Fads are brief concepts, moving in and out of fashion. There is a limited store of entertainment to be derived from each before it is exhausted. As fads go, the “let’s all laugh at Fernando Torres” bandwagon has been very enduring.
It was very funny to see a player of such wonderful skill regress into a liability. It was funny to watch a brash Russian oligarch waste £50 million. And it has been even funnier to watch him try to rectify his faux pas.
Yet slowly, over time, an element of empathy has tinged the humor. To watch Torres’ vain endeavors has got a bit old. It is completely clear to all with a modicum of rationality—Mr Abramovich excused—that Torres will never be the £50 million savior that he was bought as.
Fernando Torres is no longer the true world-class talent he once was. We just want to stop laughing at him.
The farcical firing of Roberto Di Matteo last month spawned a tirade of vitriol. Di Matteo had been exploited, set up as the fall guy for the owner's warped ambitions and spectacular failure in buying Torres.
The subsequent decision, therefore, to replace the Italian with Torres’ old Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez awoke the mirth we were trying so hard to eradicate. It was a move that smacked of desperation. A last throw of the dice that would never fall right.
Yet something curious has happened.
Benitez, nicknamed “The Fat Spanish Waiter”—just to add to the hilarity—has performed a miracle. Chelsea’s play has not really improved, and their results even started out worse, but the much-derided decision looks to have paid off in a completely unexpected way.
Moses parted the red sea. Jesus turned water into wine. Now, incredibly, Fernando Torres has started scoring again.
The stats flatter the reality. Four strikes in Benitez’s first five games is an incredible return, only compounded by Torres’ spectacular lack of form for the last two years. In reality, however, this is constructed by a brace in each of the last two matches. Two against a decidedly sorry Nordsjaelland side and two, including a penalty, this weekend against Sunderland.
For the first three games of Benitez’s reign—in which only a single goal was scored—Torres was anonymous. A blockade that was restricting the club’s development. It looked as if Chelsea’s early-season promise would come to nothing.
There was nothing particularly startling about the calibre of the opposition, with the Danes verging on the dire, yet you can only beat what is put in front of you. Goals breed confidence, which, in turn, breeds more goals. It is a cycle that explains many a goal-scoring run.
Torres was the antithesis of this. Low on confidence, low on form and derided by fans who once worshiped him, his pain was evident.
I viewed the decision to sign Benitez, at the time, with severe skepticism. Even now it smacks as nothing more than a move of desperation. Yet, for Fernando Torres it was a validation of worth, a clear indicator that Chelsea and Roman Abramovich would stick by him, at least for the time being.
Sterner tests than Nordsjaelland and Sunderland will be the true litmus test of his form, yet the signs are promising.
Torres will never justify Abramovich’s outlay. It was an expensive mistake and must be chalked up as such. It is also true that Torres needs competition for his spot in the side; complacency is never an advantage.
Yet manager and player have quietly begun to turn the tide of ridicule.
I hope for the sake of Fernando Torres and my enjoyment of football in general that this is not merely an Indian summer. I sincerely hope that Fernando Torres can recapture some of the form that he has so spectacularly misplaced over the last two years.
I didn’t mind laughing at him. That was fun, and as a football player Torres is on a pedestal where ridicule is inevitable for a bad run of form. Recently, however, I had started to feel sorry for him. No matter how bad it gets, the great player that Fernando Torres once was doesn’t deserve pity.