If soccer fans had access to a time machine I’m willing to bet many of them would transport themselves back to 18 Sept. 2011, and the darkest footballing day of Fernando Torres’s life just so they could bear witness to the greatest miss in recent soccer history. Torres was put through clear on goal, bearing down on the inexperienced David de Gea, his touch to take the ball round the Manchester United keeper was one of proficient dexterity, all eyes in the ground were on him, Torres had the goal at his mercy.
Unfortunately, the net didn’t ripple. Instead, Torres fell to his knees with his hands clasped firmly to his head in an attempt to block out the cacophony of jeers being directed at him after he missed the open goal. The $50 million man was at his lowest ebb, ridiculed in most circles as an expensive flop and a waste of money and many, myself included, thought he was finished.
But Torres has fought back.
Torres scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season last night, more than Wayne Rooney and more than Demba Ba. The detractors never refer to Rooney or Ba as flops, possibly due to their inferior price tags, however, good goalscorers come at a price and before we denounce $50 million as excessive for a forward, we have to remember that Torres was at the height of his powers when he left Liverpool. The price was based on ability and record so although the cost was high, it seemed appropriate at the time for someone of his talent.
Torres has struggled at Chelsea, no doubt about it, but there have been signs recently that the Spanish marksman is beginning to thrive under Rafa Benitez. The cushioned first touch that terrified defenders is back, the movement reminiscent of a Bolshoi ballet dancer is beginning to return and the lethal finishing ability has made a timely re-appearance. Torres is playing now with soaring confidence that a top striker feeds on and having watched him recently put THAT miss behind him with a succession of stellar performances, I personally am not looking forward to him coming to Anfield on 21 April.
Torres’s recent upturn in form points to the rise of a sleeping giant who has faced down his demons and triumphed in the face of adversity.
El Matador is well and truly back and that is something the whole league should be wary of.
James Hilton is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @jameshilton1980, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google