Fernando Torres: Defending Chelsea's Under-Fire Striker

Rowanne WesthenryFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Fernando Torres of Chelsea looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge on February 9, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The Fernando Torres we see today is not the same Fernando Torres who scored for fun at Liverpool. Nor is he the Fernando Torres who set La Liga on fire when he began his career at Atletico Madrid. The Fernando Torres who wears the number nine shirt for Chelsea is a broken man.

Since 2011 his head has been hanging so low he's in danger of giving himself concussion every time he half-heartedly swings his leg at the ball. There are many possible causes for this dramatic decline, with solutions hard to find.

When Torres first moved to England, he set about smashing records at Liverpool. Everyone knows how much they love their history at Anfield, so to have a guy walk in and tear up Robbie Fowler's club record for the highest goal tally in a season, in his first season no less, was like the return of the prodigal son.

Even then the Blues were interested in signing him, with a reported £40 million offer being swiftly rejected by the club and the player. Torres stated at the time that it would be many years before he left Liverpool. In 2009/10 he was short listed for the FIFA footballer of the year award and finished third, behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

He suffered a hamstring injury as well as damage to his knee ligaments, and when he returned he seemed to have lost his pace. Still he continued to score for Liverpool, and still he was relentlessly pursued by Chelsea.

He stated at the start of the 10/11 season that he saw his future at Liverpool and that he loved the fans, the culture and everything about the club. Then when January rolled around, Chelsea tabled a bid of £40 million which was again rejected. Torres put in an official transfer request, which was also rejected, until on deadline day on the 31st the two clubs agreed terms including a fee of around £50 million and Torres became Chelsea's number nine.

Swapping the Kop for the Shed was a brave move for the Spaniard. He was a fan favourite at Liverpool and the system at Anfield worked perfectly for him. When he arrived at Stamford Bridge he became second choice to Didier Drogba, a position he had not found himself in before.

It took him until April 23 to score his first goal in a blue shirt. His second goal came in the 2011/12 season in a 1-3 defeat against Machester United at Old Trafford in September. He took his goal well but missed an open net just minutes later and was ridiculed for it.

His confidence was already fragile from the pressure of the price paid for his services and the dramatic change from being the golden boy, the first choice up front, to playing second fiddle to Didier Drogba. After that miss it evaporated completely and he simply gave up.

There have been flashes of the old Torres. The goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinal was a fantastic individual effort, but I challenge you to find a fan who didn't think that there was a good chance he'd miss it, even after he'd gone 'round Valdes.

When Torres was introduced in the final minutes of the Champions League Final he won the corner which led to Chelsea's equaliser. He wanted to be one of the first five penalty takers but was left to watch as Drogba took the glory. Afterwards he described that day as among the worst in his career. He had just won a Champions League medal and played a key role in the victory, but it would be players such as Drogba and Frank Lampard who received the praise for the historic win.

When Drogba departed in the summer, Torres became Chelsea's first-choice striker and he has already beaten his goal tally from 2011/12. However, the damage done at the beginning of his Stamford Bridge career will take longer to undo.

It is clear that he does not feel like he is an equal member of the squad. Whether he sees himself as superior to a team who cannot meet his needs or inferior to players who have an almost telepathic connection is a mystery, but there is a storm of trouble in his psyche.

The lack of movement in his game doesn't stem from laziness but from a deep lack of motivation and self belief. There was a huge weight of expectation on his shoulders from his first touch of the ball at Chelsea and he has crumbled under it. Every goal has marked the turnaround in form that all involved with the club have been seeking, piling even more pressure onto a man who seems to have lost himself.

It is sad to see someone who was rated as a top player at the same standard as Messi and Ronaldo three years ago fall so far so fast, and it is patently obvious that he needs to seek help. Whether it is through hypnotherapy or sessions with a specialist sports psychologist, he will need to work on the issues that are troubling him so deeply to avoid a prolonged impact on his personal life as well as his playing career.