But there is good reason to worry. Torres has become a trudging player, flat-footed and slow to react, no longer the panther of his early Liverpool years. He has not scored in 12 games for club or country. A bright start faded into a muddle of miss-placed passes and doomed runs. A visible drop in confidence accompanied each error, which chimes with a theory popular in Spain. Torres spent so long wanting to get away from Liverpool that when the chance came a worm of self-doubt had burrowed into his brain.
I was impressed with Torres at the 2006 World Cup, enough so that I started following Liverpool once he joined them in 2007 (the presence of several other Spanish stars didn’t hurt, either). Like any other Liverpool fan, after suffering through a solid year of increasing misery, only to finally start to feel the tingling of optimism once Kenny Dalglish returned to managing, followed by a dramatic improvement and an impressive string of results, Torres’ abrupt transfer request was a highly unwelcome dissonant note. Couldn’t he have at least waited until the end of the season to see how it pans out under a new manager and club owners? But once that shock wore off, I had to admit it was a shrewd business deal to unload him while there were still any suckers willing to pay an astronomical fee for him.
Seeing Liverpool go to London and beat Chelsea a week later was sweet enough, but the evil part of me is getting a continued kick out of seeing Torres continue to struggle. All the talking heads seemed to think Chelsea had gotten a great deal by buying an expensive striker they didn’t need, and one who has been made of glass the last few seasons at that. His first touch is often heavy, his passing is woeful, he’s too easily taken out of a game mentally by tough defense, and he’s clearly never recovered from his spate of hamstring and knee injuries. Contrary to what several of them said, he was never even the best striker on Spain’s national team, let alone in the world (and I hope Fernando Llorente starts getting a place ahead of him on international duty as well).
Liverpool, on the other hand, used the money they got from the sales of Torres and the benchwarming Ryan Babel to turn around and grab Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll. Two top-notch strikers for the price of one who hasn’t played consistently well in a couple years? And it’s Chelsea who came out ahead in this? Seeing Suarez’s jaw-dropping slaloming goal against Manchester United (not to mention his impossible-angle goal against Sunderland) should have laid any such notions to rest permanently. Torres hasn’t made a drive on goal like that since who can remember when.