Despite the absolute masses of money pumped into the world of football and the player transfers that encompass it, there are still astronomical expectations on players who transfer to a club for a large transfer fee. When you are the biggest transfer in British club history, you can only begin to imagine the weight of expectation on you.
At one time belonging to a special crop of young European talents, Fernando Torres was soon one of the most accomplished and prolific strikers found anywhere in the world when he transferred from Liverpool to Chelsea in January 2011 for a whopping £50 million. He had already won a European Championship and was still fresh from staring at the 2010 World Cup, which he and Spain had also won. Composed and clinical in front of goal, his goal tally had catapulted an unfancied Liverpool side to the brink of Premier League glory in 2008/2009, only to be stopped by what has to be regarded as one of Manchester United’s greatest ever sides.
To summarise, this was a signing that absolutely reeked of ambition from Chelsea.
In a way, it was that ambition that put Torres at a disadvantage from the off. Unlike today’s market, £50 million for a player was virtually unheard of and had never been seen in the British Isles at that time. He might have been a household name and well respected for his feats, but the expectations for Torres were almost nonsensical with hindsight.
To this day, it’s hard to decipher whether Torres deserves to be called a ‘flop’ or not. Whilst his goalscoring exploits certainly came nowhere near the levels of his Liverpool days, and he certainly left Chelsea on the decline, I would argue that Torres showed more than enough of that renowned clinical coolness and chipped in with enough vital goals to defend himself from that label. We’re going to leave it up to you however. Here are Fernando Torres’ two biggest moments in a Chelsea shirt, and you can decide which one swings the pendulum with this divisive transfer.
Flopped: Manchester United 3 Chelsea 1 (September 11 2011)
An early battle between the two heavy hitters in the Premier League title race, this moment from Torres has lived on in infamy, and his so often the enduring image of the Spaniard and his time in West London. With the game swinging like Basketball game, Chelsea find themselves 3–1 down; however, United’s flimsy defence is exposed by a superb ball by Ramires as he finds Torres through on goal. Beautifully rounding the goalkeeper, what happens next is shocking to everyone who sees it. With a massive gaping goal in front of him, Torres blazes his shot high and wide of the net, triggering an absolute roar of hysterics from football fans all around the world.
Chelsea would lose the game 3–1, and Torres’ hope for a strong start to his first full season at Chelsea was down the drain. From that moment, Torres’ form and confidence had vanished, with thousands of fans dismissing him as a failure and a flop. In all honesty, a part of Torres was left out on that pitch that day because it never looked like he was ever going to reach the same levels he had done at Liverpool. It’s probably no coincidence that Chelsea’s entire league campaign that year fell quickly down the drain after that game, with the team slumping to a record low position at the time of 6th.
Success: Barcelona 2 Chelsea 2 (24 April 2012)
This was the defining miracle moment in Chelsea’s history. 1–0 up after their first leg fixture at Stamford Bridge, the West London team knew that they were about to take on the best team in the world in Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona at their most ruthless. A dogged, fearless and ultimately defensive display followed in front of 92,000 Catalans in the Camp Nou as Chelsea clung onto their aggregate lead.
Torres would come on midway through the second half and performed admirably, pitching in with the vital defensive duties mainly from the left wing. Ever the striker, Torres never lost that goalscoring instinct however and clung to the edge of the centre circle, waiting for his opportunity. A purposeful clearance from his defence sent him through on goal, a scenario that had haunted him ever since the Manchester United miss.
This time however, Torres had his clinical, big game mentality on and he masterfully rounded Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. With just an empty net now waiting for him, there was no missing this time as he cooly slotted the ball home and sent the entire country into celebration. On the biggest stage, in the biggest moment, Torres displayed the coolness he once made his name with and had sent Chelsea into their second, and latest, Champions League final.
In the words of one fan: “£50 million. Paid.”