Fernando Torres' Actions Speak More About the Player Than About Liverpool

Zachary OstermanCorrespondent IJanuary 31, 2011

If Torres does in fact leave Liverpool, what will his final legacy be?
If Torres does in fact leave Liverpool, what will his final legacy be?Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The storyline itself, in its most basic form, is really not that original.

Great player wants to achieve great things, decides to leave club where he is loved for pastures that, from his current side of the fence, seem far greener. It has played out before. It will play out again.

There's always some measure of nuance or detail, something that makes each episode stand distinct of one another.

In this case, its Fernando Torres' continued public pledging of his love and support for Liverpool—only to hit the don't-press-this red button at the 11th hour, just when it seemed the Merseyside club was finding some of its old form.

We can jump past public opinion, which right now seems relatively slanted against the player, or whether it truly is the right decision for his career. As we inch closer to Torres' departure (which at this point seems close to unavoidable), it grows harder and harder to put the player's Liverpool legacy in proper perspective.

Here was a player who, when bought, represented the brightest possible future. He was the missing piece, the last link of the spine that would stand Liverpool up with the rest of Europe's giants. But it was his willingness, even eagerness, to embrace the traditions of his new club that won Reds fans over.

It was with almost immediate effect that he became beloved, and began producing—he scored on his Anfield debut, a 1-1 draw against Chelsea.

Yet in three-and-a-half years, the promise that Torres' arrival heralded brought Liverpool close to only one piece of silverware—a second-place league finish in 2009 that was very nearly the club's first title since 1990.

And so the striker wants to pack his bags because, as he reasons, he is at the apex of his career, and needs to make the most of it in a place that will fulfill his trophy-driven ambitions.

But as the world Torres helped create—albeit briefly—at Anfield begins to disappear, a thought occurs:

No, Liverpool never won Torres silverware. But the striker, talented as he was and still may be, never won Liverpool anything either.

Yes, it's an incredibly one-sided argument, but it's a fair one, given just how violently and suddenly Torres has tried to affect his departure from a club that graced upon him the status and love conferred only upon a legend.

It has been suggested that Liverpool "promised Torres the world" and failed, largely, to deliver that world. That suggestion would not be wrong.

And yet consider the source of those promises: a pair of former owners who have since revealed themselves as useless at best and disgusting at worst. So who's the fool: the fool, or the fool who follows him, as Sir Alec Guinness once famously asked?

And under the new ownership, Torres' demands seemed on the horizon. Roy Hodgson's disastrous tenure was terminated, the reins handed to a capable hand and club legend.

The day Torres handed in his transfer request was also the day Liverpool announced it had agreed to a final price for the transfer of Luis Suarez, one of the hottest young strikers in Europe and a direct partner to the Spanish ace.

If anything, now is a period of excitement for Liverpool and those invested in its future.

It has been suggested, anonymously, by Liverpool teammates in the last 48 hours, that Torres' presence in the locker room has been one that commanded respect, but perhaps never an inordinate amount of trust. Reports have used words like "aloof" and suggested that, in his last months at the club, his lack of enthusiasm and drive have been particularly noticeable.

Now would be an apropos time to point out that Liverpool have been down this road before, with the same club in almost the same situation. Twice in two years Chelsea tried to pry Steven Gerrard from Merseyside, and twice they were narrowly refused.

Gerrard appeared the second time to be on the verge of a move, before a midnight change of heart caused him to commit to the club long-term.

That commitment came weeks after Gerrard had helped will his team back into a Champions League final it would eventually win, first with a goal, then with a penalty won (and scored by Xabi Alonso on a rebound) and finally with tireless defending late in the game when his team had nothing left in its collective, proverbial tank.

Gerrard's role in that entire campaign, in fact, had been impressive—Liverpool would not have advanced past the group stage with his last-ditch goal against Olympiakos.

And his feat would be replicated a year later as well, in a fine FA Cup Final in which he brilliantly created one goal and scored another injury-time wonderstrike, sending the match to extra time and eventually penalties, where Liverpool won.

Those moments perfectly encapsulated Gerrard's immense ability. Gerrard was able to pick his team up and carry then when such performance was absolutely required.

When Liverpool's need was most desperate, Gerrard stepped up his game. As much as anyone and at times seemingly through sheer force of will, he won Liverpool two of the top honors available to an English club.

Torres never did that. Talented as he was (and it's no great stretch to contend that Torres, on his best day, is unparalleled by any striker in the world, including his international strike partner David Villa), Torres was never that player to absolutely force that kind of action.

He had his moments, like a fightback led from a late substitution against Portsmouth in that 2008-09 league campaign. But what's more impressive, given the opponent and the gravity of the situation, Gerrard's goal in Cardiff, or Torres' well-orchestrated comeback at Fratton Park?

No, Liverpool never won Fernando Torres any silverware, but the player never won his club a thing either.

Clubs can't force success, nor can they buy it flat-out. If they could, there would be no football fans turning out anywhere but West London and the City of Manchester Stadium.

When the chips are down, it's players who must make the success. Torres was a fine player, one of the best in the world. But does it say something that he was no more successful at fulfilling Liverpool's ambition for him than vice versa?

It's been suggested that Liverpool must sell Torres under the premise that no player can ever be more important than the club (an argument that actually works for keeping him as well, I guess). Liverpool, despite their diminished returns in recent years, are still a club comfortable with and capable of greatness—a future its new owners seem committed to seeing out.

Their success remains to be realized, obviously. Much can change, as Msrs. Hicks and Gillette proved, along the path between promises and payoffs.

But Torres clearly wants no part of that future. And perhaps that speaks greater volumes about the player than the club.


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