It is quite possible that Fernando Torres could end his career where he started it. A much talked about move back to the Vicente Calderon and his beloved Atletico Madrid is the result of some frustrating years in London and Milan.
Chances are that you have seen much of the news covering his return to Spain’s capital with Diego Simeone’s assistant German Burgos stating that the club and coaching staff were confident of getting the best out of Torres with other club officials stating that the move was not a sentimental one and made purely based on football.
Much has been made of Torres’ move to Chelsea which saw the end of the Fernando Torres that the footballing world once knew. It has also been pointed out that under Jose Mourinho’s system at Chelsea, very few strikers have flourished but you then might hear countered that it was under Andre Villas Boas that the Spaniard reached the lowest point in his career scoring only four goals in 31 appearances.
Torres didn’t cover himself in glory during a six month spell at AC Milan either but this stint will not define his career. It is time to take a look at what he might offer an Atletico Madrid side who are beginning to fill out their squad and use rotation as a tactic to keep players fresh.
Torres would most likely feature as the secondary striker in a 4-4-2 which is Simeone’s go-to setup against more attacking teams. He currently plays a 4-4-2 with Raul Garcia as the secondary striker. This was a role previously filled by David Villa and while few fans would complain about Garcia’s contribution to the side, an alternative option might work depending on the opposition.
Koke tends to be the key in midfield with his versatility allowing Simeone a myriad of options along with Antoine Griezmann who has worked himself into a definite starter in whatever formation El Cholo decides to play.
Koke generally plays on the left and operates from there but can play centrally in that number 10 role, deeper as a central midfielder or deeper again as a regista with metronome-like passing that has seen him establish himself in Vincent del Bosque’s Spain side.
Under Simeone, Atletico Madrid’s strikers need to be able to run channels, press opponent defenders with aggression and work on winning long balls and, if unsuccessful, second balls.
Regardless of Torres’ strike rate, one thing that endeared him to Chelsea fans was his work rate, willingness to run the channel and unselfishness whenever he played – all traits that Diego Simeone demands of his players.
Whether Torres is chosen to play as a Mario Mandzukic replacement, beside the number nine as David Villa used to do or from the wing where he can use his speed – provided it still exists – to run off the should of opposing fullbacks and into immediate goalscoring opportunities.
One of the most devastating moves that Diego Costa used during his time at Atletico Madrid as the focal point of the attack was a run into the interior corridor or half-space as it is known, picking up the ball out wide and driving towards the opposition’s penalty area before shooting and more often than not, scoring.
This is a position that Torres can still play and will score goals from, but as we have seen during Atletico’s run this season, teams are playing more defensively following a year of great success for the club. This move gives Torres the chance to drop between the lines, win the ball unopposed and turn with time to asses his options. It is also a move that you don’t particularly see Mandzukic use in this Atletico side and one that Torres is more suited to.
Another aspect of Torres’ play is his aggression and with Atletico Madrid fighting for their lives against the bigger sides Simeone requests his players to use their aggression to their advantage in the bigger games or against more counter-attacking, speedier sides. It slows down the opposition’s counter attack and can give los Rojiblancos a chance to re-organise after an attacking move of their own.
Father time will catch up on each and every one of us and while Fernando Torres may have lost some pace, some more of his finishing prowess and enough confidence to strike down lesser men, at the Vicente Calderon he will always be El Nino and there is more chance of a resurrection at the Calderon than any other stadium in all of football.