Fernando Torres' omission from the Spain squad for next month's friendly against Venezuela was the subject of considerable debate in today's Spanish newspapers.
Coach Vicente del Bosque's decision to drop the misfiring Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010-winning striker has been met with little surprise in his homeland, and in a poll conducted by Marca, readers voted in favour of the decision by a landslide 89 per cent.
In wretched form and without a goal since October, the Chelsea striker makes way for Valencia's Roberto Soldado, Sevilla's Álvaro Negredo, and Athletic Bilbao starlet Iker Muniain. "[Torres] is the first 'sacred cow' of the great European Championship and World Cup squad to be dropped due to poor performance," wrote the editor of AS, Alfredo Relaño. "I don't know if his exit is definitive, but what is certain is that he is now at the back of the line," he continued.
It is the first time since a 2006 friendly against Romania that a fully fit Torres has not been selected by Spain, but there is still a sense that this had been a long time coming. "The absence of El Niño was suspected: it is the result of a downward spiral that has continued while his performances at Chelsea have not improved," reflected El País.
But while many in Spain are writing off his hopes of selection for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine this summer, the beleaguered striker is not without his supporters. "Torres' bad patch will pass," wrote Francesc Aguilar in Catalan daily El Mundo Deportivo, who blames his London paymasters for his decline. "It doesn't help him being at Chelsea, an authentic madhouse where the dressing room is divided by the trio of Lampard, Terry and Cole, with the support of Didier Drogba" he added.
"Some of us still believe in Torres," declared a regretful Javier Matallanas in AS. "He has always overcome the bad moments, and he will overcome these uncertain times too," he wrote. "Fernando has Euro2012 in his hands. If he gets back to scoring, he will go. And he will score in the final again."