By Shikharr Chandra
As the 30-man provisional squad for the World Cup was announced, even the most ardent Fernando Torres supporters would have been surprised to see the Chelsea striker named in that list. Torres though did make the cut but it is little secret that he won't be on the plane to Brazil as Vincent Del Bosque trims his list down to 23 in a few weeks time.
Such has been the demise of a man who once scored the goal that made Spain European Champions back in 2008 and kick-started their journey towards world domination. Although being a part of the Spanish side in every major tournament recently and being capped more than 100 times, Torres has failed to replicate the same kind of form that once rendered him as one of the most lethal strikers in European football.
He has won several individual accolades, particularly with regard to his goalscoring but strikes against teams like Tahiti and New Zealand or a depleted Italy in the European Championship finals hasn't enhanced his reputation.
Torres hasn't been himself for over three years now. A deal that struck a sense of optimism, eagerness and excitement within every Chelsea supporter back in 2011 has ultimately turned out to be their worst nightmare. Even more unsatisfactory than the likes of Mateja Kezman and Andriy Shevchenko leading the line for Chelsea since Roman Abramovich took over the club.
The Blues are no strangers to big money signings that turn out to be flops. The likes of Shaun Wright Phillips or the aforementioned strikers or Juan Sebastian Veron have all failed to showcase their abilities but what has been different about Torres, is that despite getting so much time, so much attention and so much support from the fans, it was all in vain.
It is easy to blame Chelsea for destroying Torres's career as many suggest but that has not been the case. After completing his record move of £50 million from Liverpool, Torres went on to score just once in 18 appearances that season, often finding himself overshadowed by club legend Didier Drogba.
Despite the hefty transfer fee, Torres failed to establish himself as the first choice striker and made fewer appearances than Drogba and the same number as Nicolas Anelka.
Many believe Torres never suited the kind of football Chelsea play. He never had a Steven Gerrard in his side that could pass him the ball from distance or one who could find those accurate through balls so that he could make his trademark run behind the defense.
Yes, that was true, as Chelsea's style of football was very different to the one Torres had been playing over the years but to put the blame entirely on the club is harsh. Given his world renowned reputation as a top striker, surely he should have been able to adapt to a greater extent than he has done.
You look at Torres in a Chelsea shirt and the sight of him standing with his hands up blaming everyone else sums up his stint. After his knee injury that he suffered back in 2010, Torres has not been the same player he was at Liverpool.
The injury has played a key role in the Spaniard losing his pace which was his biggest asset. That resulted in a massive loss of confidence, faith and most notably, that killer instinct in front of goal.
Torres has been given plenty of time and opportunities at Stamford Bridge. When Andre Villas-Boas took over, the Spaniard was his go-to man in attack. His tweak in formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 allowed Chelsea more fluidity in attack and which saw them create the exact same number of chances as Manchester United. Torres though still managed a grand total of seven league goals that season.
It's not that Torres has not tried or the fans gave up on him too easily. It's just that he hasn't done enough to ensure that he wouldn't be labelled a flop. The sight of Chelsea fans cheering his first goal against West Ham United, or when he scored a brace against Leicester City, or his key goal against Barcelona which sent them to the Champions League final are all examples of how they stood by him.
Even in days of adversity, when the striker would miss an open goal against Manchester United or would squander numerous chances in a game, the board, the manager and the rest of the club often stuck by him.
It's not only Torres who is to be blamed here. A deal that was completed just minutes before the January window was closed made no sense at all. The winter window is normally where teams often looked to add players they desperately needed.
It made no sense splashing out a huge sum on a player who at that time was not the club's priority and secondly not the kind of striker they needed. As a business model, Torres has been a success for the club.
He has managed to sell almost double the number of jerseys compared to the rest in the squad. He has a huge fan following and has often been the face of the club in various advertisements and promotional campaigns but that was not why he was brought in.
The club went to great lengths to help Torres find his form. When Drogba left the club, it was seen as an opportunity for the Spaniard to finally come out of the shadows. But even in the Ivorian's absence, Torres failed to establish himself. Chelsea took a major gamble by not signing a proven striker during that time, one they would eventually regret.
The board even decided to appoint Rafa Benitez at helm, the man who is credited for Torres's rise at Liverpool and whose sight hardly pleased the fans but even he could only manage a short revival of the Spaniard.
Benitez brought with him his trainers and physios, the same ones who worked with him and Torres at Liverpool. But nothing seemed to help. There were glimpses of Torres' old form but it didn't last long.
The club even went on to splash millions on the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Juan Mata and other attacking midfielders who could provide Torres with those passes he thrived upon during his time at Liverpool, but even that has not helped. Is there anything more the club can do now to make Torres successful?
He has cut a frustrated figure at times. You can see him arguing with the officials, a sight not commonly seen during his Anfield days or picking up silly bookings or fouling an opponent when there's absolutely no need. Torres's decision-making too has been on a downward spiral.
Despite being supported relentlessly by everyone at the club, Torres's recent actions haven't helped ease the pressure on him. Whereas the sight of him not celebrating his goal against Atletico Madrid was understandable, the same reaction after scoring the winner against Cardiff did not go down well with the fans.
He applauded only the Atletico Madrid fans section at Stamford Bridge when he came off and not the Chelsea crowd which led to further rage amongst the supporters of the club.
His interview just one day after the Champions League win for Chelsea back in 2012 was surprising, especially as he expressed his concerns over his future at the club when they were busy celebrating their most memorable European campaign.
"I have gone through some of the worst moments of my career and I am not planning on reliving them again anytime soon. I hope to clear the air soon about my future." While Torres could feel aggrieved, the fact is that he did little to secure a spot ahead of Drogba. This further showed how he could never connect himself truly with the club.
With recent reports suggesting that a deal for Diego Costa is almost done and with Inter Milan showing interest in Torres, it seems this might be Chelsea's best chance to finally cut their losses. For a player costing £50million and £185,000 in wages per week, Torres has been a failure at the club and it's time the board realizes that this experiment needs to end.
For Torres though, to give his career another chance he should look to move to a club where he can get some valuable game time.
Torres’s Chelsea story will always be in the shadows of a man whose banner still hangs at the Bridge and is loved by the supporters of the club. Sadly the Spaniard could never live upto the high expectations and the price tag he came with back in 2011.