Questions were asked when Chelsea decided to invest £50m in Fernando Torres. Yes he was a proven goalscorer, but he looked on the decline. Injuries had hampered his latter years at Liverpool, where he appeared as if he had lost a yard of pace. At his best, Torres was unstoppable; just ask Nemanja Vidic who he frequently tormented. A striker who would roam around the pitch, play on the last defender or cut in from out wide, and score goals with aplomb. In his first season alone he scored 33 goals and quashed the adage of foreigners needing time to adjust to the Premier League. Yet this seemed a signing from the owner Roman Abramovich, akin to when he invested £30m for Andriy Shevchenko four years previously who also looked a shadow of the player he once was.
Averaging a goal every four and a half games since his transfer down south, Torres seemed to have the role as no.9 nailed on this season, aided with the departure of Didier Drogba and Romelu Lukaku’s loan to West Brom. The club have supported him continually and suspension has been the only obstacle preventing him being involved in every game. However being relegated to the bench for the must win clash in Turin against Juventus has fuelled the rumour-mill once more that The Blues will be back in for a forward come January. With Daniel Sturridge the only serious competition for his position (despite being more effective on the right), Torres seems to have another six weeks to convince he still has the quality to lead the frontline for the European Champions.
The demise of Torres coincided with his injuries and the burden of such an overbearing transfer fee. Pressure was immediately upon him and at times during his spell in London it has seemed he has tried too hard. Bereft of confidence in front of goal, Torres has almost become a defensive forward at times, putting in a shift but not providing the goals. His overall game is arguably as strong as it was when at Anfield, but once he gets in a shooting position he lacks that predatory instinct which made him so prolific. Belief in him waned towards the end of the last campaign and Drogba got the nod in the Champions League and FA Cup finals.
His spell at Chelsea has had brief moments of buoyancy, perfectly summarised with his winning goal in the Camp Nou last April which secured a place in the Champions League final. A hat-trick against QPR and this wonderful strike against Newcastle demonstrate he still has the capability, but just lacks the consistency. The support from the fans has helped to keep him positive, especially at times last season where he openly stated how dark times got “They lifted my spirits so many times. Not even my team-mates succeeded in doing that in this way. Whatever I do from now on will be for the fans. At times I was thinking ‘I will sit here on the bench, I won’t make any noise, I don’t even want to play.’ But they are demanding that you jump on the pitch and play.”
Come the end of the winter transfer window, you would expect Chelsea to have invested in a new striker. Radamel Falcao idealistically appears to be the man to replace Torres, but Edinson Cavani is another alternative; who impressed when he helped dismantle them in Europe last season. Falcao has been stupendous since he left River Plate for Europe, scoring 121 goals in three and a half seasons, and his treble in the European Super Cup in August against Chelsea only enhanced the desire for the English side to sign him. As for Torres, his career is at a crossroads. 2012/13 appeared to be the time where the Torres of old would return. A Golden Boot which helped Spain retain the European Championship, as well as the departure of the imperious Drogba enabled the perfect platform; however the Spaniard has not embarked on this challenge. With Abramovich famed for his short patience, a departure from Chelsea might come quicker than expected unless Torres can rediscover his shooting boots.