Putting two goals past Ireland and scoring his third against a well-beaten 10 men before clinching the Golden Boot thanks to not getting picked - the continent's conqueror risesBy George Ankers
Honey, I’m home!
Welcome back, Fernando Torres. We missed you. It doesn’t matter that the slow race for the Euro 2012 Golden Boot practically went down to a six-way rock-paper-scissors tiebreaker as a continent’s strikeforce tripped over itself in trying not to win it. You’re the king of Europe once again.
Sorry. Rock-paper-scissors is a deeply unfair comparison. Torres clinched the prestigious prize not through random guesswork.
He set it up by scoring twice against Ireland – joining the likes of Jason Koumas in the pantheon of football luminaries – and once late on against a depleted, demoralised Italy who had already been staring dumbfounded with their tongues lolling out of their mouths for 30 minutes, and he clinched it by virtue of his coach being unwilling to play him very much. There could be no more fitting way to crown the continent’s greatest centre forward.
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GAMES AS SUBSTITUTE
For Torres’ true power, we must now appreciate, is in what he doesn’t do as much as what he does. He doesn’t terrorise defences anymore; he doesn’t need to. He doesn’t start the big games anymore; he doesn’t need to. He doesn’t inspire reverent awe with the mere mention of his name anymore; he doesn’t need to.
Now he asks defenders politely if they would mind letting him through. Mostly they say no; just frequently enough, they say yes. Now he occupies 20-minute cameo slots at the end of games; enough, appropriately, for an episode of a sitcom and no more. Now his name lulls opponents into a false sense of security.
It. Is. Enough. Torres does all of this and no more; it brings big, shiny trophies and personal accolades. God help us all if he turned up the volume.
We know that there is more to come; quite aside from his scintillating years at Liverpool, he treats us just occasionally enough to a glimpse of the exceptional, just to prove that it is still there. Witness, if you will, the 90th-minute 50-yard solo run to eliminate Barcelona from the Champions League in Camp Nou. A truly special moment.
The Chelsea man has mastered the art of self-control. By drip-feeding us brilliance in the perfect ratio, he can load up his swag bag with trophies while still inspiring complacency in opposing back lines.
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Who else could possibly challenge him for the title of best striker in Europe? On the evidence of this tournament, nobody. Not Robin van Persie, who proved as threatening as a duck with a slingshot. Not Mario Gomez, who forgot how to play as soon as things got serious. Not Aleksandr Kerzhakov, who took his Torres tribute act far too far.
Alright, maybe Nicklas Bendtner. But ask again in two years about that one.
But this is Torres’ time. Suddenly £50 million (€62m) looks a bargain for the world’s most effective lucky charm. Attention chairmen: Here is a legacy for hire. No price would be too big. This is a forward clearly bound by destiny to win it all no matter what.
His success defies logic. Those who backed him this summer did so out of hope or contrariness rather than expectation. But you could never bet against him again now. Fernando Torres is better than logic. Fernando Torres is better than everyone.
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