Upon hearing the unthinkable news that Fernando Torres desired to leave Liverpool and go to one of their Premier League rivals, Chelsea, the one and only question running through my mind was: Why? While clubs have made their admiration for Torres obvious over the three plus years he’s excelled at Liverpool, there was never any indication the forward ever wanted to leave. He’s made statements in the press professing his love for Liverpool Football Club, and his most important statement has always been on the pitch where he’s been prolific as a goal scorer. Despite a recent drop in form, which most believe had more to do with his lack of respect for former manager Roy Hodgson, Torres has been given a new lease of life under Kenny Dalglish and has looked the player we all knew he was. So why leave now? With new owners already showing they mean business, a new manager whom the Spaniard respects, and a clear indication that the club’s ambitions are to get back to the top with the additions of Luis Suarez, Damien Comolli, and Steve Clarke, then his desire to leave only seems more bizarre at this moment in time.
It’s very difficult to know where to begin, primarily because it’s a strange feeling to be hurt by a football player. This person doesn’t know me, and I don’t know them, but somehow we’ve cultivated a relationship together that is hard to explain. This is the case with Liverpool’s (or perhaps soon to be Chelsea’s) Fernando Torres. He’s a player that has produced moments of magic over the years. He endeared himself to the fans almost immediately upon his arrival, and he’s never failed to set Anfield alight on more than one occasion. And the fans love him for it.
In this way, the relationship between the fans and their football club can be compared to a marriage. When a player signs a contract, they are committing to the team, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. If the team does poorly, the player doesn’t jump ship, and the opposite is true (not always, but more often than not, especially at Liverpool). What hurts is that through all Torres’ injuries and bouts of low confidence, the club and its fans have stuck by his side, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health. We’ve watched as he’s had recurring knee and hamstring injuries leaving him out of the side for weeks and months at a time. Did the fans demand that he be sold? Did they turn their back on him after all he had done for them? Never. And yet with this transfer request, Torres has blatantly treated the fans with such a lack of respect for all their support through the years. He’s basically put two fingers up to the Kop, the ferocious fan base that has sung his name hundreds of times, in favor of a move to another team.
Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand a player’s desire to move on at some point. There’s nothing that says, no matter what, a player has to or will want to stay at one club for most of his career. I believe that if Torres had made the decision to complete the season, playing his best for the club and the club ended the season relatively well, he might still feel the same way he does now. If that was the case, the fans and club would be disappointed to lose him, but it would make more sense to move on when the club has adequate time to utilize the enormous amount of money from his transfer to buy two or three replacements. £40-£50 million is great, but only when given the time to use it. This is the issue I think some people, fans and media alike, are missing. It’s not about the money, but the timing of Torres wanting to leave.
Sadly, Torres’ sudden change of heart to leave the club that made him the world-class player he is may not have been as sudden as it seems. Jason Burt at the Telegraph reported after the news broke that Abramovich had flown to South Africa during the World Cup specifically to have a word in Torres’ ear about a potential move to Stamford Bridge. And while Torres remained loyal, stating numerous times in the summer, and as recently as January 9th that his desire was to stay with Liverpool and honor his contract, Abramovich continued his pursuit. Apparently, Ancelotti is not convinced about signing Torres, but of course, what Abramovich wants, Abramovich gets (Shevchenko anyone?). Supposedly the Russian has promised Torres shelves of silverware, but what makes Torres think this is possible?
Once again, here come the questions. Despite still being contenders for the Champions League this season, Chelsea are a team perhaps more in decline than Liverpool are at this current time. Their squad is seriously aging and most point to this as a direct reason for their slide down the table this season. With Terry, 30, Lampard, 32, Ashley Cole, 30, Anelka, 31, Drogba, 32, Malouda, 30, and Petr Cech becoming a shadow of his former self, this team needs a massive rebuild and it may take a couple years before they start seriously challenging for trophies again, especially with the Financial Fair Play rules coming into effect after this transfer window. No longer can the Russian oligarch throw his checkbook around without abandon. They will have to be shrewd, and may not get everyone they want anymore.
So why join a team that is aging and in need of many replacements, while also not looking to challenge for any honors this season? I honestly can’t believe that Torres thinks they can win the Champions League. This apparently is said to be the reason he wants to leave in January, rather than the summer. If that’s the case, then he must be more disillusioned than when Liverpool fans were told Roy Hodgson would improve Liverpool Football Club.
The feelings of fear, followed closely by hurt, disappointment, and sadness are what has engulfed Liverpool fans in the past 24 hours. January 28th was supposed to be the day that the team celebrated the signing of Luis Suarez, an extremely promising young goal scorer who’s potential partnership with Torres was mouth watering. Instead, it turned into one of the most disheartening and dispiriting days in the club’s history. This isn’t about a player wanting to leave; it’s about the player picking the absolute worst time to do it. That, coupled with the fact that only three weeks earlier, he once again stated his commitment to the club only makes the situation so much more unbelievable.
Players leaving for other clubs have become as much a part of modern football as billionaires buying titles. But what was so hurtful about Fernando Torres was the way in which he made it clear he wanted to go. Why leave mid-season when you know the club needs you? Why leave for one of our biggest rivals? Why go to a team that looks like it’s on its way down in the mid to long term rather than up? Why break the hearts of the fans that have stood by your side through all the highs and lows of the last three years? Liverpool fans know that when a player comes to Liverpool it’s because they want to play for the club, and love to do it. Liverpool, no matter its current station, is a special place and special players will be deified. As fans, we always felt the love was mutual.
No matter what happens now, Fernando Torres has rather foolishly broken the unique bond he built with Liverpool. The situation may change and Torres may stay a Liverpool player, and the fans may yet come around in some time if that happens, á la Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. But it’s not looking good. Nothing about his character ever suggested he would leave in this manner. It’s a sad day for Liverpool Football Club. Not because they might be losing one of their best players, but because that player decided to leave at the worst time, in the worst circumstances, and for all the wrong reasons. Liverpool was willing to love you through thick and thin, it’s a shame you didn’t feel the same.