverpool’s. If he is injured as frequently as he has been through his Liverpool career, it is most likely that Abramovich will simply replace him for a newer model. You see, at clubs like Chelsea, players and managers tend to be more dispensable.
It is impossible to know what has really driven Torres’ decision. It may have been weighing on his mind for months, or he may have been seduced by the idea of greater riches or promises of instant silverware. Maybe he is just not happy at the club any longer. Certainly, rumours of a falling-out with some senior players at the club have lingered and Torres has cut a dejected figure for months. Until Kenny Dalglish returned and made improving Torres’ confidence a priority, his body language has suggested a high level of frustration and disappointment.
Whether Torres goes now, leaves in the summer or does a dramatic about-face and commits for the long-term, he ought to realize that the fans deserve better than this. Liverpool fans have continually had to face the prospect of Torres leaving. It is a dance they are forced to do every few months. When you are under-performing as a club, the prospect of vultures circling your best players is inevitable. It has created a bizarre inferiority complex where the club has to do well “for Torres”. It is an ever-present pressure that must be seen for what it is. In reality, the club has to do well for the club, the fans and for the players who are committed to the cause and all that it entails. There are players who are desperate to play for Liverpool and would give their all.
If Torres does not to commit to that, it is a great shame. The club would survive the disappointment and rebuild from there. Torres would surely also realize that, as the song goes, “you don’t know what you had ‘til it’s gone”.