Atletico Return Still Torres' Best Bet (especially Ahead of World Cup)

Jerrad PetersWorld Football Staff WriterApril 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04:  Goalkeeper Sergei Ryzhikov of Rubin Kazan smotghers the ball as Fernando Torres of Chelsea closes in during the UEFA Europa League quarter final first leg match between Chelsea and FC Rubin Kazan at Stamford Bridge on April 4, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

Last weekend Fernando Torres played down reports of a summer return to Atletico Madrid, telling Spanish outlet AS the move wasn’t “realistic” as he had another three years remaining on his contract with Chelsea. (

He also spoke of his desire to get back into the Spanish national side, from which he was omitted in recent World Cup qualifiers against Finland and France.

“My objective is to play well for Chelsea so I can get back into the Spain team,” he said, adding, “I don’t want to think that I’ve played my final game for Spain.”

He probably hasn’t, although his best bet for resuscitating his career at both international and club level would almost certainly be a return to Atletico, where he starred from 2000 to 2007.

Rumours of a swap deal involving Radamel Falcao have been doing the rounds for months, and in late March Atletico manager, Diego Simeone, who was also a teammates of Torres’ at the Vicente Calderon, hinted he would like to see the 29-year-old come back to his old stomping ground.

“Fernando knows about the club’s history—what it means to play here, and I don’t need to speak about his ability,” he told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. “I know how important he can be.” (Sky)

When it comes right down to it, Torres may not have as much say regarding a prospective transfer as he’d probably like. Already, Demba Ba has proven a useful striker for Chelsea, and in all likelihood Romelu Lukaku—presently on loan at West Bromwich Albion—will be representing the Blues next season as well.

That would make Torres the third-choice forward at Stamford Bridge, and with his minutes severely reduced as a result (even now he has started just six of Chelsea’s last 12 matches), he couldn’t realistically expect a Spain recall. For that to happen he’d need to be playing regularly—something far more likely in the Spanish capital than the English.

At this point it’s probably necessary to pour water on the nonsensical notion that Torres has somehow emerged from his two-year slump in recent weeks. Yes, his introduction at halftime against Sunderland proved useful, and yes, he did bag a brace against Rubin Kazan on Thursday.

But that’s just it.

The goal he scored against Arsenal in September represents his most recent tally against a side currently above the 13th spot in the Premier League. Other than that and the one he got against Shakhtar Donestk in November, his goals have come against sides Chelsea should be beating comfortably, anyway—with or without him.

(His other goals this season have been scored in matches against Aston Villa, Sunderland Norwich, Newcastle, Reading, Wolves, Nordsjaelland, Monterrey, Leeds, Brentford, Middlesbrough, Steaua Bucharest and Rubin Kazan.)

If, in fact, Torres’ top priority is to regain his place in Spain manager Vicente del Bosque’s plans ahead of the 2014 World Cup, a return to Atletico Madrid would seem his best option for the regular football he’ll need to achieve his goal. And with Falcao expected to leave the club in the summer, he would instantly become the club’s go-to forward while playing for a manager who already rates him, both as a player and a friend.

A season of cameo appearances and League Cup starts for Chelsea won’t get Torres to the World Cup. But a full, meaningful campaign with Los Rojiblancos just might.