Ranking Fernando Torres in Liverpool's Best Strikers of the Last 25 Years

Rob LancasterFeatured ColumnistJuly 4, 2017

Fernando Torres: The boy Liverpool bought from sunny Spain in July 2007.
Fernando Torres: The boy Liverpool bought from sunny Spain in July 2007.PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

On July 4, 2007, then-Reds manager Rafael Benitez signed a lad from sunny Spain who'd get the ball and score again. So began the story of Fernando TorresLiverpool's No. 9.

Purchased for £20.2 million from Atletico Madrid, Torres—who once had "You'll Never Walk Alone" stitched into his captain's armband at his former club—and the Reds were a match made in heaven.

Yet, Liverpool not only had the pleasure of seeing the player at his peak, they also sold him on for a healthy profit.

The Torres who struggled at Chelsea was a shadow of the destructive force who terrorised defences during his early years in English football.

So, where does he rank on the list of Liverpool's best frontmen during the Premier League era? To mark the anniversary of his arrival on Merseyside, Bleacher Report has compared the club's other superstar strikers from the past 25 years.

Apologies to Ian Rush (just beyond his prime) and Daniel Sturridge (missed too many matches through injury) for being left off the shortlist. Unlike that pair, Dirk Kuyt hit a half-century of goals in the competition, but the Dutchman played mostly wide on the right during his time on Merseyside.

Those under consideration are as follows: Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Torres and Luis Suarez. We've looked back at their careers in chronological order—then ranked the fantastic four.

          

The Toxteth Terror

Robbie Fowler was an outstanding finisher who seemed to pop up in the right places.
Robbie Fowler was an outstanding finisher who seemed to pop up in the right places.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Fowler wasn't as speedy as Owen. He didn't offer the same type of physical presence as Torres or have a ridiculous motor a la Suarez. What he did better than anyone else on this list, however, was take chances.

If you had to bet your life on just one of the quartet when through one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Fowler would surely be the right choice.

"He wasn't very tall, wasn't athletic looking, he had funny little legs, a paunch almost at times, no real strength if you compare him to the modern thoroughbred footballers. But nobody—nobody—could finish like him," former team-mate Jamie Redknapp said, per Sky Sports' Adam Bate.

More often than not, the England international found a way to score.

Toe-pokes, tap-ins, curling shots or cheeky chips, whatever it took. It was as if Fowler—who was surprisingly good in the air for someone standing at just 5'9"—had a sixth sense; rather than seeing dead people, he seemed to know exactly where the goal was and how to put the ball in it.

The boy who grew up cheering on Everton became a legend at Liverpool. He quickly demonstrated a flair for the dramatic, hitting five in a League Cup tie against Fulham in 1993 before bagging a hat-trick in four minutes and 33 seconds against Arsenal the following year.

Fowler scored 107 goals in a three-season span from 1994-95 onwards, reaching his century for Liverpool in 165 games (one quicker than the great Rush, by the way).

However, after such a prolific start, injuries took a toll. Owen's emergence, along with the arrival of Gerard Houllier as manager, pushed Fowler to the periphery, resulting in a move to Leeds United in 2001.

The club legend returned five years later, albeit a shadow of his former self. At least he was allowed the chance to say a proper farewell the second time around.

Still, Fowler will be fondly remembered for the scoring feats—and cheeky celebrations—during his early years. Liverpool followers of a certain age will always worship the man nicknamed "God."

          

The Boy Wonder

Michael Owen made an immediate impact for Liverpool, scoring on debut.
Michael Owen made an immediate impact for Liverpool, scoring on debut.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Owen had made a name for himself even before making his first-team debut. A prolific scorer for club and country at junior level, the striker starred as Liverpool won the FA Youth Cup for the first time in 1996.

Having signed a professional contract on his 17th birthday, Owen marked his maiden appearance for the seniors by coming off the bench to score against Wimbledon.

The strike was a microcosm of Owen's finest traits.

Splitting the full-back and centre-back, he timed his run in behind to perfection, galloped on to Stig Inge Bjornebye's through ball and, without putting the brakes on, opened up his body to curl a right-footed shot beyond advancing goalkeeper Neil Sullivan.

The England international was a thoroughbred—and that occasionally led to muscle strains and pulls. Indeed, as he told Chris Bascombe of the Telegraph, a hamstring problem in his teens stopped him reaching his full potential:

"Getting that massive injury at Leeds has probably changed and shaped my whole career.

"Since I was 19, I've been compromised. If I did that now, it would be surgically repaired like it's brand new. I wouldn't even know I had an injury. Back then you just let it go.

"I basically run on two hamstrings on my right leg and three on the other. I'm losing a third of the power. If I hadn't done that, 90 per cent of the other injuries wouldn't have happened. I would have been the all-time leading scorer for England."

Despite the issue, Owen hit 20 or more goals in five of seven seasons from 1997/98 onwards.

There was a famous double for Liverpool in the 2001 FA Cup final, including a solo effort that saw Arsenal duo Tony Adams and Lee Dixon left for dust. That same year, the England international became the first British player to scoop the Ballon d'Or since Kevin Keegan in 1979.

Owen scored 158 times for Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid, where two blokes called Raul and Ronaldo (the Brazilian version) left him stuck in the role of super-sub for the star-studded Spanish side.

For all his goals, though, the player never received the same level of adulation as the other candidates in these rankings.

Owen was cool, calm and calculated in front of goal, but the same approach off the field meant he wasn't revered in the same way as Fowler, for example. Also, it doesn't do a whole lot for your Liverpool legacy if you go on to play for Manchester United.

         

The Spanish Sensation

Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring against Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring against Manchester United at Old Trafford.ANDREW YATES/Getty Images

Torres' arrival at Anfield was a timely pick-me-up. He signed just over a month after Liverpool had lost a UEFA Champions League final to AC Milan at the Olympic Stadium in Athens. The pain of the recent past eased, as here was a forward who made the future look rosy.

He was also someone who knew about coping with pressure. Torres had captained Atletico Madrid—his boyhood club—as a teenager. A talismanic figure at the Vicente Calderon, the baby-faced frontman offered hope after a difficult period that saw Atleti briefly drop into the second tier of Spanish football.

"I want to say thank you, because from day one people have been trying to meet me at Melwood. I've also seen some at the airport. They all seem to be behind me," he told LFC TV at his official unveiling.

Torres was right; the fans quickly took him to heart, composing a wonderful song that would be heard at grounds across Europe. Crucially, though, he also received excellent support from those lining up behind him—it helps your cause when Steven Gerrard, in particular, is putting chances on a plate.

Although a regular scorer for Atletico, the player nicknamed "El Nino" was prolific for the Reds.

Adapting to his new surroundings didn't prove a problem as he scored 33 times in a debut season that ended with him grabbing the winning goal for Spain in the Euro 2008 final.

Just as was the case with Fowler, fitness problems stopped him building on such a sensational start. Still, he nearly helped Liverpool end their title drought in 2008/09 and became the fastest Liverpool player to reach 50 league goals in the following campaign.

"With Benitez, I reached a level I perhaps never dreamed of," he told Spanish radio station Cadena Cope (h/t Daniel Prescott of MailOnline) in 2016.

Torres prospered in the Premier League because he suited the hurly-burly nature of the competition. His game was built on pace and power, and he knew how to use those physical tools to great effect. Admittedly, his methods also took a toll on his body.

Unimpressed with the club's lack of progress, Torres was sold to Chelsea for £50 million, a deal that worked out better for the sellers and rather sullied his reputation with the supporters who previously adored him.

Still, the Spaniard was a joy to watch when in full flight. Technically he had his shortcomings, but when fully healthy, few defenders relished having to deal with him.

We will always have the memories, Fernando. The goal on your Anfield debut against Chelsea, the stunning volley against Blackburn Rovers and, perhaps the sweetest of the lot, the time you tortured Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford to equalise in the 4-1 triumph over Manchester United. Good times, indeed.

            

The Beloved Bad Boy

Luis Suarez had his disciplinary problems but Liverpool fans still adored him.
Luis Suarez had his disciplinary problems but Liverpool fans still adored him.Michael Regan/Getty Images

After Torres took off, Liverpool had money burning a hole in their pocket and a sizeable gap to fill up front. They decided to play the numbers game, replacing the not-so-dearly departed with not one but two players.

Andy Carroll was one of them, a move that surprised at the time and, in hindsight, proved to be a complete waste of resources. He managed 11 goals in a forgettable Liverpool career, a miserable return for a player who cost £35 million from Newcastle United.

Still, the Reds hit the jackpot with their other deadline-day addition in January 2011.

A prolific scorer during his time in Dutch football, the eager-to-impress Suarez grasped the opportunity to perform on a bigger stage. After scoring on his debut, against Stoke City, he never looked back.

Suarez was not so much about flicks and tricks, it was more sheer determination. He harassed, harried and hounded defenders while finding ways to squeeze beyond opponents when there seemed no way through.

While he didn't score in the below clip from Liverpool's home win over Manchester United in the 2010/11 season, Suarez's contribution sums him up perfectly. Twisting and turning, he wriggled clear to tee up Kuyt to score from ridiculously close range:

The club stood by their man despite his disciplinary problems, even wearing T-shirts to show their support of the player after he was handed an eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

There was also a biting incident with Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, yet when Suarez was on the pitch, he was a whirling dervish who wreaked havoc. He hit five Premier League hat-tricks and, despite missing the first six games through suspension, scored 33 times in the 2013-14 season.

Liverpool lost their prized asset before their long-overdue return to the UEFA Champions League. When Barcelona showed interest, Suarez engineered his exit. Now one third of the MSN forward line alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar, he's taken his game to another level again.

"He's complete: He can turn with his back to goal, arrive from deeper, score from mid-distance, head it, take free-kicks. I love not only the way he plays but his intensity and voracity. He gives a touch of 'vertigo' to their [Barcelona's] attack that they didn't have before," Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone said, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian.

          

The Verdict

The quartet all had their own, unique qualities. They also demonstrated how there is more than one method of finding the net—and all of them were prolific for stages of their Liverpool careers.

Roll them into one and you would have a ridiculously good player. Combine Owen's pace with Fowler's awareness in the final third, add in Torres' physical power and then sprinkle over Suarez's dribbling and work rate. That right there is a recipe for goals. Loads of 'em, too.

According to LFC History, Torres has the best Premier League strike rate out of the contenders:

NamePL goalsGoals-per-game ratio
Fernando Torres650.637
Luis Suarez690.627
Michael Owen1180.546
Robbie Fowler1280.481

However, while the numbers may lean towards the Spaniard, B/R's final rankings are as follows (in reverse order):

4: Michael Owen

3: Fernando Torres

2: Robbie Fowler

1: Luis Suarez

Why Suarez? Because the Uruguayan provided more than just goals. He was also the toughest to see leave; while the rest had perhaps peaked already, Suarez continues to get better and better at Barcelona.

Whatever order you personally want to put them in (and there's no wrong answer), Liverpool fans would all agree it was a pleasure to watch four masters of their trade plunder goals in the Premier League.

As for Torres, time helped to heal old wounds. While some may never forgive him for moving to Stamford Bridge, the old boy was cheered by the majority of Anfield crowd when turning out in a charity match in 2015. They even serenaded him with his old song, too.

For one day only, he was Liverpool's No. 9 again.

           

Rob Lancaster is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All statistics used in the article are from LFC History unless otherwise stated.