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Riddish Choksi looks back at how Fernando Torres has evolved since arriving in England from Vicente Calderon...

On Friday night, when Chelsea take on Atletico Madrid at Stade Louis II stadium, it is going to be an emotional occasion for the Blues’ striker Fernando Torres, as he will be up against his childhood club. The Los Rojiblancos and its youth academy are primarily responsible for grooming him into a world-class player.

Torres He rose through the ranks of the academy and became the darling of Vicente Calderon by the time he left Atletico in 2007. During that period, he scored 82 goals in 214 appearances, which raised his market value drastically. So, when Liverpool bid £26.5 million for him in July 2007, it was an offer that he simply couldn’t refuse.

The Bright Red Phase | The Spaniard made his entry into the Premier League

After completing his move to Anfield, the Spaniard was expected to struggle initially with regards to adjusting to the pace and physicalities of the Premier League. However, with the midfield geniuses of Xabi Alonso, Javier Maschareno, and Steven Gerrard, Torres settled in the first team with remarkable ease. His first Liverpool goal came against Chelsea in his Anfield debut.

That set the tone for a memorable season, as he became the most prolific foreign goal-scorer in a debut season in England with his 24 league goals, eclipsing Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 23. ‘El Nino’, as he is popularly known, scored three hat-tricks in February and March 2008, which earned him the Premier League player of the month for February. His incredibly sharp movement and lethal finishing helped Liverpool secure Champions League football by finishing fourth in the league.

TORRES' CLUB LAURELS
Club (Period)
Goals Apps
Atletico (2001-2007) 82 214
Liverpool (2007-2011)  65 102
Chelsea (2011 - 9 49

Torres scored six times in Europe too, helping the Reds to reach the semis, where they lost to Chelsea. Thus, his first season at Anfield ended was successful, as an impressive tally of 33 goals justified his signing.

In the summer of 2008, Torres helped Spain lift the Euro 2008 trophy, scoring two goals in the tournament. One of those two came in the 1-0 final triumph over Germany, a delicate lob over the keeper, showing his composure and class on a big occasion. El Nino was expected to carry on that sublime form with Liverpool too, however things didn’t turn out to be that smooth.

A series of hamstring injuries, in quick succession, meant that it was more of a stop-start campaign for him as he didn’t get a continuous run of games. It is worth mentioning that he made quite an impact in the games he did play. This includes two-goal hauls against Merseyside rivals Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City. The first goal against City was the thousandth goal for Liverpool in the Premier League.

He got a chance to play at Vicente Calderon when Liverpool faced Atletico in Champions League, however he missed the game due to a hamstring injury. He scored important goals against Real Madrid and Manchester United in Europe and the league respectively. Despite all his injury problems, he was able to score 17 goals in 38 appearances, good enough to earn him a place in the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) team of the year.

Compared to the 2008-09 season, Torres had a relatively injury-free 2009-10 season. By this time, he had established himself as the marquee man for Liverpool, along with Gerrard. At the start of the season, he extended his stay at Anfield until 2013. He started the season off brilliantly, scoring five goals in September, including a hat-trick against Hull, which earned him the Player of the Month award. He scored against Manchester United in October too, in a well-deserved 2-0 victory.

Not Always As It Seems | El Nino departed from Anfield to join Chelsea

Also, his goal against Aston Villa in December made him the fastest Liverpool player ever to score 50 goals. However, a dismal Champions League campaign saw the Reds get knocked out in group stages. An injury to Torres, and David N’Gog’s impressive performances meant that the Spaniard didn’t get any match-play in January. However, upon his return Torres continued his impressive goal-scoring form, a breath-taking solo goal against Sunderland proving just that.

His performances in Europa League were credible too, however, Liverpool lost to the eventual champions Atletico in the semis. The Spaniard’s recurring knee problems meant that he required a surgery on his left knee, due to which his season ended in April itself. Yet, his 22 goals in 32 appearances spoke volumes of his incredible talent and ability.

Despite his knee problems, Vicente del Bosque selected Torres in his World Cup squad. Though Spain went on to lift the trophy, it was a forgettable tournament personally as he didn’t score a single goal. Back at Liverpool, Roy Hodgson was appointed the manager after Rafael Benitez got the pink slip. Torres’ Liverpool future was in doubt then, as changes in the team and staff management required him to rethink his future, upon receiving interests from various top clubs like Chelsea.

However, he pledged his future to the club, thus removing all doubts from the minds of the fans. He went on to score his 50th Anfield goal in all competitions against West Brom in late August. But Roy Hodgson made huge tactical changes in the team, and the style of play adopted by the Englishman frustrated Torres. He scored just nine goals in 26 appearances for the club, his last Liverpool goal coming against Wolves in December.

Cartoon: Drogba becomes Chelsea legend

In January 2011, the speculations of Torres’ exit became more intensive, even as Liverpool rejected Chelsea’s initial £40 million bid. However, on a hectic transfer deadline day, Chelsea’s £50 million bid was accepted by Liverpool, and the Spaniard joined the Roman Abramovich army for a British transfer record fee. However, what followed is completely forgettable, and he raised many eyebrows playing for the Blues, albeit for the wrong reasons.

With Didier Drogba already there, the competition was tough as Carlo Ancelotti preferred a 4-3-2-1 formation. However, Drogba looked more of a spent force then with his recurring injuries, so Torres did get lots of minutes on the pitch. For some strange reason, though, he just wasn’t the same sharp and agile Torres that people were so used to see.

He found himself in many promising positions, but poor finishing let him down too often. It was shocking to see him not able to trap the ball, and lose one-on-one battles with defenders he used to get better off so easily before. Of course, much of it was down to his poor movement, which in turn can be blamed upon his knee surgery. He often cut a very frustrated figure on the pitch. Hence, when he finally scored his first Chelsea goal against West Ham, ending a barren run of 903 minutes without a goal in the process, the relief was clearly evident in the faces of the whole Stamford Bridge crowd. As it turned out, that didn’t give him the goalscoring impetus, and he ended up with just that lone goal in 18 appearances.

The failures of previous season meant that Abramovich lost patience with Ancelotti, and hired Andre Villas-Boas to manage the club. The 33 year old wasn’t shy of leaving out the likes of Lampard, Terry, and Drogba on the bench. The starting eleven was never a constant, and he made the players play out of their positions. His experimental changes didn’t bring about the desired results, and he got the sack in March. His shocking miss against United in September, when he rounded off De Gea with a brilliant first-touch, only to put the ball wide in front of an open goal from six yards saw him sink his head into the ground in utter humiliation, and his confidence was at an all-time low.

If a goal is scored [against Atletico] I will not celebrate it. It couldn't be more special. Their fans know I was one of them. I spent 12 years of my life there.

- Fernando Torres

However, he received a red soon against Swansea after having scored a goal earlier in the match, and was suspended for three matches. Just when he tried to get things back on track, luck never favoured him. Upon returning from suspension, he suffered as he had lost all confidence in himself. And though he showed signs of brilliance, remarkably, he went goalless for 24 matches, which ended in late March 2012. Chelsea didn’t perform too well in the League, however, individual brilliance in Cup matches saw them lift the FA Cup as well as the Champions League, against all odds. In making 49 appearances, in the season, Torres scored just 9 times, completing another dismal season for him, even though it counted as a successful one for the club.

He has started the 2012-13 season brightly, and he looks far more confident after winning the Golden Boot for Spain in Euro 2012 with four goals to his name. He has already scored three goals in four matches for Chelsea. So come Friday night, it won’t be a surprise if he puts in a match-winning performance against the club he started his career with. However, despite all his trouble with Liverpool and Chelsea, he would fondly remember his time with Atletico and how he grew up into a footballer that he is now.

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