It has been a turbulent few years for Fernando Torres, the now 32-year-old has had unsuccesful spells with Chelsea and Milan and a largely mediocre return to his boyhood club Atletico until now.
A red card at the Nou Camp in the Champions League quarter final first leg may have given the impression that it is the same old Torres, struggling to recapture any of the form that catapulted him to the fore of the European game.
One may not have known however that his winning goal on Wednesday night against Athletic not only keeps the Madrid men’s title hopes alive but it also makes it his fifth goal in as many appearances at a crucially important time of the season.
We are fully aware of the rapid decline El Nino experienced since the day he decided to swap Anfield for Stamford Bridge in a then record breaking £50 million deal.
Twenty goals in 110 league appearances for the Spaniard at Chelsea was a dismal amount for a man who managed 65 goals in the red of Liverpool in eight less Premier League games.
A loan move to AC Milan in 2014 was supposed to signal the rebirth of the once electric striker but after just 10 games and no more than a single goal in Italy, Torres headed back to the club where it all began, Atletico, in January.
Showing signs of improvement Torres scored six goals in 26 appearances in all competitions for Diego Simeone’s team but it was not until this season and the past two or three months we have seen the striker rediscover his scoring touch.
Nine league goals and four assists in 26 appearances, 12 of which were off the bench is a decent return for a striker past his peak years and have his adoring fans worshipping him yet again.
Not to mislead, Torres is not back to the child prodigy who became captain of Atletico Madrid at just 19 years of age and the man who became one of the world’s best strikers under the guidance of Rafa Benitez at Anfield.
Memories of destroying Nemanja Vidic at Old Trafford, winning a penalty and scoring a well-taken goal passed Edwin Van Der Sar after using his electric pace to leave Vidic on his behind, or the athleticism of his brilliantly taken goal against Blackburn Rovers are just that, memories.
Scoring 20+ goals a season is no longer a realistic target for El Nino but he is showing once again an ability to be in the right places and apply the finishing touch that is keeping Atletico’s drive for two league titles in three years well and truly alive.
In what has been a highly decorated career it may come as a shock that he has been a league title winner on just one occasion. That being a Segunda Division win, the Spanish second division, with Atletico 14 years ago.
That league medal was around the neck of an 18-year-old boy, 14 years later as Atleti push for the La Liga title Torres admitted it would be a crowning moment in his career to lift the trophy. A fitting way to win his first top Premier Division league medal and symbolising his career somewhat coming full circle.
“We are excited and enjoying a very nice period, but we do not settle for what we have achieved,” Torres explained earlier in the week.
Of course Torres is no marter, the lack of a league title is somewhat made up for by his two European Championships, World Cup, Europa League and Champions League medals amongst others.
Who can forget the Spaniard sending Gary Neville into a roaring mess as he rounded Victor Valdes at the Camp Nou and poked the ball into an empty net to send Roberto Di Matteo’s Chelsea to a Champions League final they won on penalties against Bayern.
Undoubtedly this season could be his best, winning a league title at his boyhood club and maybe even doing the double with the Champions League still to play. The sentimental value of this season would be huge for Torres.
Level on points with Barcelona and four games from the finish there is no reason why Torres’ dream cannot become a reality and he lift the La Liga title in the red and white of his beloved Atletico.