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Burnt-out Torres making Milan move way past his prime

Modern era Brazil legend Ronaldo was 30 when he joined AC Milan after winning major international honours and elite European club competitions elsewhere. He shot to fame as a teenager, and so did Fernando Torres.

Joining the Rossoneri on a two-year loan deal from Chelsea, the Spanish striker’s career resembles that of Ronaldo in several aspects. So much so soon, followed by big money moves to clubs that dined at Europe’s top table and it all took its toll on both their bodies.

That feeling of burnout, here wholeheartedly meant instead of being some business buzzword used by workaholics or hypochondriacs when they’re angling for an extended break, applies to Torres. His example is an archetype for the modern footballer to be wary of.

Between 2007 and 2011, Torres pretty much played football constantly for Liverpool, then Chelsea, and Spain during the summers, which are usually reserved for some form of rest, so the body can recuperate.

A lot is written about how much the modern footballer is paid and their price tags. Fans use their reported weekly pay packets as sticks to beat them with when they don’t score goals, keep clean sheets or fulfil whatever purpose they were signed for.

For all the luxury lifestyle and public figure accountability arguments, there is no arguing with the fact that footballers are people too. Who among us wouldn’t see our performances drop if we worked nonstop for four whole years?

Torres’ Stamford Bridge epitaph will read something like Roman Abramovich’s £50m folly. Andriy Shevchenko can thank the Spaniard for taking attention away from his own Blues eulogy, which reads £30m flop.

Stats do not lie, and a return of just 20 Premier League goals in 110 outings is a far cry from Torres’ Liverpool league form, which is close two netting twice for every three matches played. Performances in Europe in a Blues shirt were markedly better, though.

When Chelsea, then holders, dropped out of the Champions League after the end of the 2012/13 group stage, commitment could have been lacking. The Europa League is seen as something of a B competition in England, but Torres knuckled down and netted six times in nine games, including the final, to bring another European trophy back to west London.

This brief renaissance came under fellow Spaniard Rafa Benitez, who behaved with great dignity despite the slings and arrows sent at him from around the Bridge during his caretaker spell. Jose Mourinho’s subsequent Second Coming looked like spelling the end of Torres, as ‘the Special One’ bemoaned a lack of strikers last season.

Abramovich’s pet project follows Demba Ba (Besiktas) and Samuel Eto’o (Everton) out of the Blues, with now 36-year-old Didier Drogba deemed better backup to £32m man Diego Costa. That’s the Chelsea end of things taken care of, then, but what about Milan?

The Rossoneri have been in steady decline ever since they began to sell star names. Max Allegri, who somehow has become boss of Italian champions Juventus following his San Siro sacking in January, failed utterly in his task of replacing the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva.

Milan’s spine fell apart with no succession to the golden generation packed full of icons that finished when Allegri came in. His poor judgment was no better displayed than over treatment of Andrea Pirlo, who moved on to Juventus and continues to be the heartbeat of title-winning teams despite his advanced years.

Allegri is taking a real punt on Torres who, because of his early blooming at Atletico Madrid and Anfield, is way past his prime. Perhaps the slower pace of Serie A shall suit the Spaniard, where he is joined by compatriot and keeper Diego Lopez at the Rossoneri.

Under new coach Filippo Inzaghi, Milan are rated 20/1 chances with Coral to reverse the sensational slide that saw them fail to get into Europe for this season last term and scoop the Scudetto. This would be some story, and if it is to come to pass and confound the critics, then Torres will play a leading role in a last hurrah.