Friday, 26 October 2012

Fernando Torres; the curse of peaking too early?

I have been one of the staunchest apologists for Fernando Torres over his two year spell with Chelsea.  I have a feeling I am not alone. The man was so brilliant (and terrorizing for many a defender), during his time with Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. He was made Atleti captain at the ripe old age of 19. He scored the most goals for a debut season in the English Premier League for Liverpool, a record that was only bested by Sergio Aguerro last season. He was ‘El Nino’. Power, pace, close control, deadly finishing..  Nemanja Vidic can testify.

Then he got that injury, at Liverpool. Then he sort of recovered.  Then the Russian oligarch, Vladmir Putin’s renegade underboss decided to use the change from the purchase of his latest yatch to bring ‘El Nino’ to Stamford Bridge. Little did he know that the El Nino had now reduced to what climatologists describe as ‘scattered showers’

We have all made excuses for him. “He has a mental block, he’ll get going once he scores his first goal”, “He is suffering in the shadow of Didier Drogba”, “He needs to be loved”, “He needs proper service. Balls played in behind the defence”. All these tides have ebbed and he still falters to deceive. How many times do we see  ‘Nando played through by the three wizards(Oscar, Hazard and Mata) and hesitating just long enough for the defenders to recover?  It seems like he’s so afraid of missing(or Torressing  as it’s called nowadays), that he’d rather be blocked than take the chance.

The fact that he has scored a couple of goals this season is testament to the wizardry of Chelsea’s midfield trident. A striker like Robin van Traitor would probably have at least 10 Prem goals if he played in front of the three wise men. Also, Chelsea’s decision not to replace Didier Drogba means Torres has started EVERY Chelsea game this season. Fatigue could also be a factor, or just another excuse.

I think I have a theory that can explain Torres’ malaise. He peaked too early. Think about Ronaldo da Lima and Michael Owen. These two were both youth prodigies who looked like shadows of their old selves by the time they were 30. It seems being a top striker, at the top level, isn’t sustainable for a decade. Michael Owen is 32. 32!!! But it seems like he’s been around forever. He rides the pine for Stoke nowadays. At 32, Ruud van Nistelroy was banging in goals for fun at Real Madrid. The difference? Van the Man started playing in ‘the big leagues’ at about 25. Owen started at 17. Robin Van Traitor will probably score for fun until he is about 35 because his career, in its totality, has spanned only about 3 years.

The only way a top striker can work around such a problem is adaptability. One can see Wayne Rooney slowly slotting backwards into an attacking midfield role as his powers wane. Same goes for Lionel Messi. The problem with ‘Nando is that he is a striker’s striker. He can’t play anywhere else. His only option is to become a full time poacher and that is slowly becoming an extinct role in modern football.

Maybe, I am just making another excuse for him out of sentimentalism.  On a realistic note, the defending champions of Europe can’t afford to rely on one striker who scores as often as their right back. Maybe Mr. A needs to buy another yatch so that Chelsea can use the spare change to acquire ‘El Tigre’, Radamel Falcao. I’ll go as far as saying that even a moderately efficient striker like Jermaine Defoe, playing in front of the three amigos, would do a better job.