Fernando Torres: Adapting to the Chelsea way to play
Striker admits to Sam Wallace he's learning how to gel with new team ahead of Europa League tie but says he's young enough to improve
It was a year to the day that Fernando Torres scored for Chelsea in the Nou Camp to put the lid on one of the most famous performances in the club's history and send Gary Neville into unexpected raptures in the commentary box. It was not the goal that won the Champions League semi-final – they were already going through on the basis of Ramires's earlier strike – but it is Torres's greatest moment in a Chelsea shirt.
He hopes that will change one day. He wants to be remembered for more than what he regarded as a bit-part in the journey to Munich and the final itself for which he was a late substitute, then subsequently overlooked for the penalty shoot-out. Torres said that he still believes his best is yet to come at Chelsea.
Against Basle in the Europa League semi-final, Torres is odds on to make his 46th start of the season for the club. Europe's second-best competition is not where they had expected to be at this stage of the season and Torres, with 19 goals this campaign, is not quite where he hoped to be either. But for all the tumult of another crazy season at Chelsea, it is not a disaster – not yet anyway while they remain in contention for a trophy and a place in the Champions League next season.
Two years and three months since his £50m transfer from Liverpool, Torres is still not the player he was in his best years. It is unlikely he will ever be again. Yet for the many times he seems gripped by a black mood on the pitch, he gives the impression of remaining positive about the future and the new Chelsea that he believes will emerge next season – with himself at the heart of it.
Ask Torres about his own performances and the likelihood is that he will answer in terms of the team's performances. He sees the two as one and the same thing, and when the conversation turns to what has clearly been lacking in his own displays, he tends to steer it to less specific points. He recently did his first major newspaper interview to coincide with Chelsea's new kit launch, and the briefing on the flight to Basle was further evidence that the club are succeeding in encouraging him to be more open.
The closest he got to closer self-analysis was when he was asked whether he was a better player this season. "No, not better," he replied. "This season has been better but not at the level I want to be. Not a better player. It's different. We have a different team, a different style, very quick. It's not been an easy season for anyone. New players come and they have been important players for the team. We are adapting to them.
"I think Chelsea has a top team and we always have the ball. There is not as much space as there was last year. Against Barcelona and Bayern [last season] we played very deep, which was good for me. In the Premier League this season our opponents are playing much deeper and it's more difficult for a player like me.
"But it's very good for players like Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, so it's very good for the team. I just have to adapt. I've been changing my style a lot. Hopefully next season is going to be much better."
He returned to another theme of his: that this current Chelsea team had not yet learnt to play as a cohesive side. "Much of the ability we have here depends on the talents of individuals – Juan, Eden, Oscar and some other players," he said. "We have to learn to become a team, which is different.
"Normally when you're building a team it takes time, and it is coming together. We're playing more as a team, especially in Europe and in some Premier League games as well. We need to stay together and keep improving."
Had Chelsea seen the best of him? "Hopefully not. I hope there's more to come as I'm still young. I want to win many things for this club. We've won the Champions League and could win the Europa League this season, but we can win much more.
"The squad and the players we have are young and we can do great things. I would like to be involved in this team for the next few years. We can become one of the best teams, not just in England, but in Europe."
First of all they will have to win the title, now out of Chelsea's grasp for three seasons, which equals the longest they have gone without winning it since Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. "I want to win the Premier League, it's one of the trophies I haven't won," Torres said. "When you see Manchester United's players celebrating you can see how important the Premier League trophy is, and I want to bring it to Chelsea."
He has won the World Cup, the European Championships, the Champions League and the FA Cup, although of those four you could say that he only really played a full part in Euro 2008. With Demba Ba ineligible to play in the Europa League, he will remain the main man as long as Chelsea stay in it. Beyond that, he just has to wait and see.
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