By James Crump – @TheJamesCrump
Today we jump back to July 4th, 2007, to the signing of Fernando Torres. El Niño, as he was nicknamed by the Atlético Madrid faithful, lit up Anfield in a-three-and-a-half year period at the club.
Torres started his career at his childhood club, Atléti. He began playing for the first team as a teenager and became their captain by the age of 19. Known for his blistering pace and pinpoint finishing, Torres became a Colchonero icon.
Despite interest from Chelsea and all over Europe, Torres chose Liverpool for the next stage of his career. Arriving just in time for his peak, Torres was an exciting signing and a statement of intent before the 2007/08 season.
Despite the buzz, Torres struggled in pre-season prompting whispers that like many before him, maybe Torres couldn’t adapt to the premier league. I shudder to think of the bile that would be spewed on Twitter if it happened today.
The doubts were immediately forgotten in Liverpool’s first Premier League match of the season. Torres took the ball in his stride from a Gerrard pass (soon to be a regular occurrence), knocked the ball past Tal Ben Haim and slotted it into the bottom corner. It was quick and clinical, the perfect start to an incredible season for the Spaniard.
He scored 33 goals in all competitions in his first season with 24 coming in the league. Although this return would be bested by Luis Suárez and Mohamed Salah in the next decade, Torres was the first to achieve 20 league goals in a season for Liverpool since 1996.
Due to injuries, Torres was limited to 24 top-flight appearances the next season, but still managed to score 14 goals. It was a good year for Liverpool who finished second just behind Manchester United in the league.
That season is best remembered for the demolition of Nemanja Vidic. The Serb, objectively one of the best defenders of the Premier League era, could not handle the pace and guile of Liverpool’s No.9, and the image of Vidic falling to the ground under pressure from the Spaniard is the best part of any Torres compilation.
That season also brought arguably the best goal of Torres’ career. Carragher floated the ball over the Blackburn defence, and Torres facing away from goal hit an audacious half volley on the swivel from the edge of the box.
Blackburn’s goalkeeper stood no chance and the ball ended up in the top corner. It was Torres at his best and proved his abilities were much broader than pace and precision. He was capable of moments of genius and could score from any position.
In his final couple of years on Merseyside, Liverpool started to fracture. Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano were sold and Rafa Benitez was sacked. The club came close to bankruptcy and Torres felt like the club was going backwards and wanted a new challenge.
The new challenge was Chelsea. On the last day of the winter transfer window in 2011, Torres was sold to Chelsea in a £50 million deal. His replacement, Andy Carroll didn’t click, but Torres didn’t fare much better in London. Torres went 24 games without scoring and never really recovered in English football.
Torres only found minor success back at Atlético and with the Champions League-winning campaign with Chelsea in 2012. He never rediscovered his Liverpool form with injuries and lack of confidence taking their toll. Leaving Liverpool for rivals has complicated the Torres legacy, but Liverpool as a club were in a precarious position and trophies seemed very far away.
Torres announced his retirement from football on June 21st, 2019, and has been effusive in his praise for Steven Gerrard in interviews since. He named the Englishman as the best player he ever played with and stated, “It was an amazing three-and-a-half years playing alongside Steven and I would love to go back to those days – even for one minute”. Anyone who watched the partnership will surely agree.
Torres has two European championships, one world cup and one champions league to his name. He is a legend of the game and one of the best strikers this century.
Torres’ three-and-a-half years at Liverpool came and went in a blur. Unplayable in his prime, and a real fan favourite, Torres will be remembered as an electric, exciting striker and one of the best Liverpool ever had.