Urge for medals made Torres fall out of love with Liverpool

As the prolific goalscorer nears 27, he has no trophies to show for his time at Atletico and Anfield
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The Independent Online

Ruud Gullit used to talk of "world footballers"; those who might find themselves flitting from Amsterdam to Milan to London, marketing their talents like a commodity.

Gullit probably did not take it to mean he would end up in Chechnya, managing a team ruled by a warlord with blood beneath his fingernails but at least by taking Ramzan Kadyrov's money, he has remained true to his principles. Fernando Torres is a world footballer.

Just as Sir Alex Ferguson always knew Cristiano Ronaldo would leave Old Trafford one day and thought Manchester United were lucky to have kept him for six years, so one day Torres would leave Liverpool. The question was always going to be when and where.

There were those who imagined it would be back to Atletico Madrid towards the end of his career to pick up the captain's armband that he was awarded as a teenager – just as it is likely that Wayne Rooney will return to Everton once his body begins to falter, which given the kind of player that he is, may be sooner than anyone thinks.

Rooney, like Torres, tried to leave and found himself in a cul-de-sac. A move from Manchester United to Eastlands came with death threats. Real Madrid and Barcelona had Spanish grammar books attached.

As with Rooney, Torres's management company, Bahia International, had few options when it came to placing a player who may command a £50m fee. Neither Manchester City nor Barcelona had need of him, Real Madrid would be an emotion too far and Internazionale was another country.

Torres will be 27 in March, the age when centre-forwards for whom pace is a significant part of their game can glimpse the finish line faint on the horizon. It is around this time that they start to weigh up what they have won.

For Torres, the answer internationally is everything, even though in Spain's World Cup triumph in South Africa he was confined to a walk-on part, eclipsed by David Villa. By the World Cup final, Villa had already negotiated his move from Valencia, where he was adored as Torres is loved on Merseyside, to Barcelona.

During his time beneath the steep banks of the Mestalla, Villa had scored 129 goals and had won a single Copa del Rey, the Spanish equivalent of the FA Cup. Torres has even less than that. When he wrenched himself away from Atletico, full of stories of how he had been shown round the Vicente Calderon's trophy room as a boy, it was because there had been nothing new coming into that room since he was 12.

Just before Spain's semi-final with Germany in Durban, Roy Hodgson, freshly appointed Liverpool manager, phoned Torres to persuade him to stay at Anfield. The call elicited the following comment from the player's agent, Jose Antonio Martin: "It is very likely that Fernando Torres will stay in the Premier League but I cannot say it will be with Liverpool."

There was some interest from Manchester City and Chelsea in the belief that with Rafael Benitez gone, Torres's strongest link to Anfield had disappeared. This was not quite true. The relationship between the two men had worn thin as Benitez's final season at Liverpool had rusted away. "Promises were made to Fernando which have not been kept," Hodgson remarked when announcing that the forward had agreed to stay.

Torres is very likely to feel that promises about where Liverpool are headed have continued to crack, and his camp argue that what persuaded him not to force a transfer in the summer was the inference that with the club up for sale, he was too central to be allowed to go.

When the club's new owners, New England Sports Ventures, met Bahia in the autumn, when Hodgson's grip was already beginning to loosen, they were reminded of the kind of footballers that Torres expected to play alongside, although the arrival of Luis Suarez from Ajax appears to have swayed him not at all.

There are some who would not be opposed to a sale provided it is on Liverpool's terms. Having used Ian Rush's transfer fee from Juventus in 1987 to buy John Barnes, John Aldridge and Ray Houghton and create a truly thrilling Liverpool side, Kenny Dalglish may feel he can repeat the feat nearly a quarter of a century on.

There are those on Merseyside that point out that Torres has given interviews in which he said that he would like to see out his career at Anfield. In truth, "would you like to spend the rest of your career at this club?" is a standard journalistic question to which the only possible political answer is "Yes".

Torres, like many within and without Anfield, did not at all enjoy Hodgson's brief time in the home dugout. He wore his listlessness on his sleeve, and it may be no coincidence that the only occasion in Hodgson's time that Torres showed the form that in 2009 had taken Liverpool as close as they had been to a championship since the days of Dalglish was against Chelsea.

For this world footballer, it could be regarded as a calling card of sorts.

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