Fernando Torres has, once again, found some form. So once again, the whispers start. Is he back? Has 2008 Fernando Torres, with flying hair, lightning pace, and deadly finishing ability, returned for good? We should know better. We’ve only played Torres Roulette thirteen or fourteen times since the mercurial striker came to Stamford Bridge in a deadline-day betrayal in 2010.
Torres isn’t back. The Torres of old is relegated to a fleeting, euphoric memory – a memory has that driven Roman Abramovich and his managers to madness trying to revive the current Torres. Yes, Chelsea’s #9 has hit a bit of scoring form, and his supporters will points to his strong overall goal tally this season – but a glance at who Torres has scored against will tell a sad story of his overall irrelevance.
Torres has scored 20 times in 50 appearances this year for Chelsea, but Torres hasn’t scored in a big game yet. Sure, he’s hit the net against Nordsjaelland in a meaningless Champions League game, and struck against Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan in the Europa League, and scored against Aston Villa in an 8-0 rout on Boxing Day at Stamford Bridge, and scored against Leeds and Middlesbrough in cup competitions. But when it has counted, Torres has been silent.
Torres’ state of mind is written all over his face. It’s written in has sad scamper that used to be a full-blooded tear. It’s obvious from his muted celebrations when he does score, the deflated decor that was once a sprightly joy that Torres is a man who has fallen desperately out of love with the game of football.
Torres doesn’t like Chelsea. He never has. Torres moved to Chelsea because it was “next”. Liverpool were a sinking ship, and Torres wanted to stay on top of the game. But as a player who defines high-strung, Torres sunk under the weight of his price-tag, and lost a ray of his confidence that he will never recover. Torres has always been an outsider at Chelsea, a club it’s clear he doesn’t care about.
Rafael Benitez, who got the best out of Torres at Liverpool, was brought into Chelsea in large part to get Torres firing again. Like his striker, Benitez took the Chelsea job, interim title and all – a demeaning seven words for a manager that has won the Champions League – to stay in the game, not out of any love for Chelsea. But it wasn’t Benitez or Benitez’s system that had Torres on top of the world at Liverpool.
Torres has always been completely inside his own head. When he was happy and humming, he was great. Now, in a perpetually depressed state, Torres is a disaster. In fact, Torres looks a like a man not far away from retirement – he has scored his goals, become the most expensive player in Premier League history, and won every international prize available. If he’s not enjoying his football, there isn’t much reason for him to go on playing.
Rafa Benitez, with his colorless callousness and dreadful man-management skills, was never the man to get Torres back on track. Torres needs someone who can penetrate his troubled head, connect with him on an emotional level, and make him care again. Torres needs a manager who he loves, who loves him back.
That man is certainly Jose Mourinho. The Real Madrid manager seems destined for his second stint in charge of Chelsea, a good thing for all parties. Chelsea neednn,b, a cleansing after the last two seasons – they need a manager the fans adore, a rethink in club policy and business, Mourinho’s signature steel and power, and someone who can make Chelsea attractive again. Mourinho, on the other hand, loves Chlesea, London, the English media, and the Premier League.
Torres could use some love. Mourinho has a special talent for connecting with his players – Michael Essien and Didier Drogba call him “Daddy”, and perhaps the most indelible image of Mourinho’s career was not him sprinting down the touchline at Old Trafford, or onto the field at the Camp Nou, not Mourinho gouging Tito Villanova’s eye, or lifting the European club, but him sobbing on the shoulder of Marco Materazzi – an unlovable player if there ever was one – in the car-park after the 2010 Champions League Final and Mourinho’s departure for Real Madrid, with Matterazi sobbing right back.
Mourinho is a man who really loves his players, and his players love him back – for his bravado, suave energy, intensity and care. Torres needs a Mourinho in his life. A football father-figure. Torres skill has dwindled, but it’s not completely gone – it’s Torres’ confidence that has departed. Mourinho, with a little faith, a little inspiration, is the man to bring it back. Mourinho is the master of mind games – and that isn’t just a negative thing. It also applies to his dealings with his players.
Torres could also use Mourinho’s playing system, which relies less on dribbling and individual attacking, and more on defensive shape and quick counter-attacking. The question, of course, is, will Mourinho and the Chelsea brass have faith in Torres? If Chelsea bring in Falcao, or another leading forward, as the vast majority of people think they should, with Demba Ba already in the rotation and Romelu Lukaku coming back from a prolific loan-spell with West Brom, Torres may not even see the field next season – if, of course, he’s still at Stamford Bridge.
At this point, Torres is a distraction. He’s withdrawn from the team, reclusive, and professionally sad. It makes since for Mourinho, who wants to come in with something akin to a fresh start anyway, to sell. But Mourinho is certainly a man who loves a challenge, and perhaps there is no bigger challenge at the top of world football than reviving Fernando Torres.