The Spaniard finally ends his nightmare at Chelsea with a move to Milan but his fall from the epitome to rock-bottom is one of the most depressing stories in football...
Over the years, there have been numerous players who have failed to live up to expectations set by their new club and it's understandable. The surroundings are unfamiliar, the style may not suit them or it might just be the case of peaking too early. We all have an old souvenir that might be worthless for us, but we still keep it as a token of remembrance and dwell on past memories. Such was the case with Fernando Torres and his last three-and-a-half year stint at Chelsea.
It's hard to pin point who is to be blamed for Torres' demise. From one of the finest strikers in modern football, he went to being a laughing stock for fans all around the world. His open goal miss in pre-season was enjoyed by thousands of supporters sitting inside the stadium as he's become the center of all football related jokes.
Very rarely does a player earning £175,000 per week with the club move to another on a two season loan. Torres who has two years left on his Chelsea contract will see it out at AC Milan and then will be up for grabs on a free transfer. A player who three years back was worth £50 million and the most expensive British signing at that time, has now been discarded by Chelsea on a free transfer.
It's hard to believe that someone who at one point of time was destined to become one of the greatest Premier League strikers ever, went almost 900 minutes without a league goal few seasons later. When Torres first came to England, he soon went on to be the poster boy for Liverpool. His outstanding performance in the Reds' 4-0 win over Real Madrid in the Champions League highlighted just how lethal a striker he was, arguably the best in Europe at that time.
Ask Nemanja Vidic how it felt to play against Torres and the Serbian would only have bad memories. Torres's lethal pace, first touch and mesmerizing finishing made him one of the most complete strikers in modern football, sadly for us and football fans all over, the formidable Torres would last only for four seasons.
For Chelsea though, he was seen by many as the signing that would go on to define their Premier League season. Carlo Ancelotti's side were already deemed favourites with the signing of the Spaniard, whose first game with his new club ironically was against Liverpool.
The 40,000 odd supporters inside the stadium were hoping to be treated by their new multi-million signing, but instead they witnessed one of the worst debuts by a Chelsea player. The former Atletico Madrid striker was hit by a lighter, misplaced passes, elbowed by Daniel Agger, booed by the Reds' supporters and was eventually substituted. "He who betrays, always walks alone" read the banner from the Liverpool end.
Torres unfortunately never recovered from that start. There is always a risk involved with buying a half-fit player. While Liverpool were shrewd in selling the Spaniard after seeing his fitness issues, some blame has to be shared by Chelsea for investing that much money in a striker who was already underperforming after returning from injury.
"I'm 27, I don't forget how to score goals, I will score again." He did, but that first goal came after 11 games against West Ham United. The goal was met with huge cheers and chants of "Torres-Torres-Torres" on a wet night at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea fans would get to sing that chant again but this time after another 12 games. After 23 appearances for the Blues, 'Nando' had two goals to show for it.
Chelsea have made some poor signings over the years especially in the striking department but even Andriy Shevchenko had scored on six occasions by this time, Mateja Kezman too had a better record. Torres was lost in a team that did not follow Liverpool or Atletico's style and did not play to his strengths. Torres had lost confidence, he had lost some of that pace which made him such a lethal player and most importantly, he lost his finishing touch.
Obviously injuries did play a major role in his demise but the psychological impact of moving to London from Merseyside was another factor. When El Nino moved from Anfield to South London, he was staying in a hotel for more than a month, his family was still in Merseyside and he had no compatriot in the then Chelsea side he would have been familiar with.
Ancelotti struggled to fit him into the team with both Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka available as well. The Frenchman often played as a makeshift winger in order to accommodate the new recruit. Another major reason for Torres' failure was the admiration he received from the Liverpool support could never be reciprocated at Chelsea. He regularly spoke of the Merseyside club during his interviews and about the fans. Torres was a loved figure there and make no mistake Chelsea fans adored him, but there came a time when they just ran out of patience.
Ultimately, Torres seemed to have lost all hope of redeeming himself as well. Managers kept on changing, new signings were made in order to get the best out of him but nothing proved effective.
The next two years with Milan, could be defining for him. He may never be counted among the all-time great strikers now but a move to Italy and regular game time in a less competitive league could be everything Torres needs to resurrect his career even if he never reaches the heights he was destined to. That ship has sailed.
Torres could have been one of the best things to have happened to football. Instead his is a story primarily of decline and what could have been. Everyone wanted him to succeed when he went through such a hard time in his career but it wasn't to be. He won major honours but he was central to few of them. He might boast World Cup, Champions League, European Championships and Europa Cup titles but his career may only be remembered for his last three and a half years of turmoil.
Adios, Torres - Hope we catch a few glimpses of your old self at AC Milan.