Form is temporary, class is permanent, or so the old adage goes. Think Diego Forlan's success after Manchester United, or Juan Sebastian Veron's resurgence after frustrating stints at United and Chelsea. Now, Fernando Torres is slowly returning to his Liverpool form, and that's good for the league.
Many of my fellow Liverpool will disagree with me but I have been delighted to see the recent, tentative resurgence of Fernando Torres. Not just the goals against Leicester a couple of weekends ago or the clever assist for Kalou last night. There have been glimmers here and flashes there over the last few weeks that makes one wonder if Torres is getting his mojo back. The Premier League will be a better place if he does. We need more of our stars twinkling as brightly as possible.
Of course, this has happened before. There have been a couple of occasions during his time at Chelsea where we thought that he was about to return to some level of form but then football's longest brown study continued. One moment he would score a goal, or do something astonishing, only to follow it up with something ridiculous.
Some commentators have commented that he won't - or can't - return to his best. That once a player loses it, he loses it. A player reliant on pace has been hurt by his succession of injuries and the sheer volume of football he played over the course of a number of years. Other players have lost pace to reinvent themselves and, looking at Torres now as his sharpness returns, I wonder if this loss of pace hasn't been over-stated.
There are, however, examples of players who went through serious dips in form - or were perceived to do so - and went on to resurrect there careers. I thought it might be interesting to look at a few of them.
Diego Forlan was, almost, a byword for flop has become one of the finest players in the world
Juan Sebastian Veron is arguably the best example. He was one of the finest midfielders in the world when he signed for Manchester United from Lazio. His time in England - both at Manchester United and Chelsea - was nowhere near as bad as many make out but it is also patently clear he never consistently hit the heights expected of him or of which he was capable.
After leaving Chelsea, branded a flop, he won trophies in Italy and has hit new heights in South America - being named South American Footballer of the Year twice and winning the Copa Libertadores. Why? Culture, style, weather? Perhaps a mix of all three but the idea that this genius wasn't good enough for the Premier League is a nonsense.
Speaking of which, is another Manchester United ''flop", Diego Forlan. (NB: I've heard rumours that Ferguson thought he was too smart to play for Manchester United but I've never actually seen evidence of this rumour).
Forlan was, almost, a byword for flop has become one of the finest players in the world. Never really settling at Manchester United (17 goals in 98 games) he was packed off to the continent and many assumed he would have become little more than an obscure trivia question.
However, at Villareal and Atletico Madrid, he has been superb. Twice winning the European Golden Shoe, twice winning the Pichichi, and more than that being feared across Europe for his prowess.
Maybe Di Matteo is just the change that Torres needs
At international level, he has been even better. He was named as best player at the 2010 World Cup (a world cup where the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder et al were playing) and skippered Uruguay to the semi-finals. Few expected a team coming from a nation of 3 and a half million souls to get so far. Few expected them to win the Copa America the following year. Forlan has been a behemoth for the La Celeste. He is the sort of player every nation would want pulling on their colours. He is a national icon and the sort of player to build an empire around.
For an example that didn't lead to a change of clubs (at least directly) one could point to the Sainted Xabi Alonso who had two poor seasons at Anfield before getting his swagger back in his final season (and ever since). Looking back, Benitez's chase of Barry seems bewildering but what has been lost is that for two seasons Alonso simply wasn't playing at - or anywhere near - his best. Liverpool failed in their attempt to get Barry and Alonso, partnering Mascherano in central midfield, helped Liverpool to 2nd in the league the following season... before heading to Spain.
In each case, something serious changed. This moment helped shift the player in question out of a funk.
With Veron, it was moving back to Italy and then to Argentina. It should also be noted that his time at Manchester United has been panned unfairly. As Sir Alex Ferguson put it ''He's a fucking great player and youse are all idiots''. Even so, his genius was only really reignited when he left the UK. With Forlan, it was moving to Spain and being given game-time consistently. With Alonso, it was - perhaps - the threat of losing his place or, more likely, a child-like ''I'm going to show you'' to Benitez whilst also ensuring that he put himself in the shop window for one of the big Spanish clubs.
Maybe Di Matteo is just the change that Torres needs. A question that goes unasked till now is ''why do players lose form?''. That is difficult. With Veron and Forlan it is easy to speculate - a new country, a new footballing culture, failure to assimilate to that culture and their new club etc. With the likes of Alonso and - to a lesser extent, Torres - that is a more difficult question.
Players can lose form - often for extended periods - and bounce back. Usually there is a trigger for that bounce back. A move to a new club or country. A new manager. A new formation or signing to assist get the best out of the player.
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