Why do I care about the Golden Boot? What does it matter to me as a lover of a club? The Golden Boot doesn’t guarantee titles (eh, Mr Anelka?) or even European placement (eh, Mr Phillips?) It is glory for the individual in a collective endeavor and should be a mere footnote to the supporter who hungers for team glory. “Should” being the operative word.
I’m desparate to see Fernando Torres make the Golden Boot his own.
When Torres first came to England, I had my doubts. I knew little of him apart from what I read on the web and from what I saw in scrappy YouTube clips. The kid had a reputation and I’d seen glimpses of his ability, but striker Fernando Morientes had come to Liverpool not so long ago bringing a great reputation and he still turned out to be as convincing as a hundred pound sumo wrestler. Some people just can’t thrive in England.
So I waited for Torres to dazzle me and live up to his transfer fee (£20 + Luis Garcia). He didn’t keep me waiting long. Torres barely had his bags unpacked at Anfield when he blew into the attacking third, turned the Chelsea defender and fired the ball past Petr Cech from a wide angle. It was his second League match.
23 more League goals later (32 more in all competitions) and any doubt over Torres was a distant memory. He broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for most goals scored by a foreign player in a debut season. He became a fast fan favorite and inspired both fear and reverence in rival clubs. But despite Torres’s prolificness, Cristiano Ronaldo’s 31 League goals kept the Golden Boot from him (and Arsenal’s Adebayor actually netted 24 League goals as well).
I was sure Torres would be in contention for the award in 08/09 – I told myself, he’d simply been warming up in his first season - but recurring injuries held him back. He scored when he played. But he didn’t play enough. Nicolas Anelka won the Boot with 19 goals.
This, declares the writer on the eve of 2009/20, will be Torres’s season!
Yes, I’m making the call: Torres for the Golden Boot. This of course depends on him staying fit. But Liverpool’s entire season depends on him staying fit anyway. It is a different team when he and Gerrard are both available. They would have won the League last season if it weren’t for the recurring injuries between those two. Torres needs to stay fit. And if he does so he’ll score more goals than ever.
But I must return to the question: why does the individual award matter to the team supporter?
Firstly, it is a testament to the greatness you have in your ranks. Supporters seek world class talent. By having that individual who is a cut above the rest, you have someone who can lift up the team and change results with a moment’s notice. Football is a team sport, but it is also one where the best individuals become lightning rods and transform their team. When you’ve got that one player who transcends belief, you want him to get some personal recognition for his brilliance. You want outsiders to see what you see each day he steps onto the pitch.
But ultimately, we live for goals. That is the true allure of the Golden Boot. The season might be a marathon and the overall consistency of the team’s form as a whole is what dictates their final place on the table, but there’s no glory without goals. In a great season goals are the jewels of a great campaign. Whether or not the club achieves their goals for the season, supporters can remember those stunning moments that kept them enraptured in the good times, and staved off their misery in the bad times.
Players like Torres will not only score, they will score in style. His best goals will stand out in my mind for years. So, by the law of averages, the more goals he scores next season, the more likely we are to see those goals that are a class apart. These will be the ones I cling to and treasure. The ones that defy time, space and physics. Like his goal against Blackburn, where he caught the long pass on his chest in the right side of the box, let it bounce with the net behind him, and then slingshotted it across and into the far side of the goal.
So here’s to Torres winning the Golden Boot. I wouldn’t take it over him winning the Premier League. But the kid deserves the recognition and I hope he makes it his own. If he stays fit, I see him breaking the 30 goal mark in the League. I hope he gets this train a-rolling on Sunday. Go get ‘em, kid.