By Ewan Roberts
Expectations are a funny thing. "If you expect nothing from anybody, you're never disappointed," wrote Sylvia Plath. No Premier League player has failed to meet expectations quite like Fernando Torres, but, equally, never has so much been demanded from a player in the history of English football.
Torres' £50 million price tag – a record British transfer fee – came with an enormous expectation that the Spaniard has never come close to living up to. So Torres became a laughing stock, a figure of derision, shackled by the fee that was spent on him, weighed down by the realisation that he was unlikely to ever meet the standards once expected of him.
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Considering the scrutiny with which Torres is viewed and his depiction as a fading force, it is a surprise to find that, behind the putdowns and insults, the 29-year-old has actually scored 19 goals in all competitions this season – the most of any Chelsea player.
Incredibly, that leaves him just four strikes behind Robin van Persie and three ahead of Wayne Rooney. Torres also stacks up favourably against the blue half of Manchester, outscoring Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko – a trio who cost almost £100m. Where is their derision?
Manchester United’s Flying Dutchman can seemingly do no wrong, yet Van Persie has now gone ten games without a goal. The longest Torres has gone without scoring this season is eight games. The ex-Arsenal forward’s profligacy has seen United crash out of the Champions League and FA Cup, while Chelsea have one foot in the Europa League semi-final thanks to Torres.
He also struck three times for Spain en route to being awarded the Euro 2012 Golden Boot.
The former Atletico Madrid's best tally of 31 goals in all competitions came during the 2007-08 season, though he assisted just four goals compared to eight this term. And with Chelsea pursuing appearances in the finals of both the FA Cup and Europa League, Torres could have as many as 14 further games to add to his current numbers.
He still has an appetite to get in goalscoring positions, to test the goalkeeper. Though he may not exude the same air of inevitability when bearing down on goal, his shots to goals ratio this season (6.5 per goal) isn't a great deal worse than his average while at Liverpool (5.6) – and he has struck at a considerably better rate this year than compared to his final term at Anfield (10.5).
Of course, he is not back to his best just yet and has had a mixed season; he is seemingly at his most content, and most dangerous, when away from the Premier League spotlight (just seven of his 19 goals for Chelsea have come in the league).
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But there seems to be a steely determination about Torres now. He doesn't go missing in matches as often, the tendency to track back to compensate for his lack of goals – which only made the task of scoring harder – has been replaced by a willingness to take risks, beat his man, test the keeper and, as his rabona against Rubin would attest, have fun.
From looking passive and mopey, he now seems more fired up, and, in his own words, committed to finding his old form.
"I want to do the things I used to do all my life," he told the Daily Mail. "I did them at Atletico Madrid, I did them at Liverpool and I am not doing them at Chelsea. I am working on it. If I knew the reason, I would fix it in one minute. But the only way to fix these things is to work at it. I am training every day and I will never, ever give up."
In truth, Torres probably peaked when he was 24 years old and has spent his Chelsea career battling against injuries caused by playing so many games at such a young age, suffocating under his mammoth price tag. But he still has plenty to offer, and with Chelsea relying on him to fire them into the top four and claim domestic and European silverware, he can still prove his worth - whatever that may be valued at.
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