Fernando Torres: Can Jose Mourinho Finally Get The Best Out Of Him?
As doubts remain over the long-term future of Fernando Torres, Tom Gatehouse assesses whether or not the troubled Spaniard can still make the grade at Chelsea
With Jose Mourinho making the return to Stamford Bridge this summer, writer Tom Gatehouse looks at whether the Portuguese boss is the man to get the best out of beleaguered striker Fernando Torres.
Ever since his grand arrival at Stamford Bridge, now two and a half years ago, Fernando Torres’ tales of woe have flooded the public domain. Despite a decent showing in last season’s Europa League, there is no real end in sight to the misery for the Spaniard; and with almost every one of his heavy touches greeted by yet more bile and derision, Torres would surely not be blamed if he wanted to call time on his Chelsea career, chalk it up as a life-experience, and pack his bags for pastures new.
But recently, amidst the venomous assessments googled every day by the masses, we can find words from the Spaniard assuring loyalty to the club, and of critical self-evaluation,
“I am the first to admit that a lot more was expected of me, even I expected more of myself. Now I have the added pressure of Mourinho and that’s a challenge for any player,” [source: Telegraph]
“Chelsea is the club I’m at and where I want to be, I want to keep winning trophies there”
Torres, a man blighted by almost inane bad-luck and perennial misjudgment, has worked under the stewardship of four different managers during his time at the club, and none have managed to get the ‘old Torres’ soaring again.
Considered the best striker in the Premier League during his time at Liverpool, and coming in at number three in the 2008 FIFA World Player of the Year, his recent history has been well documented; his fall from grace, his severe lack of confidence, the ‘Brittney-esque’ head-shave, and ‘that’ open goal miss (to name a few).
Even when he scored four goals in this year’s Confederations Cup game against Tahiti (yes, the ‘mighty’ Tahiti), the fact that he missed a penalty too was clearly pointed out, and his previous endeavors were largely lost, as the ‘Tragic Torres’ machine cranked up once more.
Yet another Golden Boot secured at the same tournament has served only to highlight his lack of influence in competitions of real note.
But while he may have been a malevolent journalist’s dream these past few years, he is still fighting; fighting to regain his form of old, fighting to restore the respect he earned before his big-money move, and fighting to ultimately justify his very existence as a top-class footballer, in the eyes of many.
Jose Mourinho addressed the subject of the Spaniard this week, highlighting both the striker’s flaws, and existing potential at the club,
“When we see Torres with his back to goal, surrounded by two or three opponents, we know that he is not going to produce a piece of magic.
“We want the team not to learn how to play with him, but to improve how to play with him. He is working very hard in training, we are happy with him.
“His game is impossible to remodel. But we want to adapt the team and teach the team how to use his best qualities.
“He is not a kid any more, he is at an age where it is difficult to change his play. He is what he is and he is very good with the qualities he’s got. So we need to learn and support his game.” [source: Independent]
An honest assessment from the master of man-management; Mourinho has laid out the striker as a blueprint, viewing the player at his core. The Portuguese understands that here is a man almost set in his ways; there is no real room for a potent remodeling, or the possibility of the player assimilating new, radical styles.
While not all encompassing, the saying, ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ can be applied to the 29-year-old. There are many players who are able to adapt and warp their existing talents, taking on new roles, and honing new abilities, as age sets in, and new generations take over.
Just look at Ryan Giggs; the once flying winger, a role-model of Gareth Bale, has now fully adapted to the role of patient, central midfield operator, relying on his footballing brain and vision to continue to bring something to the Old Trafford medley.
Fernando Torres, inherently, does not have that same malleable makeup. He is truly a break-away player, thriving on counter-attacks, and playing on the shoulder of the last defender.
But while his link-up play can be excellent, and his personal box-of-tricks are not as dusty as some would make out, it has been abundantly clear that he is unable to alter his game enough to really make a genuine impact at Chelsea.
Too often has the team struggled to incorporate the £50m man into games with the focus not on providing the killer balls that Torres thrives on. For the Spaniard to be reinvigorated, he will need the help of his teammates. The body-language of some suggests that they have already lost faith in the striker, which is where Mourinho’s famed man-management qualities will be tested.
With the arrival of Mourinho back at the Bridge, we can see this as the last-chance-saloon for Fernando Torres. The striker has consistently stuttered on the pitch over the last few years, and it is now time to stand up and be counted, as will be the case for every player at Chelsea.
John Terry, ‘Captain Fantastic’ at the club, has been told that his place in the side cannot be guaranteed; and Frank Lampard, having signed a new, one-year contract after a protracted saga, will be used sparingly, according to the new Portuguese boss.
If genuine club legends like the aforementioned duo are not afforded special treatment, then Torres cannot expect an easy ride.
But for all his woes, Chelsea fans will continue to will the man to succeed. This will surely continue, through rain or shine, right up until Torres’ judgement day, which, if the striker continues to disappoint, may come soon rather than later.
Will Torres make the grade at Chelsea next season, or has this dog had its day? Get involved in the comments below!
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