Saturday, August 30, 2014

Revolution No.9

I'll admit it. I was wrong. Pretty wrong, actually. When I wrote, in January 2011 (Shut that window, mother, it's freezing out), that Chelsea's £50 million acquisition of Fernando Torres "represented good business", I couldn't have predicted as poor a return on the investment as just 46 goals out of 172 appearances. No excuse from club, player and fan alike can mask the fact that the player simply hasn't delivered on what his £175,000-a-week contract prescribed.

Picture: @Torres/Twitter
As Torres commences his two-year "loan" spell at Milan (i.e. the remainder of his Chelsea contract), it's hard to really equate who the actual winner is. Certainly not the club that shelled out a league record fee for the player, evidently on yet another whim of the club's owner, who'd seen Torres put two past Chelsea for Liverpool in the November and on that evidence decided to buy him two months later.

Though hardly an impulse purchase, it was a foolhardy rush of blood to the wallet that can be implicated in the sackings of Carlo Ancelotti, André Villas-Boas and Roberto di Matteo, who failed to wring any noticeable goal-scoring out of the centre forward. Not even Torres' former Liverpool boss, Rafa Benitez, was able to coax the player's once mercurial marksmanship out of him and that, presumably, was all Chelsea had brought him in to do.

In all honesty, the blame for Torres should probably be spread evenly. If the player wasn't up for it, he shouldn't have made the move to London only to spend the next three years moping about. And if the player wasn't right, why did the club go through the due-diligence - including a medical - only discovering after making Torres their staggeringly record signing that he lacked the mental fortitude to deliver?

This might sound harsh, but at an instant, we've seen the difference in Diego Costa. His goals so far - even his attempts on goal - have been swiftly considered and decidedly taken. No last-minute crises-of-confidence and a wasted flick to an advancing teammate. No. Ball at his feet and bam! It took Costa just 17 minutes before scoring his first competitive goal for Chelsea. And Torres?

Picture: @milanello/Twitter
The Spaniard's move to Italy, where sometimes mediocrity can be easily camouflaged by the aura of Serie A, will probably take off him whatever burden was preventing him from shining at Chelsea.

That said, Torres' body language on arriving for his medical at La Madonnina clinic didn't look any different to that with which he has lurched around for Chelsea, resembling a teenage girl who has been barred from going out on a Monday night.

As footballers are prone to do, he's at least talking a good game at the start of his career with the rossoneri. "I can't wait to start the new season," he said this morning at Milan's Linate airport, adding, pointedly, "I have already spoken with coach Inzaghi - he understands what it is to be a striker."

Being the master of political doublespeak that he is, José Mourinho has remained remarkably conciliatory towards Torres' departure (as he was towards Romelu Lukaku's).

"So if he wants to leave", Mourinho said this week, "I believe that [it] is to try to be happier than he was in the last couple of years." That is the first tacit admission by anyone at Chelsea that Torres was anything less than happy, which draws some doubt on Mourinho's following statement: "This is a very human club in the way the club approaches this kind of situation," he said prior to the Milan move becoming public.

From a fan's point of view, Stamford Bridge has been a very compassionate place when it comes to Torres. We have wanted nothing but for him to do well, willing him on in the final third, feeling his frustration when his runs have come to nothing, cheering in encouragement at the mere sight of him warming up on the touchline. Like the club, we have even been prepared to see the likes of Sturridge and Lukaku move on in frustration in the hope that Torres might come good.

It would be wrong to blame the Torres experience solely on the folly of Abramovich's millions. Go back in the history of any club and there will be expensive mistakes. Chelsea certainly made plenty of them long before the Russian came along (Chris Sutton anyone?). But the magnitude of the mistake - this time was in a different class - £50 million in fee and roughly a further £33 million in wages.

For Chelsea, sadly, the only net benefit from the Torres experience is that it should provide the club with an expensive reminder of how what glitters isn't always gold.

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