A new star is born as golden boy Fernando Torres turns back clock
IT’S the second week of August and after kicking off the season with an away win, an expectant Kop waits with bated breath for the home debut of Liverpool’s big summer signing.
And they don’t have to wait long before falling in love with their newest hero.
After breaking the club’s transfer record to sign the striker, he repays the club in kind, by turning in an effort at the Anfield Road end – and a new star is born.
The year was 1977 and the player was Kenny Dalglish.
Now, fast forward 30 years and Fernando Torres will be hoping that his maiden strike will set him on the road to a similar career path as that of the club’s brightest star.
Fortunately for Dalglish his big day – when the Reds cruised past Newcastle United 2-0 – was not ruined by an inept match official.
But after the hangover’s clear across the city this morning and Liverpool fans start to think about the positives of yesterday’s Chelsea stalemate, one thing will override everything else.
The Reds have got themselves a goal poacher again.
The club’s long, proud history of world class marksmen has hit something of a dry patch in this decade, ever since Michael Owen left for Madrid.
But in Torres, Liverpool have definitely signed the kind of striker who knows where the back of the net is.
Hard working, full of energy and prepared to defend from the front as willingly as he is to run in behind defenders, it’s already clear to see exactly why Torres was awarded the captain’s armband when still only a teenager at former club Atletico Madrid.
The 23-year-old striker is quite obviously a leader and his performance against Chelsea – and at Villa Park last week – already suggest enough to argue that he is going to be a huge success at Anfield.
His first touch is excellent , turn of pace sublime and finishing clearly top draw.
How many players can you remember that have been rewarded with their own Kop song inside 45 minutes?
And being lauded with a variation of Robbie Fowler’s old clap-chant too. High praise indeed.
Naturally his boss was slightly more cautious in his praise.
After seething over the performance of referee Rob Styles, Rafa Benitez cleared his head enough to say: “It was a good strike from Torres and a very positive start for him.
“He has good pace and showed real quality but it is also good for the supporters.
“It’s too early to judge Fernando just yet, but today he played against one of the best defenders in England and you can see he had no problems adjusting to the style of football.
“There is much more to come from him.”
Of course, he has got a million miles to go before he should even be listed alongside Kop idols Dalglish and Fowler, but Torres has definitely got the tools to become the latest Red Baron.
His goal yesterday, slid perfectly around Petr Cech and inside the far post after he ghosted past Tal Ben Haim, was actually more like Own in his youthful pomp than either of the previous two Reds legends.
Torres’ pace allowed him the opportunity while his finishing skills gave him the time to shift his body over the ball, open up his frame and tempt Cech to go to ground before finally side-footing it across goal.
It was a natural goalscorer at his productive best – and the Anfield crowd lapped it up.
At Atletico his goalscoring record was hardly the stuff of legend.
His 82 strikes in 214 appearances may only have been topped by Samuel Eto’o at Barcelona over the last five seasons, but it hardly compares with pre-Anfield Dalglish’s 167 in 204 starts at Glasgow Celtic.
But in his home city Torres was landed with a much greater role than simply putting the ball in the back of the net.
He was more of a creative support striker than a goal-poacher.
But it is quite clear that Benitez has a much more productive role for his latest Spanish protege, and he’ll be hoping that yesterday’s virgin strike will be the first of many this season and beyond.
The King may be long gone, but has the Spanish Prince just arrived?
Copyright - Liverpool Echo