By Richard Parry
It was one of the most bitter football divorces in recent memory - and Fernando Torres' departure from Liverpool in January still continues to cut deep on both sides of the divide.
Even this week, Torres reflected on his £50 million move to Chelsea with the air of a man who had jilted his wife for a younger lover: "I don't hold any grudges, they [Liverpool fans] will always be special to me," the Spaniard told Marca in an interview.
The twist for Torres is that he has already been replaced in Anfield affections by Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan livewire through which Kenny Dalglish's side's best moments always seem to have passed through since his arrival.
While it seems as though Liverpool have moved on to their new life with their new love, the Kop will never forget the whirlwind start to their romance with Torres. Still the sight of his first ever goal for the club, a classy burst and clinical finish against Chelsea just minutes into his home debut in 2007, quickens the pulse for Reds across the world as they reminisce wistfully on what might have been.
But those memories are being matched goal for goal, highlight for highlight, thrill for thrill by Suarez. The way in which the Uruguayan plays the game is undeniably eye-catching, and arguably at times for the wrong reasons, as Patrice Evra and Jack Rodwell might contend.
Suarez has made 27 appearances for Liverpool since his January move from Ajax, and a comparison with Torres' first 27 games for the club makes for incredibly similar reading:
||WIN RECORD WITH
|50% (six matches missed)
||WIN RECORD WITHOUT
||100% (one match missed)
On first examination, there’s not much to separate the pair. In terms of goals scored, Torres’ return of 17 is immensely impressive compared to Suarez’s 11. Both players were, after all, brought to Liverpool for relatively identical fees (Torres rumoured to be anywhere between €20 million and €30m, Suarez circa €25m) from foreign leagues.
By contrast, the Uruguayan has supplied seven assists since his move to Anfield. This outweighs the Spaniard’s tally of three, though that hints more at the style of player they are - Suarez frequently the provider, Torres the goalscorer (though perhaps infuriatingly for Liverpool fans, never in the same team).
Suarez, when eligible (he was cup tied for Liverpool’s Europa League campaign), has missed just one match for Dalglish’s side, the 1-0 victory at Stamford Bridge last season that marked Torres' debut for Chelsea. The former Ajax man take the field in all three of his side’s League Cup matches this season, in which he recorded three assists against Exeter City and Brighton alone.
|TORRES' 30 CHELSEA MATCHES
TEAM WIN RECORD WITH
TEAM WIN RECORD WITHOUT
(SEVEN MATCHES MISSED)
In terms of matches won, Suarez again tops the Spaniard with 15 victories to Torres’ 14. Liverpool were arguably a more settled side when Torres arrived, the star on top of Rafael Benitez's Christmas tree, while Suarez became the figurehead for the second coming of Dalglish to the Anfield hotseat.
The supporting cast for Suarez has been minus Steven Gerrard, who formed such a clinical partnership with Torres in arguably his finest period as captain of his hometown club. However, since Suarez arrived at Anfield, Gerrard has only been available for nine matches.
While it’s near impossible to assess how both would have fared had they arrived in the other’s circumstances, Torres’ form at Chelsea offers an interesting comparison.
Having left Liverpool, Torres has struggled to find the net. The arrival of Juan Mata at Stamford Bridge has improved the striker’s conversion rate – as well as encouraging him to become more creative.
Torres, Suarez and Liverpool will always have an intrinsically linked history. He may not hold a grudge, but Torres will be eager to prove he's moved on as well on Sunday, in every sense.
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