Abramovich Needs to Admit Torres Transfer Was a Mistake for Chelsea to Progress
The paradox of Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea ownership is very clear.
On the one hand, the Russian oligarch has exhibited an impressive commitment to the club, maintaining a huge level of investment for almost 10 years. Yet this has created a situation in which Abramovich gives himself sovereignty over all of the club's major decisions.
It was Abramovich’s overzealous involvement in everyday club decisions that caused the rift that resulted in Jose Mourinho’s move to Inter Milan. Mourinho's tenure remains the only one over 18 months in the Abramovich era.
Nine managers in nine years. From World Cup-winners to the brightest prospects in the managerial game, all have failed to deliver after the Abramovich seal of approval.
However, this is Abramovich’s prerogative and, for the most part, although slightly hastily arranged, his choices have been largely justified (I do not include Roberto Di Matteo in this).
Instead, it is a decision that Abramovich made almost two years ago that is proving an immovable blockade to Chelsea’s title aspirations.
Fernando Torres was bought for his name. Admittedly, hindsight is a wonderful thing and it is easy for me to sit in my gilded castle scorning a decision that at the time seemed logical. Yet in reality, Chelsea did not buy the Fernando Torres whose exploits could closely justify a ludicrous £50 million fee.
The Fernando Torres of the first four months of the 2010-11 season was not the same man who had been in such scintillating form the year before. Shorn of a yard of pace and lacking his legendary goalscoring instinct, something was amiss.
At the time, Chelsea were in a transitional phase, and with an ever-aging nucleus forming the backbone of their squad, the pressure was on Abramovich to make a statement in the transfer window as to his continuing monetary commitment to Chelsea.
Torres, to the tune of £50 million, was the owner’s chosen antidote.
At Chelsea, Torres regressed even further, to the extent that one of the most feared strikers in world football became a figure of fun.
“FIFA video game achievement: score with Fernando Torres,” went the wisecracks.
Each lackluster performance added fuel to the fire, as it became a crescendo of ridicule, with Torres the brunt of the joke.
At times it was painful to watch. His open-goal miss against Manchester United was, for many people, his defining moment at Chelsea.
One can state with some clarity now that, with a dossier of some two years' proof to call upon, Fernando Torres will never justify his exorbitant transfer fee.
This signing itself was a mistake, but at the time, how could Abramovich have envisioned the extent of the error he was making? No, Roman Abramovich’s greatest error is not now admitting his mistake.
A succession of managers have been used as scapegoats for Abramovich’s error, with Roberto Di Matteo the latest undeserving incumbent.
Pressurized into deploying Torres so he can justify Abramovich’s decision, the Spaniard is, at times, negating the excellence which Chelsea have in abundance in their midfield.
A world-class striker on the top of their game would elevate Chelsea into the stratosphere of greatness. Sadly, Fernando Torres is now a world-class striker only in name.
Abramovich has two options going forward. Both involve recognizing his mistake and rectifying the error.
Either persist with Torres, but purchase a new striker to provide competition or replace Torres if his form fails to improve, or cut his losses, sell the striker for what would be about 10-15 million GBP and seek new blood to replenish the forward line.
The only problem with the latter alternative would be the lack of serious destinations, regarding both the need and required funds for prospective teams to complete the transfer.
The one stand-out option would have to be Atletico Madrid, the club at which Torres made his name, potentially as a makeweight in a deal to bring the stupendously in-form Falcao to Stamford Bridge.
Would Roman Abramovich be willing to use a £50 million signing as part of a payment for another £40-50 million deal, though? The completely illogical decision to sign Torres' old Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez as interim boss would suggest not.
Yet such is the reality. Chelsea FC are one of the finest developing teams in world football, with a strong, youthful spine that, with the continued investment Abramovich is sure to provide, will challenge on all fronts for years to come.
Yet in order for this to be the case, Roman Abramovich needs to admit his biggest, most expensive mistake, before another manager is used as a scapegoat, for a mistake his only crime was to inherit.
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