On January 31st, 2011, Chelsea announced that they'd acquired Fernando Torres from Liverpool for a transfer fee of around £50M. It was the biggest move in club history and widely hailed as a major victory against a foundering Liverpool. Torres had been one of the best strikers in the Premier League and the spearhead of the best national team in the world, and now he was a £50M man.
Except he wasn't. £50M may have been what Chelsea paid Liverpool for Torres's transfer, but that amount of money comes nowhere close to describing his true cost to the Blues. As it turns out, football players get paid money to play football, and Torres was set to earn £180,000 a week or more at Stamford Bridge on a five and a half year contract. A £50M man? Hardly. Try £101,480,000.
Ignoring the half year because it makes the maths trivial, Torres is costing Chelsea about £20M a season. We've already paid him close to £10M in wages and are responsible for the entirety of the transfer fee, so that's £60M used up already, leaving £40M to go. That money does not get paid if he leaves the club - some other team has to assume the cost.
This is hugely important, because it means that if Malaga bid, say, £20M for Torres and he agrees to leave it's the equivalent of them offering us £60M in funds. With Financial Fair Play around the corner, Chelsea have to become self sufficient, and that's a huge chunk of cash - as a point of comparison that's significantly more than the worth of Juan Mata's entire contract.
I didn't support the transfer last January for a number of reasons. The first was a question of form. Torres's struggles are painted these days as a result of his move from Chelsea, but the truth is that he hasn't looked anything like his best for years now, perhaps as the result of too much work with Spain over the offseasons. That's a secondary concern compared to his price and age, however - paying huge money for a player in their prime means a) you're getting one contract for your transfer fee and b) they have to stay at an elite level in order not to disappoint.
Torres, as fond as some of us are for him as a player, was a downside-only move. The very best we could have done was break even, and it's pretty clear that that's not going to happen, or come close to happening. I was asked yesterday who I'd replace the striker with, and although I think it was expected that I'd answer with someone on the transfer market, my answer is Salomon Kalou, who has already replaced him as first-choice striker off the bench, and has a significantly higher scoring rate with the Blues than Torres could dream of touching.
The hypothetical about Torres leaving is just that - hypothetical - but if the team were presented with an offer like that they'd have to be mad not to take it immediately. Torres is not a critical part of the club anymore, and when the two arguments around keeping him revolve around pride* and blind hope that he gets better against all the evidence, we all have to recognise that keeping him around when we could be getting money for him is a complete waste.
*And frankly, that deal was embarrassing from the minute we signed it.
Torres is a likable enough player, and some of us are at least somewhat attached. However, he's a sunk cost and he's been a huge disappointment with the team, and any way we can be relieved of that particular burden would be a huge positive for the future of the club.
If someone comes in for Torres at anything above about £20M, failing to sell him would be pants-on-head-crazy.