The past 18 months have not been a particularly happy time for Liverpool fans, with the reign of unpopular American owners George Gillet and Tom Hicks combining with struggles on the pitch. Yet it had seemed as though all these problems were coming to an end—the American pair were ousted, replaced by John Henry and NESV, club legend Kenny Dalglish came in to take the manager's job at Anfield, and, after weeks of negotiations, they finally agreed a fee for highly-rated Ajax forward Luis Suarez.
But then, just as the club was emerging into the light, the unthinkable happened—star striker Fernando Torres handed in a transfer request, in a bid to force through a move to Chelsea, and, on transfer deadline day, the Spaniard got his wish, joining the London club in a deal worth £50 million pounds.
Yet is Torres' departure really bad news for Liverpool?
It is clear that Torres is a fine player. In a sensational debut season, he scored 33 goals, and set a record for the number of league goals scored by a foreign player in his debut season, showing incredible speed, finishing ability and grace in the process. Then, over the summer, he confirmed his reputation as one of the finest strikers in the world, scoring the solitary goal in the European Championship final against Germany.
However, over the next two seasons, questions began to emerge about Torres. Not over the player's ability, of course, but over his fitness. Though still a reliable source of goals when actually on the pitch, Torres missed a total of 30 league games over those two seasons, which amounts to almost an entire season of league football missed in just two years.
In the summer of 2010, there was much speculation about Torres' future, but no move materialised, and he remained at Anfield. Now, though, there were concerns about Torres' attitude, and his commitment to the cause. In fact, his finest performance of the season came against his new employers, Chelsea—the more cynical fans may believe that this performance was intended to put him in the shop window.
On form, Torres is one of the finest strikers in the premiership, and, indeed, the world. The trouble comes when the Spaniard is having an off day. When Torres is bad, he is very bad. This, combined with his fitness issues, mean he is not completely reliable, and, therefore, to receive such a large sum of money for a player with fitness issues and a questionable attitude is a good deal for Liverpool.
This is not to say that Torres will be a bad signing for Chelsea. Far from it, if they can keep it fit, he could be an incredibly valuable player for them. In fact, this deal could well work out well for all parties involved.
Then, there are the forwards Liverpool have brought in—one to replace Torres, the other perhaps intended to partner him.
Luis Suarez arrives from Ajax with a sensational goalscoring record in the Dutch league, though, given that the likes of Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves have also banged them in for Holland before going on to flop in the Premiership, it is perhaps not the best indicator of a player's quality. But Suarez has also performed on the international stages, scoring three goals for his country in last summer's World Cup, before being sent off in the quarterfinals for a goal line handball. This, along with his seven-match suspension for biting an opponent in an Everdise match, have made Suarez a controversial figure.
But there is no denying that he is a talented player, and, though his actions are questionable, his desire to win isn't. His handball against Ghana earned him condemnation in the football world, but it shows Suarez's desire, and a willingness to sacrifice himself for the good of the team, as opposed to Torres, who a Liverpool teammate reportedly said of this week "He'd definitely play for himself rather than the team."
Brought in to partner Suarez is another player with a questionable disciplinary record, though Andy Carroll's misdemeanours tend to occur off the pitch rather than on it. It is difficult to justify the £35 million fee that Liverpool have splashed out on the Geordie forward, given that he possess just six months of Premier League experience (bar a handful of appearances during Newcastle's last season in the top flight), but Liverpool fans must look past the money that Liverpool have paid for him and give him a fair chance at the club.
Carroll is strong, can hold the ball up well, is excellent in the air, a good finisher and, at the age of 22, there is still great potential for him to improve even further. Though at his current level, Carroll is not worth the money Liverpool have paid for him, the Reds fans must give him a chance to repay the trust the club has shown in him.
In these two forwards, Liverpool have purchased great potential. Both are younger than Torres and, seemingly, less injury prone. Though Torres is without a doubt the better player at this moment in time, these players also have massive potential. When Torres was at Atletico Madrid, he was clearly a good player, but few would have described him as a world-class striker—yet just a year after leaving them, it would be very hard to deny he had become one. Who is to say Carroll and Suarez will not improve just as rapidly now that they are surrounded by better players?
Torres was a great player for Liverpool, but now is the time to move on. World-class forwards have left Liverpool in the past, but this never stopped the club before. In 1977, Kevin Keegan left Liverpool for Hamburg. His replacement, Kenny Dalglish, is widely regarded as the Reds' greatest ever player.
In 1987, Ian Rush left for Juventus. His replacement, John Aldrigde, fired Liverpool to league glory in his first season at the club. And in 2004, Michael Owen left for Real Madrid, and, of course, what happened the following season in Istanbul will never be forgotten.
In 2011, Fernando Torres left for Chelsea. Will Liverpool's new forwards also write their way into the Reds' illustrious history?