Amidst all the hate I've seen for Torres since Mourinho's comments that he is in the plans for next season, I felt a requirement to play devil's advocate and put forward the other side of the argument.
I must say, that before he arrived in the Premier League, Fernando Torres was my boyhood hero. He was 19 years old, captain of Atleti, and was already showing himself to be in the ilk of the greats, not only scoring goals, but leading his team. Whilst playing as a winger myself, I dreamed of eventually emulating Torres.
Then he signed for Liverpool, and it went downhill. I was caught in the standard dilemma of wanting my favourite player to score, and the team I hate lose. So my obvious ideal scenario would be a hattrick for Torres in a 4-3 Liverpool loss. Until of course, that fateful day came when he signed for us for a petty 50 million...
Since then his scoring stats have been below par, his assists have been average and his leadership skills about as high as you might expect from a man who at times does resemble a sulking child.
However, sometimes you need to delve deeper to understand worth.
Looking at the very surface, Torres' contribution this season is quite simple.
In all competitions, 28 Starts, 24 Subs (52 Total Appearances) - 16 Goals - 8 Assists.
This makes a Direct Goal-Contribution : game ratio of 0.462. Or approx. a contribution in every other game.
Compare this with last season, 51 Starts, 12 Subs (63 Total Appearances) - 23 goals - 7 Assists.
Direct-Goal Contribution : Game ratio, 0.476.
(stats from ESPN)
Ok, so let's be honest, he hasn't made my job here particularly easy, but if we apply some simple logic, he has shown improvement. Over the course of the last two seasons, his contribution rate has stayed consistent (and relatively poor for a 50m striker), however, his number of starts has decreased, having an almost balanced number of starts to substitute appearances, and herein lies my thoughts. Given this, his contribution rate has only logically improved with regards to a per minute ratio, I could not find any stats from reliable sources regarding mins played in the season, but the logical naturally is consistent.
Therefore we can indicate that perhaps his contribution rate has improved this season, and this I believe has partly come from his willingness to try himself a bit more, however more vitally I think it tells an interesting tale.
If we consider the player we saw last season to the one we've been watching towards the back-end of this one, there is one clear distinction. Dribble fever.
Torres, apparently, has learnt to run at defenders. His link up play looks improved, and his ability to try and run has too, a quality that doesn't necessarily need a turn of pace, something particularly of note as he's gaining this ability in conjunction with his rapid loss of wheels.
So what then, does this have to do with Mourinho's recent comments regarding Torres being present for yet another potentially tedious year. Well, it all depends on who we have at our disposal, but let's look at the possible concept:
Our First Choice Striker - World Class. That's the number one intention. Someone to truly lead the line. Starts every game he's available, the combination of good link up play, good intelligent running and deadly finishing. My preference is Costa, though we'll see.
Second Choice Striker - Presumably Lukaku. Big, very big, very very big. Quick, and able to bully defences, he would be my personal worst nightmare to see coming on to the pitch after 70 minutes, someone who can just as easily choose to knock you down or sprint around you, he makes a deadly impact sub.
Then there's Torres - Torrid torrential Torres. If we look at the changes he's been making lately, and consider him our third choice striker, would you really complain? Let's ignore for a second his wages and original price tag, and consider the qualities he offers as a third choice. He essentially will be brought on to operate as something in between a striker and a false nine. Link up play, and some occasionally reckless looking, but nonetheless direct, dribbling, as well as some pretty ok work ethic in defence. If someone had offered me this player as a third choice striker I'd say sign him up.
Thus we see only one issue left, his cost. Well, let's look at it from a financial side too then shall we? His transfer fee has been amortized over the length of contract. Now, with his wages and level of talent, it is quite clear no sane man, nor any Inter Milan owner, will be paying both his full wage and a transfer fee. And equally we can presume he isn't taking a paycut, because he has no reason to, with us he's winning trophies galore, and so leaving would already cost him that, why should he do us a favour and give up the money we already contractually agreed to give him, at the end of the day, he's a man with a family, and you wouldn't ask anyone else here to lose a whole heap of their salary to quit and move to less-green pastures, so why him? So essentially that leaves two options:
- He leaves for free, we then still need to pay the remainder of his transfer fee, but his wage bill is off our hands, and out of our minds. In this scenario we need to sign a third choice striker. Assuming Torres is earning weekly 175k, and a new signing would earn weekly 65k, that frees up £11.4 million to sign the backup. So consider who we can get for £11.4 million who offers better than what Torres honestly, objectively offers, and then add the additional fees such as taxes and agent costs, and consider whether this really is that much of a better option for us?
- The second option is we do get money for him, call it 10 million, but on the conditions we pay a portion of his wages, call it 75k weekly of the 175k. This way, we end up with a transfer kitty of 13.1 million for his third choice replacement. Once again, consider who's available for the cost and willing to play number 3, and then add the relevant taxes and agent costs, and then also the cost of taxes in his fee. Essentially it is the same financial situation as option 1.
Now considering all that, despite Torres' huge inconsistencies and the terrible time we've endured with him, is he really that much of a disaster. If you assumed him to be on 65k a week wages and to be an 11 million signing this season, would you complain that much, because from this point, that's what he counts as, and when I think about that, it's honestly not such a bad thing.
NB: I'm aware this is a simplified view, but it does contain legitimate fundamental truths to it.