During last January’s transfer window a great deal of focus was on big name players and the one that caught most of the attention of the media was Fernando Torres of Liverpool. Chelsea come along and broke the bank with an English transfer fee record of £50 million. However, at the end of the 2010-2011 season Torres had 18 total appearances for Chelsea and scored just one goal.
This story reminds me of another former high profile Chelsea player and that was Chris Sutton about 12 years ago. When Torres arrived at Chelsea there were such high hopes and success for him but so far very little has been achieved by him and the same was true of Chris Sutton back in the 1999-2000 season. Will Torres follow the same uneventful path as Sutton did at Chelsea which saw him leave after one season?
The past is the best indictor as to what will happen in life. In looking back at Torres’ career it is a history of being a successful athlete. Starting his career at Atletico Madrid in 2000 and by the time he left the club in 2007, he had made 214 league appearances and scored 82 goals. Starting in the 2007-2008 season, Torres moved to Liverpool. During his tenure at Liverpool, he made 33 appearances scoring 24 goals. In the 2008-2009 season, he had 24 appearances with 14 goals. And in the 2009-2010 season he had 22 appearances with 18 goals.
At the end of the 2009-2010 season Torres’s name was the most popular one on replica shirts around the world. On August 14, 2010, Torres signed a new contract with Liverpool that extended his stay at the club until 2013 and he began earning £110,000 per week. Roy Hodgson, the new manager, arrived for the 2010-2011 season and Liverpool almost immediately went into a tail spin and even fell into the relegation zone. Hodgson made it clear that Torres would not be sold and his contract would be honored. Torres would make 23 appearances with 9 goals before leaving Liverpool in January 2011.
The change in management at Liverpool and the dismissal of Hodgson and the arrival of Kenny Dalglish in January of 2011 would change the situation with Torres. With the cash available and the desire to attract new talent Chelsea made a move and finally secured Torres for £50 million. Despite Torres’s statements about his commitment and loyalty to Liverpool, the lure of more money and playing in Champions League football was most likely the biggest reason for him leaving. Not to mention that Liverpool’s position in the league at that time seemed uncertain. Torres lavished praise on Chelsea as a great club and felt very positive about the move as did Chelsea who thought they made an incredible deal that would secure the club’s future success. But this story has an eerie feeling to that of Chris Sutton.
Sutton had a very similar story to that of Torres. Sutton started his career at Norwich City back in the old First Division days of 1990-1991. He ended his time at Norwich in the 1993-1994 season with 25 goals and was being sought after by big name clubs such as Manchester United, Arsenal and Blackburn. Sutton decided on a move to Blackburn for a record fee for that time of £5 million. In that first season of 1994-1995, Sutton formed an excellent partnership with Alan Shearer known as the “SAS” attack with Sutton scoring 15 goals and helping to achieve their first league title since 1914. The next season saw Sutton fall out of form through injuries but he regained his form in the 1997-1998 season with 18 goals in 35 appearances. In his last season he only managed 17 appearances with 3 goals through injuries again and missed the last critical game that could have saved Blackburn from the drop. Blackburn was relegated in the 1998-1999 season. Despite that, Sutton was still regarded as a good player and with Blackburn no longer in the Premier League he sought a return to top flight football. Sutton was sold to Chelsea for £10 million — another high price tag for that day. Sutton’s story feels so familiar to that of Torres.
Sutton had a good reputation and with the high price tag he was going to need to live up to all that. However, Sutton’s time at Chelsea would not be a happy one. He made 28 league appearances and scored just one goal. He did make 10 cup competition appearances and scored two more goals. But this was not a productive stay at Chelsea.
Granted, Torres has only been at Chelsea for about half a season but it wasn’t a productive one considering all the hype, money and his past history. In many ways I see many of the same patterns with the two players: A lot of talent, money and media hype but, ultimately, failing to deliver. Of course Torres can change things around but will he? Sutton was gone after one season and sold to Celtic for £6 million. Funny thing is that Sutton did rebound at Celtic and in the 2003-2004 season scored 20 goals and was voted SPFA Player of the Year. He had another good year at Celtic but the end was near. He bounced around for a few more years before calling it quits in 2007.
Of course Sutton is no longer playing but the similarities that brought both players to Chelsea just sound so similar and are almost haunting. I wonder what will happen to Torres at Chelsea. Will he suffer the same fate? Maybe clubs and players should be careful what they ask or wish it may not be the answer they are seeking. The lure of money and top flight football can be intoxicating but maybe this is all it is and sticking with your club might provide the real answer a player needs.