Can Torres homecoming at Atletico bring about El Nino renaissance?
Geography and climate experts will tell you El Nino is a force of nature, but Fernando Torres has not been worthy of that nickname for some time.
Roman Abramovich’s £50m folly is about to cut his final ties with Chelsea, and become an AC Milan player for keeps. The Rossoneri, coached by Filippo Inzaghi who was a very different type of striker to Torres, are then set to loan him out immediately, and send the Spaniard back home to Atletico Madrid, 18/1 chances with Coral to win the Champions League this term.
This is clearly a move Torres is making in the hope of rediscovering the sensational, fearsome form he was in at the Vicente Calderon. It was those scoring exploits at Atletico that attracted Liverpool, where he was equally rampant and thus became a Kop idol.
While it is obvious Torres has lost the spring in his step (namely his pace) from his younger days, he is adored even more in Madrid. So often in the pervasive shadow cast from across the Spanish capital by the Bernabeu’s bright lights, Atletico have nonetheless had some awesome attackers up front this century.
But what Sergio Aguero, Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao and Diego Forlan, who like Torres have gone on to or previously ply their trade in the Premier League, lacked was a link to the fanbase.
‘He’s one of our own’ is a popular chant in English football stadiums around the country, and something similar in Spanish was undoubtedly screamed from the Vicente Calderon crowd every time Torres played on home turf in Madrid.
On Atletico’s books since the age of 11, Torres spent a dozen years with them man and boy. Once the team was back in La Liga, he always managed double figures for goals.
This image of a hometown, homegrown hero contrasts sharply with the player he became at Chelsea. Torres never reached 10 Premier League goals in a sesaon at Stamford Bridge. He has scored once for AC Milan since joining them.
And this drying up of El Nino is why the Rossoneri are doing a swap deal with Atletico, and getting former Torino winger Alessio Cerci in return. You could be forgiven for thinking Torres’ new parent club are getting the better of this deal, but there may be method in Diego Simeone’s madness.
There is no fountain of eternal youth awaiting Torres, who looked burned out following his international exploits with Spain during his time with Chelesa, in Madrid, but a Second Coming likely to be welcomed by overwhelming support will be a much-needed tonic.
Replica shirts should surely sell like hot cakes, and Torres can expect to be in the company of clever talent that know their craft. Atletico playmaker Koke provides the midfield guile, while Antoine Griezmann and Arda Turan are wide threats more than able to find the frontman.
Simeone must be careful not to ruffle the feathers of Croatia target man Mario Mandzukic, who was signed this past summer and has delivered an impressive return of 14 goals from 22 games across all competitions.
Torres’ return appears initially to be more about rediscovering himself than breathing down the necks of other Atletico forwards. Argentine attacker Angel Correa’s protracted move to the Vicente Calderon club is now complete, and this teenage talent needs a mentor if he is to blossom into another Aguero or Lionel Messi.
Milan will not miss Torres as Cerci is to go the other way, and Inzaghi’s clever conversion of Jeremy Menez into a striker. The San Siro side have a front three full of pace and trickery, with Rossoneri youth product Stephan El Shaarawy coming from the left.
Inzaghi has Keisuke Honda to come back from the Asian Cup, and Giampaolo Pazzini if he wants a more traditional centre forward to lead the line.
As for Chelsea, who seem nailed on to win a major trophy this term, the capture of Torres’ fellow Spain internationals Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas has left few wondering what is to become of the vanity purchase by wealthy Blues owner Abramovich. Here’s hoping El Nino rises again at Atletico.