The wonder of Fernando: Ian Rush on the pretender to his crown
He's on the way to becoming one of the all-time Liverpool striking legends. But what makes Fernando Torres so great and how does he compare to the other brilliant forward to grace Anfield over the years?
As the Spaniard steps out against Wolves today, who better to ask about him than Ian Rush. Here Rush, Liverpool's record goal scorer who netted 346 times for the club, discusses all things Torres...
He's a good finisher. It doesn't matter if it's on his right or his left foot and he's also decent in the air. And, like all great strikers when he misses one, he's not afraid to get in that same position again. Mentally, that's what it's all about. I remember when I used to coach Michael Owen, he could have five chances and miss all of them but it didn't worry him because he knew another time he'd take them all. I had that myself. I wasn't worried about missing them because, if you're missing chances, you're still doing something right by being in the right place. Torres isn't scared to get chances and, if he misses them, it doesn't worry him. His finishing is quality but I think Robbie Fowler, for instance, was a more natural finisher. If you took his left foot and Owen's right foot, you would have the perfect finisher. But I think Torres has the potential to become that. He's only 23.
The thing that impressed me most about him when he arrived at the club was that he would not let anyone bully him. The time that stands out for me is when they played Chelsea. John Terry gave him a hard time. He booted him early on to say 'Welcome to the English game' but he handled it, overcame it and scored a fantastic goal. There was also a time at Reading in the FA Cup when he got clattered early on and scored three. In England, where it's the hardest and toughest league in the world to play in, that matters as much as your skill. All the greats have the same mentality. If someone tries to bully you, you stand up to them. They're kicking you because they don't want you on the pitch and, if you go off, that means the defender has won.
USING HIS HEAD
John Aldridge was very good in the air at the far post. Michael Owen was different and I wouldn't say I was a great header of the ball but, when it was needed, you put your head in there. Torres is not weak in the air at all. Look at how many flick-ons he wins. He has scored some fantastic goals with his head.
People ask if Torres is quick enough but look back again at that first goal against Chelsea. He stopped, had a burst of pace for 10 yards and Terry couldn't catch him. He's clever. He slows the game down and then goes past the defender. He doesn't look quick - it's very deceptive really - but he is very quick. He just glides. It's not like Thierry Henry or Owen, where you could see how fast they were. But just ask any defender.
He plays for the team and works hard. He has to in the team he's in. He's improved on that. He wasn't as good when he first came over but there have been times this season when the opposition keeper has rolled the ball out to the defender and Torres has chased him down. That's what I used to do too. That's been a big improvement in his game this year. He's still learning but he is going to get better.
He is very intelligent. He reads the game. When he plays alongside Steven Gerrard, they read the game brilliantly. Torres won't make a run for the sake of it. He'll do it when the time is right or he'll drop off. A lot of fast players are like headless chickens, getting offside the whole time. It's very annoying. Torres is a very good reader of the game. I wouldn't say he is the best because he is still improving. John Aldridge knew that, when John Barnes had the ball, everyone else would go to the near post and he would go to the back post. When I played with Kenny Dalglish, I wouldn't go offside because I knew Kenny would put the ball between the defender and the goalkeeper. It's all about partnerships. And the Gerrard and Torres partnership will keep getting better.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE FANS
I think the Kop have taken him into their hearts in the same way as some of the other greats. Liverpool have very intelligent supporters and they love him because they know the ability he's got and the work he puts in too. They've been looking for a striking hero ever since Robbie Fowler left the club. We hadn't had a proper striker since Robbie left. It helps Torres, too. He knows that they love him and he loves being there. When you look at what he says about his baby being born in Liverpool and becoming a fan, you can see he is beginning to understand what the club is all about. That's what the supporters like.
He'll keep getting better and grow in confidence. When I was 21 in the first team, I wasn't as good a player as I was at 25. Experience helps. He's only 23 years old and I reckon playing in the World Cup this summer will make him even better. When he comes back, we might see the best of him then. I don't think he'll leave if Liverpool don't make the Champions League. I think he wants to be a red through and through, like Gerrard. He likes the atmosphere at Liverpool and the fans are giving him that. The only possible reason for him leaving would be the finances. The games over Christmas are massive. If you don't win games like the Wolves one, it's not good enough. It makes all the other games even harder. You've got to be looking at three points.
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