Fernan-doh! Torrid –was a man on the brink. Torres has been dreadful for Chelsea for the most part: mind-bogglingly bad, tearing your hair out terrible, head-in-your hands horrible. The superstar striker for whom the ball seemed to behave like a balloon as soon as he pulled the Chelsea shirt on; the man whose ability to get away from defenders was stolen from him in the dead of night by those cruel football Gods whom had also insisted on stealing his shooting boots.
He has had his moments at Chelsea; the equaliser against Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League for one. A strange moment, really, as he was running through on goal the most ardent of Chelsea fans might have expected him to trip over ball, screw his shot wide or over, pass it back to Barcelona’s Victor Valdes, or inexplicably pick up the football and begin to eat it. But he didn’t do any of those things. He actually scored. It felt like the end of a horrible nightmare. It wasn’t, really. He was still marginalised at Chelsea, a man who must have had to wear three coats because it was that cold in Didier Drogba’s shadow. Drogba went on to win Chelsea the Champions League and be forever immortalised at the club after ending his Chelsea career in a blaze of glory which is unlikely to be matched. Torres didn’t even take a penalty in the shoot-out, apparently being denied the opportunity by then boss Roberto Di Matteo.
Come Euro 2012, Spain initially introduced the ‘False 9’ position to the international arena. Torres’ lack of form was blamed for the tactical innovation. He still scored three goals in that tournament and won the golden boot (football just looks weird without strikers on) – a real achievement by anyone’s standards – it was cause for optimism.
At the 2011/12 season’s end Drogba left for China and Torres shed three coats. He was to be ‘The Man’ at Chelsea. A goal in the community shield against Man City, and strikes in league against Reading, Newcastle, Norwich and Arsenal – showed that the ‘Real’ Fernando Torres was in there all along, sort of. A mini drought followed before a goal against Wolves in the Capital One Cup. Then came The Drought. He had had them before in his time at Chelsea but this felt terminal. A lucky goal against Shakhtar hardly turned his form around as it came courtesy of Donetsk keeper Oleg Pyatov rattling a clearance against him
But after 11 hours of drawing a blank in the premier league Torres’s delightful volley against Sunderlan.d ended his premier league torment and this on the back of double against FC Nordsjaelland in the Champions League. Then it happened, Chelsea won a penalty and Torres grabbed the ball. YES! Torres! He had been criticised for not being brave enough and ‘scared to miss’ by wizened old pros and pundits alike but here he was literally taking matters into his own hands as he put the ball on the spot. A purposeful run-up followed by a side-footer into the corner; it looked so easy – like shelling peas.
There have been false dawns before for Torres at Chelsea but this feels different. The injury-plagued Danish Champions fielding midfielders as centre-halves and an embattled Sunderland may have been seen as easier targets than most for a goal-shy striker to find the net but in that single act of grabbing the ball to take a vital penalty it seemed that, finally, Torres was a man on a mission to shape his own destiny.
And just days later at the World Club Cup he scored a goal by the virtue of a massive deflection; so now it seems like he is a man on a mission to shape his destiny whose luck is finally in.
Is it the beginning of great Torres comeback?