Fernando Torres actions so painful for Liverpool FC fans
ANY object that bounces must, having reached the heights, inevitably come tumbling back down to earth.
And as Liverpool supporters are discovering, the greater the pinnacle, the more painful the landing.
The spring has most definitely left the step of the Anfield faithful after the man who put the “bounce” into the Kop declared he wants to join Chelsea.
Few players have been granted the adoration and affection bestowed upon Fernando Torres since his club record £21m arrival back in the summer of 2007.
Besides the obvious lure of his undoubted talent and remarkable goalscoring ability, Torres had embraced the entire Anfield ethos and culture.
For a foreigner to have been seduced by the tradition, romanticism and history was reassurance the club, despite being overshadowed in recent times, retains major pulling power beyond these shores. Torres was held up as a reason why Liverpool still matter.
And now this.
Nobody can blame Torres for wanting to leave. Approaching his 27th birthday, the Spaniard is at the peak of his considerable powers and must consider the next stage of a career that, despite international honours, has yet to produce any significant silverware at club level.
Liverpool couldn’t even provide Champions League football this season, and are almost certain to fall short again for next campaign.
But what sticks in the craw the disbelieving fans is the manner of the striker’s desire to leave and his preferred destination.
Having, like the supporters, quite rightly grown disillusioned at the lack of investment in the squad and the ongoing boardroom uncertainty, Torres had to be talked out of leaving last summer.
Despite the club changing hands with Fenway Sports Group’s £300m takeover, the Spaniard believes promises made by then-managing director Christian Purslow have nevertheless failed to materialise.
Indeed, too many of his performances under Roy Hodgson suggested he would rather have been elsewhere – one notable exception, in hindsight, coming with his two goals in the Anfield win over Chelsea – and while there has been a notable improvement since Kenny Dalglish assumed the reins, it appears that appointment, and the signing of Luis Suarez, has come too late to change the striker’s mind.
By choosing on Friday to hand in a written transfer request, Torres has given the club little time to find a replacement during a notoriously difficult January window.
Were the striker Barcelona-bound, Liverpool fans would be far less hostile. But that the forward is determined to push through a move to one of the club’s most bitter rivals, one that represents so much of what his current employers do not, is all the more puzzling given Chelsea too are in a period of transition and rebuilding.
It’s that enmity between the two vastly-conflicting establishments that makes this situation far, far different from the ones in which Cesc Fabregas, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez became embroiled earlier this season.
Fabregas wanted to join his boyhood club Barcelona, Rooney’s displeasure was more agent manoeuvrings than anything else while Tevez has rarely built serious ties with any club throughout a nomadic career.
All have so far stayed put. Torres, though, appears determined not to.
The potential loss of one of his squad’s three world class players is not the kind of publicity principal owner John Henry would have sought barely three months into his tenure.
While Liverpool are adamant the player won’t be sold today, Anfield officials must face up to the fact they either cash in on Torres now or keep an unhappy player who could activate a clause in his contract in the summer and leave should Chelsea, or indeed anyone, cough up the stated £50m.
In the short term, manager Dalglish would be left with David Ngog as his sole senior striker for the Europa League given Suarez has played for Ajax already in this season’s competition.
The longer term ramifications, though, would be that, in the eyes of many, Liverpool would become a selling club, albeit one bolstered by a substantial windfall that would be spent under the guidance of director of football strategy Damien Comolli.
Of course, better players than Torres have left Liverpool – Kevin Keegan and Ian Rush come instantly to mind – and while no one man is bigger than the club, the Spaniard embodies the Anfield ideal more than most at present.
So the decline of Liverpool from title challengers to pressing their face up against the glass of the top four is now almost complete, the club still paying the price of the mismanagement of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett whose capture of Torres was the exception rather than the rule of their deceitful chairmanship.
Less than 22 months ago, as they battled with Manchester United for Premier League supremacy, the Anfield outfit thumped Blackburn Rovers 4-0 at home to move within a point of the leaders.
Since then, Alvaro Arbeloa, Albert Riera, Yossi Benayoun, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano have all left, Emiliano Insua has been shipped out on loan and manager Rafael Benitez replaced.
Should Torres also exit, fears will increase that compatriot Pepe Reina could follow suit. And, let’s face it, no team could expect to compete given such a drain of talent.
And Liverpool haven’t been competing.
Suarez must wonder what on earth is going on. Mere hours after Liverpool and Ajax finally thrashed out a fee that could eventually see the Uruguayan become Anfield’s most expensive player, the forward saw the welcome mat of forging a partnership with Torres seemingly swept from under his feet.
But instead of being given space to settle, the 24-year-old may now found himself filling the sizeable breach left by his anticipated team-mate.
Who knows, there may be a change a heart. Torres may recall the plastic flags that plague Stamford Bridge, give his head a wobble and decide to stay. But it’s highly unlikely.
Torres isn’t stupid. He knows the ramifications of this decision, and it has clearly been eating away at him for some time that he would have to leave to succeed.
But even if the striker does fail to push through a transfer today, his relationship with Liverpool supporters will never be the same.
For Torres and the Kop, the love affair is now over.
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