Nou Camp goal could mark turning point for Torres
THE date is June 29 2008. The venue, Ernst Happel stadium, Vienna.
Clean through on goal Fernando Torres does what everyone in the stadium expects him to, dink the ball delicately passed Jens Lehman and into the net. As the Spaniard celebrates scoring the winning goal in the Euro 2008 final against Germany, his elated expression tells the story.
At 24 Torres had seemingly
fulfilled his early promise. In the eyes of many Spaniards he was the natural successor
to Raul – then widely considered the best player Spain had ever produced.
Fast forward three years and three months. The venue, Old Trafford.
Torres, once again clean through on goal rounds countryman David De Gea only to slip and fumble his shot wide of an open net from six yards. Again his expression tells the story, only this time it’s a rather different one.
Despite scoring earlier in that match, the headlines that followed predictably announced the demise of the once prolific forward.
“Fernando Torres' greatest days may be confined to memory” read the Guardian. “Torres is sinking into his own private hell…” screamed the Mail.
This, to add to his 1000 minute goalless streak after signing for Chelsea from Liverpool in January 2011, signalled a decline that arguably began at the 2010 World Cup, and from which there appeared to be no recovery.
Yet too often football is a sport with a short memory, in which immediacy is valued over patience and the old adage ‘you’re only as good as your last game’ reigns among the most oft-quoted clichés.
True, Torres’ scoring form for Chelsea has been inadequate for a finisher of his quality and must be classed as somewhat graver than a blip. But the more discerning Chelsea fans have remained patient, suspecting that at 28 Torres is far too young and talented for his career to peter out, and noting that his touch and awareness have remained virtually intact. Crucially, it appears this patience has been shared by caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo.
In Catalonia, those who remained
faithful were finally proven conclusively right. Ironically, Torres’s goal
against Barcelona, to seal Chelsea’s place in only the second Champions League
final of their history, was almost identical to the one he didn’t score against
As he dribbled the ball past Victor Valdes to face an open goal once more, Chelsea fans held their breath. Not until the entire ball had crossed all of the line did they exhale. “I was sure he’d miss,” tweeted one fan. “That’s what we paid £50 million for," wrote another.
A footballer’s career is judged in moments and, in spite of Torres’s diminished reputation in recent months, this goal will rank as one of his proudest. Perhaps significantly, it was scored in his home country in front of a Spanish audience, and against a club which boasts a number of leading Spain internationals. To remind them of his talents at this stage will have done his ambitions of playing a starring role at Euro 2012 this summer no harm.
Nevertheless, perspective is important. One goal alone is insufficient to justify the amount of money spent on Torres and there remains work to be done before Roman Abramovich can be satisfied with his purchase. In Spain Torres has long ago been overtaken by David Villa as the country’s leading striker, and he was recently omitted from the national squad altogether in favour of Athletic Bilbao’s teenage prodigy Iker Muniain.
But nearly four years on from the pinnacle moment of his career it doesn’t feel excessive to say that this goal could well mark the second coming of a man once ranked the planet’s most feared striker.
by Mischa Wilmers
THE iconic Racecourse Hotel will soon be another also-ran ... Read more
ONE hundred thousand Manchester United fans lined the city's stre ... Read more
WITH one half of Manchester left reeling from the news ... Read more
WITHINGTON residents are celebrating a ... Read more
HAZEL Blears has defended the Labour Party's refusal to ... Read more
ALTRINCHAM runner, Dave Norman has told how he beat frostbite ... Read more
A DOMINOES league has taken its ... Read more
CHIEF Constable of Greater Manchester Police Peter Fahy has suggested ... Read more
PROTESTORS gathered in Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester today t... Read more
FIGURES released last week show that long-term unemployment has increa ... Read more