Demba Ba: Could He Be the Best Thing to Happen to Fernando Torres?

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2013

Fernando Torres continues to struggle at Chelsea
Fernando Torres continues to struggle at ChelseaClive Mason/Getty Images

Chelsea fans of a certain vintage will remember Robert Fleck. The former Scotland and Norwich City striker had a habit of scoring goals against the Blues during his time at Carrow Road before he was brought in as the perfect replacement for the departing Kerry Dixon on the eve of the new Premier League in 1992.

Chelsea paid Norwich £2.1 million for Fleck's services, which was a club record at the time, but what followed went very much against the script. When Fleck moved to London from East Anglia, he seemed to leave his scoring boots behind and in his first season managed just two goals in 31 league matches.

Only Fleck can really say the reason, but filling the considerable void left by a legend such as Dixon must have surely played on the striker's mind, not to mention the record transfer fee.

He spent a further two seasons at Stamford Bridge, struggling for form and being loaned to Bolton Wanderers and Bristol City in the process. Norwich soon welcomed him back to the club for a fraction of the fee Chelsea had paid three seasons earlier, and low and behold, he soon rediscovered his eye for goal, too.

Does that sound familiar? For Fernando Torres, the similarities are uncanny.

The Spaniard joined Chelsea two years ago this January for a club-record £50 million from Liverpool, a club where he too enjoyed goalscoring success against Chelsea.

He was tipped as the ideal replacement for Didier Drogba, who had endured a difficult season and was expected to leave Stamford Bridge that summer. It didn't quite work like that, though.

Whereas Chelsea fans had already written the script for Torres to score the winner against former club Liverpool on his debut, the opposite happened as the Reds snatched a surprise 1-0 victory.

Since then, there have been positive moments where Torres has shown his undoubted ability, but for whatever reason, things just haven't worked on a consistent basis for the Spaniard at Chelsea. All the while, Drogba's legend has increased with the Ivorian's last kick in Chelsea colours sealing them the Champions League last year.

Time and again, headlines have read of the return of Torres, but they've been followed by another dip in form which subsequently results in question marks over his transfer fee and ability.

Two decades ago, Chelsea fans witnessed the same with Fleck. The Scottish striker had less ability and profile to Torres, but their story remains the same. Record signing struggles at club, tries to turn things around but doesn't.

With each passing week without a goal, Fleck's confidence visibly crumbled, and he was a fraction of the player Chelsea had signed. The same appears to be happening to Torres, one of the finest strikers of his generation, who seems to have been damaged by a weight of expectation, among other things, at Chelsea.

Demba Ba's arrival from Newcastle this January will only increase the pressure on Torres all the more. With two ineffective substitute appearances of late, while Ba has scored three in four games, the need for the Spaniard to rediscover what so many know he is capable of continues to grow with every match.

Could Ba be the best thing to happen to Torres? No, not at Chelsea anyhow.