Lazy? Overrated? Depressed? Why the former Liverpool man has lost it at Chelsea...
1. Injuries have robbed him of his greatest asset.
First and foremost, the Spaniard has not been the same player since the raft of injuries that disrupted his 2009-10 season at Liverpool. Even the greatest success of his career to date, victory in the World Cup final, was marred by the twang of his hamstring. Even at his lightning-fast best, Torres was fragile. Now at Chelsea, he is irreparably broken; a one-paced parody of a footballer.
He was a first team regular for Atlético at seventeen. Due to his prodigious talent, he quickly became the main man for every side for which he played, be it los Rojiblancos, Liverpool or Spain, playing almost every possible game until his mid-twenties. In much the same way as Michael Owen, Torres burned twice as bright for half as long and needed a considerable number of painkilling injections in order to prolong his peak. His late twenties are doomed to join the Englishman’s in football history’s pantheon of ‘what if’s.
3. He never belonged in the Premier League.
Despite his initial and unstoppable success in English football, it is arguable that a player of his fragility should never have ventured to these shores. Said Torres in 2010: “I just can't imagine what state I'll be in within five or six years if I continue to play here - it could easily give me problems when I stop playing. The physical level is superior to all other countries.” The Torres we see today is a man who has taken a beating twice a week for five years. He would have been given much greater protection in Spain
4. Constantly instability at Chelsea.
Torres is now working under his fourth manager since joining the Blues in January 2011. That is four bosses, each with different ideas about how he and his teammates should play, in less than two years. No-one finds their best form under those circumstances.
5. Chelsea have players better than him.
At Atlético and Liverpool – and also in his early years with the Spanish national team – Torres was a big fish in a small pond. At Liverpool, in particular, he was head and shoulders above everyone else, at least in an attacking sense. His coach’s priority was always to maximise his talent. At Stamford Bridge, there has always been greater talent available to the manager, making Torres look like a minnow in the Pacific Ocean.
6. Didier Drogba.
Case in point. It was hard enough to make an impression at Chelsea without playing in the same position as the iconic Ivorian. With pairing the two believed impossible, every manager tasked with choosing between the two plumped for Drogba, and understandably so.
7. He needs to feel loved in order to succeed.
Most footballers rely on confidence. Some players possess a limitless supply and only need to wake up in the morning to feel as though they can move mountains. Torres, however, is of a different breed, and needs to be constantly reassured of his importance in order to reach his peak. His managers at Atlético and Spain have always taken care of him in that respect, but at Chelsea he has been treated as one of the rank and file. This is not how to get the best out of him.
8. He needs the perfect supporting cast.
While Torres was undoubtedly Liverpool’s leading light going forward, he had Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso and Dirk Kuyt, three of football’s most selfless players, winning the ball and running the game behind him. Like Steven Gerrard, Torres has not been half as good when separated from them.
It was not just the personnel that suited Torres at Liverpool, but also the system. At Chelsea, he has never played in his preferred role, hovering on the shoulder of the last defender in a 4-4-1-1/4-2-3-1 formation. Rafa Benítez will probably try to use him in it again, but whether it will work is an altogether different matter.
10. Football has changed since he was great.
When Torres signed for Liverpool, strikers were still very much en vogue. Now, they are going extinct. While he was once undoubtedly a very fine forward, he has never been the best footballer. As times change, so do expectations – and Torres has failed to adapt.
11. Ignorance is bliss.
Evidently a clever and eloquent man, Torres is aware of the aforementioned tactical trends gradually rendering players like him obsolete. This is particularly obvious when he is asked to partake in the festival of tiki-taka that is the Spanish national team. On some days, one glimpses the old fire in his eyes, the swagger that comes with being a powerful and feared individual; most of the time, however, one sees the look of a man who knows his time is up. In that respect, Torres is kind of like Roy Batty in Blade Runner.
12. His mentality lets him down.
Despite the three points above this giving some weight to the idea of Torres as a figure deserving no little sympathy, it must be said that at no point during the last three years has he looked desperate to adapt to the new and odd footballing landscape in which he finds himself. He works the channels a bit more than he used to, but that is about as much as one can say in his defence. The sink-or-swim nature of football is nothing new and, by choosing to stay the same in a changing world, Torres has shied away from taking his only chance of renewed success.
13. The price tag.
With £50m having been spent on him, Torres could have emulated Lionel Messi’s goalscoring record and still been considered a merely adequate purchase. Needless to say, his return has not come close to matching that of Messi. Therefore, he can only be deemed a failure.
While it is purely speculative to wonder if the Spaniard suffers with the illness, it would not be a great surprise to many to find that he does. Having been in the public eye for just over a decade, Torres’ mood has been a source of constant speculation throughout. While never the most jocular of men, he clearly enjoyed his best years with Liverpool and Spain, despite the occasional hissy-fit. Since moving to Chelsea, however, he has regularly had the air of man whose world has caved in on itself.
15. At his best, he was overrated.
For a player once regarded as the best at his job on the planet, it is worth noting that Torres has only scored twenty league goals in a season once. Unlike Zlatan Ibrahimović or Thierry Henry, for example, Torres never justified his inclusion during barren spells with game-changing assists or subtle, creative movement. While it is arguably harsh to judge a player from a different era using contemporary metrics, the playing statistics of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Falcao put Torres’ in the shade. It may be that he was never as good as we thought.