Fernando Torres has been reborn at Atletico Madrid. At heart, everyone is secretly an El Niño fan which made the spaniard’s rapid decline at Stamford Bridge almost too much to bear. The rare high points were met with universal satisfaction – Gary Neville’s commentary as Torres sealed Chelsea’s route to the Champions League final will live long in the memory – and now under Simeone, Torres has a shot at European glory once more.
Torres endured a torrid spell of his career at Chelsea, but has resurrected his goalscoring abilities at Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid, to the point where his performances are worthy of critical acclaim – with not a hint of sarcasm. Fernando Torres is back.
Once upon a time, a young Torres was the fresh-faced idol of his hometown of Madrid, the poster-boy of the Spanish national team and the country’s star centre-forward. Atletico developed the youngster into a ferocious goalscorer for his city’s proud yet nationally overshadowed third team, before the striker elated Liverpool fans as one of the world’s best players. The 32-year-old career has certainly reached dazzling heights.
The heights just made the fall hit harder – in the space of a few years, the Atlético Madrid and Liverpool great was a Chelsea and AC Milan laughingstock; Fernando Torres’ game was hampered by injuries and a shocking evaporation of confidence.
At the lowest point in his career in the summer of 2014, Torres admitted defeat at Chelsea and sought redemption at AC Milan; the Italian giants signed the Spaniard on a two-season loan. Hoping to salvage his reputation, Milan promised Fernando a consistent run of games, a supportive atmosphere, and little pressure – hoping the environment would prompt a resurgence from Torres.
A few months into the season and Milan already wanted him gone – Torres had disappointed his investors and just wasn’t scoring for them. Chelsea had no interest in bringing him back from loan either, and there were very few clubs willing to pay millions for Fernando Torres stock, only for him not to score goals.
Atlético saved their prodigal son. As one of Atleti’s all-time most beloved players, Torres received a hero’s welcome. He wouldn’t be expected to rescue them as he had done earlier in his career, he was returning to a club enjoying its greatest footballing era. Torres was a valuable resource to Diego Simeone.
His first season was completely unexceptional. In 26 appearances Torres scored just six times—three of which came in the least important competition, the Copa del Rey. But Atleti supporters genuinely didn’t care that Torres wasn’t very good.
He served a purpose in the side, he ran his legs off when he did get on the pitch, poked the crest on his chest and raised a symphony from the home crowd when he did score. Torres was playing happy, and was at a club more than content just to see him out there – it was genuinely heartwarming.
Simeone spent big to beef up his striking talent, signing Jackson Martínez and a couple of young super-talents for the near future in Ángel Correa and Luciano Vietto, who similarly to Torres, would have to fight for minutes alongside the team’s star Antoine Griezmann.
Many expected Torres to disappear into obscurity after the arrivals, but the manager had his own selection criteria – based purely on merit, an admirable trait. Martínez did not impress Simeone, so he simply didn’t play him and quickly sold him to China at the first opportunity. As expected from a Simeone outfit, Atlético’s defence was solid – he just needed to find a forward pairing that could regularly chip in a couple goals every game… up stepped Fernando Torres.
A combination of game time and unyielding support from Simeone has reformed the Spaniard – Torres is once again the striking heart-throb that his personal fan club cherish.
Torres is back to his best and it’s a delight to see. After spending big in the transfer window trying to find a solution to their attacking problems, Simeone has happened upon a natural central forward who fulfills the defensive, attacking, and scoring requirements the team needs to thrive – Atletico have a fantastic opportunity to surpass their disappointment of the 2013/14 final and rightfully lift the Champions League trophy at the expense of their rivals.
If Atletico succeed in winning the coveted European trophy they’re fighting for, the rebirth of Fernando Torres will have played an integral role in making Atleti dreams a reality.
As is so often the case when a player suffers a poor run of form, it takes the unwavering support of a loyal coach and fanbase to get them back on track. Torres has found that back at Atletico Madrid, where he never would have found it at any other club on the planet.
His goals and tireless performances are just reward for Simeone’s Atleti, who never lost faith in their prodigal son. Atletico Madrid’s Champions League glory is surely the happy-ending, final chapter in the Fernando Torres fairytale.