Steven Gerrard may have stolen the show for Liverpool against Wolves on Boxing Day, with his towering header to break the deadlock, but it was another of the Anfield faithful’s favourite sons that the eye kept being drawn towards: the limping, lacklustre Fernando Torres.
Clearly not fit and clearly not firing, the Spaniard is in desperate need of that operation which will cure his hampering groin. Liverpool’s win eased some of the unrest currently circling Anfield, but Torres’ problems somewhat shrouded a professional victory over Mick McCarthy’s resolute side.
There appears to be a serious conflict of interests between Liverpool and the Spanish Football Federation, who understandably want Torres to be fully fit for the World Cup next June. The SFF want Torres to undergo an operation on his groin now, giving him time to recover in the New Year and regain sharpness during the latter months of the Premier League campaign.
It is understandable, though, that Rafa Benitez should wish to continue to name Torres on his teamsheet when his striking alternatives are considered. David Ngog has shown signs of improvement this season but he remains a long way from the quality that Liverpool desire to lead their line. Dirk Kuyt has experience upfront but his key attributes of hard-work and link-play would be missed on the right-wing if he moved position.
Robbie Keane’s move back to Spurs last January never made sense financially, but now it is also beginning to look like one of the biggest tactical blunders of Benitez’s Liverpool reign. When Torres was injured in the first half of last season, Keane played the lone-striker role well and Liverpool’s title push did not falter too much as a result.
With Torres’ record of injury, did Benitez not consider that the same would happen again this campaign?
Now that Torres has been forced onto the sidelines for lengthy periods once more, Liverpool’s challenge for the Premier League has fallen off the tracks spectacularly and Benitez’s team now seem to have as much chance of getting into Europe as the Eurostar.
Unless he was bullied into selling Keane by Liverpool’s hopeless, hapless American owners, probably the only people who Reds fans currently like less than Gary Neville, then the decision to sell the Irish forward was a crazy one from Benitez.
Liverpool’s dire financial situation meant Benitez was not able to buy all the players his squad required last summer, and the decisions to sell the likes of Peter Crouch and Craig Bellamy in past seasons have now also backfired badly. There is simply nobody to step into Torres’ shoes when he is injured. No Torres, no win.
Benitez’s decision to keep the Spaniard in the team whilst he is only 70 percent fit may just be a temporary measure to try and accumulate as many points as possible before the New Year, when it may be possible to sign a cheap and cheerful replacement in the January transfer window.
Emile Heskey has been touted as a possible arrival, but he is not the type of striker who will assist Gerrard and Benayoun in being Liverpool’s main goalscorers. Ruud Van Nistlerooy is more the mould of forward that Benitez requires, but whether the Dutchman still has the legs for the Premier League is unknown.
What does appear to be certain, however, is that while Torres continues to play without having an operation he will never hit the heights of his thrilling best. But only if Liverpool manage to sign a striker in January will Benitez listen to the requests of the Spanish Football Federation for Torres to have surgery now.
The SFF’s opinion is supported by many fans across the globe as well, because a World Cup without the world’s greatest striker would be a great travesty.