As he went through passport control at Turin airport, it was Fernando Torres from all the Chelsea squad who was singled out by one of the staff and approached for a photograph. The £50m man obliged, putting an arm around the shoulders of his new friend and cracking a rare smile for the picture.
Torres still has star billing by virtue of his reputation, but if Roberto Di Matteo had more options he would not be in the team. This is the striker who has scored 11 goals in 58 Premier League games for Chelsea. Tonight, against Juventus, with the club's route into the knockout stages of the Champions League by no means secure, Di Matteo has to decide whether he must persist with Torres or step into the unknown.
When the only other option as a centre-forward is Daniel Sturridge, that is what you end up with, although Sturridge, to his credit, looked much more dangerous against West Brom at the weekend.
Against Juventus tonight, Chelsea need to avoid defeat to ensure that a win over Nordsjaelland at Stamford Bridge on 5 December will guarantee they reach the Champions League knockout stages. Win tonight, and they will be through. It is not as if they have not faced this kind of situation before. Last year they lost away to Bayer Leverkusen in the last minute of their penultimate group match, meaning they had to beat Valencia at home in their final group game. A 3-0 win thanks to two goals from Didier Drogba meant they reached the knock-out stages and the rest is the most glorious chapter in the club's history. But Drogba is gone and no-one has taken his place.
Will Di Matteo select Torres tonight? "Well, I always said that we have two strikers in our team, Fernando and Daniel Sturridge," the Chelsea manager said. "They're both fit and I'll have to see how we're going to go." Would he be prepared to drop him if necessary? "Well, whatever I believe is best for this game ..."
Di Matteo knows that if he leaves Torres out tonight it will be a deeply controversial decision within the club. He would have to win the match and even then it would beg serious questions about Torres' future come the next transfer window. Given the alternatives, Di Matteo might well feel that he has no option but to hope that tonight is the night for Chelsea's No 9.
- More about:
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Chelsea F.c.
- Premier League
- Stamford Bridge
- UEFA Champions League