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Did Atletico Madrid Make a Mistake in Re-Signing Fernando Torres?

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2015

Atletico Madrid's Spanish forward Fernando Torres controls the ball during a friendly football match between Shanghai SIPG and Atletico Madrid in Shanghai on August 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHANNES EISELE        (Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)
JOHANNES EISELE/Getty Images

Atletico Madrid created a wave of mixed excitement, hesitation and surprise last season when they opted to re-sign former hero Fernando Torres.

Torres had just made a permanent move from Chelsea to AC Milan, where he had been on loan, before immediately moving to Atleti on another loan deal, but he wasn't a guaranteed starter by any means over the second half of last season.

However, his work rate and enthusiasm—along with injuries and the poor form of Mario Mandzukic—meant he did feature relatively frequently.

Now heading into the second season of his year-and-a-half loan deal, Torres faces more competition than ever for a place after a busy summer of transfer activity at Atletico Madrid. Can he cope, and did Atleti make the right call in bringing him back?

Rise and Fall

Leaving Atletico in 2007 couldn't have been easy for the striker. As Atleti's captain since the age of 19 and a loyal supporter of the team, he had previously turned down opportunities to leave, but it was Liverpool who eventually took his signature that summer.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 05:  Fernando Torres of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at The City of Manchester Stadium on October 5, 2008 in Manches
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Torres soon became a piercing, deadly weapon in the Premier League. For three years, he rattled in goal after goal for the Reds from all angles, and his stay coincided with the end of a period that saw Liverpool challenge for the top of the league table and make a deep run in the Champions League—though Torres ultimately won nothing with the club.

Injuries mounted up, and the dismissal of the manager who brought him to Anfield paired with Liverpool's fading fortunes in the league took their toll. Torres departed for a British record £50 million to Chelsea. He did not, however, come close to emulating his success in front of goal at Atleti or Liverpool with the London club. In three-and-a-half years with the Blues, he scored only 20 league goals.

CESENA, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 28: Fernando Torres # 9 of AC Milan looks on during the Serie A match between AC Cesena and AC Milan at Dino Manuzzi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Cesena, Italy.  (Photo by Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images)
Mario Carlini / Iguana Press/Getty Images

The loan move to AC Milan in the summer of 2014 was strangely poetic, as it paired a faded star with a faded club, with both hoping to spark themselves back to the top.

But his one goal in 10 Serie A matches suggests that wouldn't have happened even if he had lingered more than half a season.

2014-15

Then Atletico came calling. Whatever fire once burned inside Torres was clearly reignited at the chance to rejoin his former club. With the ridiculously poor Alessio Cerci heading in the opposite direction, Atletico certainly look to have gotten the better end of the deal so far.

Torres scored six in 26, coming on as a substitute in 12 of those games. All told, he totalled just over 1,200 minutes in his half-season with the club—not a bad return at all, considering his lack of form and confidence when he arrived and the presence of two first-choice strikers in Mandzukic and Antoine Griezmann.

Goals help, of course, and Torres couldn't have asked for a better one than his brace against Real Madrid. A double in the Copa del Rey against his and his team's biggest rivals solidified the relationship between player and fans, and from that point on, there were even bigger cheers when he came off the bench, departed the field or found the back of the net.

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Fernando Torres (L) of Atletico de Madrid scores their second goal across goalkeeper Keylor Navas (2ndL) and his teammate Pepe (R) during the Copa del Rey Round of 16  second leg match between Real Madrid CF and Club Atletico
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Between his return in winter and the end of the season, Torres only saw two league games in which he didn't feature: late January as an unused sub against Eibar, and the last game of the season against Granada, which he missed out on entirely.

Reinvention

It's been intriguing to watch Atletico Madrid take shape in the pre-season. New faces, new roles for old faces and the possibility of tactical changes from Diego Simeone all make them worth watching—but one thing that remains is the intensity and cohesion of the team. Torres has been a big part of that.

Against mediocre opposition at times, he has looked the part physically and technically, running at defenders, making use of space and creating chances inside the penalty area. He might not be the weaving, untameable monster of 2007-2009, but he is fit and firing and looking convinced of his ability to play a part in an extremely competitive squad.

OVIEDO, SPAIN - JULY 28:  Fernando Torres of Club Atletico de Madrid celebrates after scoring goal during a pre season friendly match between Real Oviedo and Club Atletico de Madrid at Carlos Tartiere on July 28, 2015 in Oviedo, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Man
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

The bottom line: No. Absolutely not. There was no mistake on the part of Torres in rejoining his old club, and likewise with Atleti for taking the leap of faith. So far, the move has paid off for both in a solid, pleasing way, if not a spectacular one.

But for this coming campaign, there have been small signs that Torres could be ready to provide far more than he has in years. And if he does, every time he hits the back of the net will signify slightly more belief that Atletico are on the verge of another special campaign.