When Fernando Torres swapped the red of Liverpool for the blue of Chelsea in January 2011, hopes were high for the man regarded by many as one of the deadliest finishers in world football. Contrary to expectations, Torres took a staggering 14 matches to break his scoring duct, albeit against a West Ham side destined to be relegated to the npower Championship later that year. This was not what club owner and Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich had envisioned when he shelled out a British transfer record £50 million to bring the Spaniard to Stamford Bridge on a five-year contract.
After less than half a season as Chelsea's No. 9, people were beginning to cast doubt over whether Torres would ever be able to recreate the stunning form he displayed in his prior years on Merseyside.
The mind of a footballer is a fragile one, and confidence, or lack thereof, plays a vital role in determining a player's mentality heading into a match.
Scoring one goal in 19 matches is a statistic that would make any forward cringe, let alone one with such a hefty price tag resting over his head. With his morale shattered, and a constant barrage of English press hounding his dismal performances, Torres had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Perched firmly in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, El Niño was beginning to crumble, and everyone knew it.
At the start of the 2011/2012 Barclay's Premier League campaign, there was renewed hope not only for fans of the clubs, but also for players like Torres coming fresh off the back of a poor season. Fernando by no means leapt out of the starting gate, but scored a respectable four goals in his first nine appearances for the West London club.
Still, there was a sense of skepticism amongst his critics that he had returned to his glory days. His disheveled finishing, including this point-blank miss against rivals Manchester United, and obvious irritation towards the Chelsea coaching staff highlighted the fact that Torres was indeed a player in crisis.
Following a brace against lowly opposition Genk in the Champions League on October 19, 2011, Torres was once again set to embark on another lengthy goal drought. This barren spell saw him fail to net a single goal in his next 24 appearances, an embarrassing run of form that caused Torres claim that his time with Chelsea was the worst of his career.
The Spaniard was down, but not out. Cometh the moment, cometh the man, and that is exactly what Torres accomplished in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal against hot favorites Barcelona. With the aggregate scores all square at 2-2 in the 91st minute, and Chelsea due to advance on away goals, Torres put the tie beyond doubt with a goal that sent shock waves through the footballing world, reigniting his dwindling career as well as commentator Gary Neville's sex drive.
El Niño followed up his memorable night at the Camp Nou with an even more impressive hat-trick in Chelsea's next match against fellow Londoner's Queens Park Rangers. He did not score again in the remaining fixtures of the season, yet still gained praise for his quality link up play, something we weren't used to seeing from an out of form Torres for the greater part of two years. It seemed as though the world was once again his oyster, and maybe all that he needed was that one moment of brilliance to reassure himself that he could kick it with the best.
With Didier Drogba set to leave the club this summer, a massive hole will surely be left with only Torres to fill the void. Although his wages of around £200,000 a week are excessive to say the least, money is the last of Abramovich's worries so long as Chelsea continue to win silverware. Torres finally seems to be finding his feet in the Premier League, and Chelsea would be silly to discard a player still full of promise for a discount price in the transfer market.
Look for Torres to refashion the European Cup winning goal of 2008 at this summer's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
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