James Lawton: While Anfield mourns loss of a star, Dalglish is building sparkling future
Wednesday 02 February 2011
Some of of the more sensitive Liverpool fans may feel hurt, even marginalised, by the announcement of Fernando Torres that he was so pleased to be joining a "top-level" club.
They shouldn't. Rather they should take a lot of comfort in the knowledge that if Roman Abramovich gets through on behalf of Chelsea every rouble he has collected from the mineral rights of the Russian people he will almost certainly still be short of half a clue as to how you build any kind of consistent success at the highest level, and still less the knack of winning not one but five European Cups.
Yes, that's history, we know, but ever since it went bad under Rafa Benitez and a dysfunctional, tapped-out ownership, and left problems well beyond the capacity or the style of Roy Hodgson to fix even in the short term, there has been one point of redemption for Liverpool.
It is that they do have a model. Their experience tells them how you build an ethos, a dynamic of success, and if I was a Liverpool fan right now I would face the future with far more relish than trepidation.
Yes, it is always painful to part with a talent of the order of Torres. Maybe his self-absorption had turned poisonous but that doesn't take away the memory of how he once reduced arguably the best pure defender in English football, Nemanja Vidic, to small pieces, or put his new club to the most glittering sword just a few months ago.
But if Liverpool have lost Torres, it is only in the formality of it – he gave up at Anfield, essentially, at least a year ago – and if the men who replace him, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, are less than cold certainties, they do have some thrilling potential and, you have to believe, an investment in playing better than they ever done before. This is not saying so little.
Suarez was a waspish, persistently dangerous performer for Uruguay in the World Cup and notably unfazed by the fact that he inflamed most of Africa when his goal-line handling shut the door on Ghana.
Carroll has a lot to prove about the stability of his nature but his raw talent is there for anyone to see. Alan Shearer credits Kenny Dalglish with vital help in the scoring art when they were at Blackburn. Dalglish is plainly capable of doing at least as much for the big, long-striding Geordie who has already inflicted plenty of legitimate terror on defences concerned about his height, his force and some deceptive ground skills.
Of course, Chelsea fans can preen over the superior qualities of their new thoroughbred acquisition. But can they be as sanguine about his enduring competitive instincts, his willingness to blend into a team which has developed a fierce dressing-room comradeship over the years – or his ability to fight clear of injuries which in recent years have threatened to become endemic?
Chelsea cannot be hugely confident when they answer any of these questions.
The new Liverpool owners have conceded the point of Dalglish, his meaning, at least for the moment, and have given him some means to fuel his work. They may not be hell-bent on throwing around their money but they have already proved that they know how to remake a great sports institution. Boston Red Sox have two World Series titles to prove it.
Saying adios to Torres was a wrench, for all kinds of reasons, but, soon enough, you have to suspect, it may prove not to have been the worst goodbye.
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