No Surprises Here: Fernando Torres Was Chelsea's Worst Player in Bucharest

Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 7, 2013

BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - MARCH 07:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea battles with Alexandru Bourceanu of FC Steaua during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 match between FC Steaua Bucuresti and Chelsea at the National Arena on March 7, 2013 in Bucharest, Romania.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

This is getting ridiculous.

Once again Fernando Torres was given the opportunity to spearhead the Chelsea attack in a meaningful match and once again he failed to deliver. Granted, he wasn’t alone. But if Chelsea’s overall performance can be described as lazy, disinterested, sloppy and just appallingly poor, surely Torres was their mascot for the evening.

Even the glimpses of the dash and first touch that characterized his best years at Liverpool weren’t there. Nothing worked for him, just as nothing has worked for him since 2010. We may never know why.

And so, his form becomes an issue for his manager. At least is should. For when a player has been so consistently bad, when what used to be missed chances and near misses has disintegrated into lethargy, no manager in his right mind can continue picking him. And it’s likely true that no manager would, but Torres maintains a semi-regular place because of owner Roman Abramovich’s influence.

It better be because of that, otherwise Rafael Benitez has some serious explaining to do.

Assume, for a moment, that Benitez had the freedom to select whichever players caught his fancy for Thursday’s Europa League match against Steaua Bucharest. Torres and his three goals since before Christmas—a run of 14 matches—should have been nowhere near the first XI, and the unavailability of Demba Ba has little to do with it.

Although the Senegal International is cup-tied, and although Romelu Lukaku was once again mystifyingly loaned out to West Bromwich Albion when he’s exactly what Chelsea are lacking up top, Benitez still had options. He might have used Eden Hazard as a false nine with Victor Moses and Juan Mata on either side, for example. Hazard operated in the role at times while at Lille and typically did very well there.

But whether because of the overlording influence of Abramovich or Benitez’ incompetence, Torres played the full 90 minutes in the Romanian capital and was atrocious for the entirety of it. On one occasion, he did well enough jump up to meet a lofted ball into the box, but instead of directing it goalward poked it back to a teammate that wasn’t there. It was a free clearance for the hosts on what turned out to be one of Chelsea’s more promising goalscoring opportunities.

In all likelihood Torres will not be at Stamford Bridge next season, and the incoming manager might have a thing or two to do with that. Can you imagine Mourinho picking Torres time and again? Not a chance.

Chelsea has the options, and starting the sulking Spaniard is an insult to those who might have done a better job.