Chelsea: Is It Fair to Call Fernando Torres a 'Flop'?

Ryan Bailey@ryanjaybaileyFeatured ColumnistApril 8, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea looks on 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 Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images

With a fleet of super yachts and a Premier League football team among his assets, Roman Abramovich doesn't wince at the prospect of a big investment that's expensive to run.

Yet his decision to sanction the £50 million transfer of Fernando Torres will surely not be regarded as one of the Russian oligarch's finer transactions.

With Atletico Madrid, El Nino scored 84 times in 214 league games. At Liverpool, he was arguably the best striker in the Premier League, striking fear into defences and scoring 65 times in 102 domestic games.

This purple patch has not continued in a blue shirt, however, and most opponents are likely to feel confident when Torres' name finds itself on the Chelsea team sheet ahead of Demba Ba.

The Spanish international has scored just seven top-flight goals in 2012-13, with his last coming in the 8-0 demolition of Aston Villa on December 23rd.

The popular opinion is that Torres has been a flop at Chelsea. He has lost his form and his confidence, and is unable to live up to the £50 million weight he carries on his shoulders.

Yet Rafa Benitez continues to fight in his corner, arguing that he was integral in the victory over Sunderland at the weekend, despite failing to score in his 14th consecutive league match.

Another manager defending Torres this week was Harry Redknapp, who found the time away from leading QPR's fight for survival to write about the Chelsea forward in his column in The Sun.

Entitled "Now please stop calling Torres a flop," the piece argues that the Spaniard is actually having a good season. He has scored 19 goals in all competitions, which puts him among the top five Premier League strikers.

"If you have a striker on your books who gets you 20 goals per season then you have to be satisfied," reasons Redknapp.

He also argues that Torres is outperforming a number of English stars, such as Theo Walcott (18 goals) and Wayne Rooney (16 goals).

In many ways, Redknapp is quite right: Torres has found the net nearly 20 times (which the QPR boss deems a "benchmark of success int he modern Premier League"), he was top scorer at Euro 2012, and his resume highlights include a World Cup, two European Championships and a Champions League.

There aren't any English strikers who can boast that kind of success, and very few from any other nation.

Redknapp ends his polemic by arguing that a top striker should look to score a goal every other game to justify his wages. "If he does that he can head off to the summer knowing he has fulfilled his job description," says the relegation-threatened manager.

This is where Redknapp argument starts to falter. 'Nando has played 52 games in all competitions, and scored 19 times. He should have scored 26 times so far to "fulfill his job description." Even if you are generous enough to only count the games in which he has started, that's 19 goals in 42 games, two shy of the projected target.

Torres' strike rate is just over 0.3 goals per game. Theo Walcott's 18 goals were scored over 37 matches, which equals 0.49 goals per game. Wayne Rooney's 16 goals have come across 30 games, which is a rate of 0.53 per game (which exceeds Harry's striker benchmark).

Torres is a good striker. But he is definitely not £50 million and £175,000-per-week good. 

As the Premier League's most expensive player and a star with one of the greatest international teams of all time, the benchmark must be a little higher for the 29-year-old. He is nowhere near performing to expectation, and should be thankful his remuneration isn't dished out on a performance-related basis.

Torres does not feature among the top 25 Premier League scorers this season, an honour that four of his teammates can claim. For this reason, he has to be considered a flop.

Eden Hazard—who has scored one more league goal than Torres from midfield in his debut Premiership season—believes that folks want too much from the Spaniard. "People expect 10 goals from him every game," he says.

People don't quite expect that much, but they do expect him to perform like a well-paid striker representing the reigning Champions League winners.

Torres is aware of his form and certainly has every intention to rectify it. "I will try my heart out for this club," he recently said, emphasising that he is doing everything he can—except scoring regularly.

Perhaps the only way El Nino can rejuvenate his career is a fresh start. A chance for someone who is lost to find himself. If he wants to shift his "flop" tag, maybe the oft-reported return to Ateltico Madrid that he has downplayed is exactly the shot in the arm his career needs.