Chelsea this week confirmed the sale of Romelu Lukaku, setting up a strike force for next season consisting of Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres. There was talk over at ESPN of Torres making a return to his boyhood club Atletico Madrid earlier this summer, but that has failed to materialise thus far.
This is not because Jose Mourinho is desperate to hang on to the £50 million man, nor is it because Atletico are completely uninterested in bringing him home. The main stumbling block to Torres’ inevitable exit is the disparity between the wages he is being paid and the value he provides.
Torres has scored 20 Premier League goals in 110 matches for Chelsea. For this exceptionally poor return, he takes home £175,000 a week, per ESPN FC. Even the Chelsea board who want to shift him can accept that no other club will pay anywhere close to those wages.
The 30-year-old’s contract runs until 2016 and there is very little incentive for him to take a dramatic wage cut at this stage of his career. However, if he wants his career to continue after Chelsea, he needs to consider the consequences of continuing to perform at his current level.
Mourinho lamented the lack of a “real striker” after the 3-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain last season, per Massimo Marioni at Metro. He had decided to start with Andre Schurrle up front, possibly to prove the point, and brought Torres on with 30 minutes left. He failed to have a single shot at goal, on or off target, leading to Mourinho’s outburst.
This is just one example of countless times that Torres has failed to get anywhere close to the expectations people have of a striker at Chelsea. The most recent embarrassment came in pre-season against Olimpija Ljubljana, when he managed to guide the ball over the bar from all of two yards out.
He has certainly had a turbulent time at Chelsea. Managerial stability has not been the done thing at Stamford Bridge for a long time, and he seems to have suffered more than most. Speaking to Neil McLeman at The Mirror in May, Torres opened up about the impact that all the changes had on his game:
Everyone was a bit lost. Before my arrival, Chelsea played with Anelka and Drogba in attack. I arrived to play alongside Anelka in a system with three midfielders. We played only one match with that system…
I understood nothing of what had happened. I started to know the experience of the bench. I reassured myself by saying things would soon change. Villas-Boas arrived, then Di Matteo but it was always the same: one day I played, the next not.
Things are different now. Mourinho seems to be at Chelsea for the long haul, and Torres needs to make the most of this newfound stability. He must find a way of improving his goals to games ratio, for his own sake as much as the club’s.
As he enters the penultimate year of his contract, the striker should start thinking about what he wants after his time at Stamford Bridge ends in 2016. The way things stand, he could well find himself out of contract with no offers at all.
Atletico certainly retain some affection for their former captain, but even that nostalgia is unlikely to prompt them to sign a 32-year-old striker who has scored an average of five league goals a season in the last five years. Torres will need to make the most of every opportunity he is afforded this season to stand any chance of saving his future.