Former Spain and Liverpool striker Fernando Torres celebrates his 36th birthday on Friday. Here the PA news agency takes a look at how he became a huge hit at Anfield.
Fernando Torres arrived at Liverpool as ‘the kid’ but left as one of the greatest strikers in the world.
El Nino, as the Spain international was nicknamed, was the hottest prospect in LaLiga when Rafael Benitez persuaded him to leave boyhood club Atletico Madrid—where he had been captain since the age of 19.
The now-retired striker celebrates his 36th birthday on Friday but the impact he made as a 23-year-old turning up at Anfield in 2007 is not easy to forget.
He immediately lived up to his growing reputation by terrorising Premier League defences and the Reds undoubtedly benefited from the best years of his career.
Manchester United centre-back Nemanja Vidic probably still has nightmares about the fleet-footed striker, having been sent off in back-to-back matches against him in 2009 having been made to look a pale imitation of the rock-solid defender who was used to dominating opponents.
“Torres was a top player. At the time he was probably the best striker in the league,” admitted Vidic in 2018.
His pain was shared by a number of his contemporaries as Torres ripped through Premier League teams after striking up an instant, almost-telepathic relationship with Steven Gerrard.
The Liverpool captain recalled he knew his team-mate would be running in behind opposition defences and made “all my bad passes into good ones and I got plenty of assists.”
Torres broke Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record for most goals by an overseas player in his debut season—in which he also scored Liverpool’s 1,000th Premier League goal—by netting his 24th in his 33rd game in the final fixture of the campaign at Tottenham.
That 2008 record stood for a decade until it was smashed by another Liverpool player when Mohamed Salah netted 32 times.
Torres, with his boyish good looks, electric pace and nose for goals, immediately became a Kop hero and the song chanted in his honour was adopted by boot sponsors Nike for a commercial which is still remembered fondly by supporters even after his acrimonious departure to Chelsea in January 2011.
By the time that day came Torres was already showing signs of running out of steam after returning to Anfield that summer as a World Cup winner, having scored the goal which had made Spain European champions two years earlier.
He had scored 11 goals in five months and the broad, youthful grin, had been replaced by a scowl as life under Roy Hodgson, Benitez’s replacement, became something of a slog for the thoroughbred forward.
Torres was a pale imitation of the player who had scored some brilliantly explosive goals but even so his £50 million departure broke hearts throughout the fanbase and some still cannot bring themselves to forgive him even now.
His 65 goals in 102 games in a red shirt saw him become the fastest player at the club to 50 league goals (72 matches) until that too was eclipsed by Salah (69) in November last year.
In terms of minutes per goal, Torres’ ratio of one every 121 is bettered by just one other Liverpool player: Salah (120).