Fernando Torres and the thrill of a comeback

“Now, Fernando Torres, he's on a hat-trick, Fernando Torres! Five-nil Chelsea! And Fernando Torres exorcises some demons! A sensational week for Chelsea, a sensational week for their number nine! A hat-trick for Torres, delight for Abramovich, that is why they spent the money. Five-nil to Chelsea!”

This what what the commentator overseeing the Chelsea-QPR game at Stamford Bridge said when Fernando Torres scored his third against a woebegone Queens Park Rangers side who had been awful on their travels. Torres put three past Paddy Kenny as the home side walloped their visitors 6-1.

It's been a decent vein of form for Torres these last few months. He scored two against Leicester in the FA Cup, following that with one more in a 4-2 win against Aston Villa in the Premier League.

But the goal that will mean so much to him is the one at the Camp Nou against Barcelona. Completely against the run of play, Torres found himself free inside Barca's defensive third, and he jogged with the ball towards goal, rounded the onrushing Victor Valdes and stroked the ball home, meaning Chelsea had won the tie on aggregate.

Chelsea's Torres celebrates scoring during the English Premier League soccer match in London. Reuters

Chelsea's Torres celebrates scoring during the English Premier League soccer match in London. Reuters

It is a strike that will live long in the memory of the Spaniard. “The only chance we could have was on the counter-attack like this. One more goal against Barcelona. I have nice memories in this stadium, nice memories against them. But this one's more special than any one before because it helped us to go the final. I am very happy to be part of the game, to score the goal.

"To be in the Champions League final, obviously, is a dream come true for all the Chelsea players, for all the Chelsea supporters who come here and everyone watching the game at home. It's the second Champions League final for Chelsea. Everyone knows what happened in the past with the penalty shoot-out.

“So, I think Chelsea deserved a second chance and we have the chance now."

But as another commentator said during the QPR game, “Fernando Torres might be back.”

Note the emphasis on 'might.'

Fernando Torres left Liverpool for Chelsea on transfer deadline day for a fee of 50 million Pounds, which makes him the most expensive Spanish player in football history. Then Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson – who will soon leave current club West Bromwich Albion to manage the England national football team – said that 'El Nino' was not for sale. “He is not for sale and we won't welcome any offers for him. We want to keep him. That is what I know so other reports, I would suggest, are erroneous.”

Torres himself affirmed his commitment to Liverpool, saying, “My commitment and loyalty to the club and to the fans is the same as it was on the first day when I signed.”

If this was the case, why did Torres jump ship on the last day of the January transfer window?

Torres' goalscoring form for Liverpool during that half-season had been below his usual standards, with just nine goals in 26 appearances. This dip in goalscoring form had haunted him throughout the previous summer as well, at the World Cup with Spain. Having missed the last month or so of the Premier League due to injury, Torres' rehabilitation was closely monitored by national team coach Vincent del Bosque.

He was benched for the first group stage game against Switzerland, played seventy minutes against Honduras and fifty-five against Chile, all without scoring a goal. In contrast, his strike partner David Villa scored three in the group stages.

Against Portugal in the Round of 16, Villa scored again, while Torres was withdrawn after 58 minutes. It was a similar situation against Paraguay in the Quarters, where Torres played 56 minutes, and Villa scored the winner seven minutes from time.

In the Semi-finals and Finals of South Africa 2010, Torres was once again relegated to the bench as Pedro was preferred to him in attack against Germany and the Netherlands. Sure, Torres won the World Cup, but he contributed almost nothing to the Spanish forward line: a sharp contrast to his previous international tournament, where he scored the winner against Germany in the final to crown his nation Euro 2008 Champions.

On 27th January 2011, Chelsea made a 40 million bid for Torres, which was rebuffed by the Reds. Chelsea then added 10 million to their initial bid on transfer deadline day, by which time Torres had requested an official transfer.

Torres' début was at the Bridge against his former Club, and the Reds won 1-0 when Raul Meireles scored in the second half to give Liverpool all three points. Despite starting a total of eighteen games for Chelsea that season, Torres only scored once: the final goal against West Ham in a 3-0 win.

The Spaniard's goalscoring woes continued throughout the beginning of the 2011-12 season, but he finally found the back of the net in Chelsea's 3-1 loss at Old Trafford. He missed an open goal in the same game, for which he was barracked by Man United fans. But he did follow them up with two goals against Swansea (he was sent off soon after his brace) and two more in the home game against Genk in the UEFA Champions League. But his goal drought returned to haunt him once again, as he went 24 games without scoring, until he finally did score a brace in the 5-2 win against Leicester City.

Something very significant happened for the first time during that drought: Torres was dropped from the Spain squad to take on Venezuela. “Torres isn't doing well, and we've decided that in this case he won't come. It hurts me to leave him out but I cannot be unfair and hold back those who have been pushing to get in,” said Del Bosque after he announced his squad selection.

That move from Del Bosque shook Torres more than anything did in the year or so that has passed since he joined Chelsea. His work rate improved dramatically, and he added five more goals to his tally, taking him to nine goals since the 18th of March.

So the question at this point is, 'is Fernando Torres back?'

To be honest, he isn't back, but he's well on the way to being back.

Updated Date: May 05, 2012 13:37 PM

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