A sad day but we're stronger without Torres, insists Dalglish
It is a measure of his curious lack of inner belief as a player that Kenny Dalglish never felt that he could have left Anfield in the way that Graeme Souness did, when he departed for Sampdoria in 1984.
"I never fancied going abroad simply because I was afraid," Dalglish reflected years later, explaining that he feared a struggle to grasp the language and to master the dressing-room banter.
The way Dalglish has breezed back into the manager's dugout and imbued Liverpool with life and a love of playing – a rather essential quality which had gone missing – makes it hard to believe that fear ever belonged within him, though evidently it does so no longer. Dalglish exudes the air of a man who has lived through so much of the unexpected at his club that nothing surprises him now.
It is certainly the case with the departure of Fernando Torres. Yes, Dalglish explained yesterday, he had tried to talk the 26-year-old around. "Of course I spoke to him. I did what you thought I would do; what everybody hoped I would do. I did my job properly and correctly and we were disappointed that he left." But was Torres leaving any different to Souness, all those years ago? No.
"If somebody wants to leave a football club they will always find a reason," Dalglish said. "You can't cover all eventualities. Our determination is to get back up to where we were before: that's where we want to go. But even when you get there [you lose people]. Souness left after we won the European Cup. It was something he had in his mind. He wanted to go. So you cannot criticise him for doing that. It does not matter where you stand – whether you win trophies or you don't win trophies – footballers will always find a reason to go. Movement is part and parcel of the game."
Of course, there wasn't a £35m Andy Carroll waiting around the corner in 1984. Jan Molby was Souness's replacement, which only goes to show that Dalglish also knows a bit about handling players with challenging lives off the field.
The squad Dalglish has inherited is also a long way from the supremacy of 1984 and after this heady week at Anfield, there are some brutal statistical realities heading into tomorrow's encounter in west London. Torres has scored seven goals in eight games against Chelsea – the same number that Liverpool have managed to muster in 18 league visits to Stamford Bridge, where they have won only twice in 20 matches.
Dalglish's mild articulation of the fact that "we are disappointed that Fernando Torres is not here and with the timing" gives Liverpool the air of calm they need. Jamie Carragher, whose recovery from a dislocated shoulder might place him into direct opposition with Torres, was equally wise yesterday. "I'm not going to criticise him, we bought him for £20-odd million and sold him for £50m," Carragher said of Torres. "I think for us it was probably better that Fernando moved on, if he didn't 100 per cent want to be here. It's probably better for everyone all round."
Liverpool, whose defensive frailties have looked far more pronounced since Carragher departed White Hart Lane with his injury on 28 November, are looking ahead in many ways, with principal owner John W Henry hinting in an interview with Fox TV yesterday that Fenway Sports Group may build a future around the Anfield stadium and Dalglish. Henry's discussion of Dalglish certainly sounded like an endorsement of his credentials to remain beyond this summer. "It's still early, but in retrospect you could not have made a better choice. It was very fortunate for us," he said. "I know [that] he, for a long time now, has wanted to be in this position, so it's a great thing for the club, for Kenny and for us."
And of the decision whether to build a new stadium or refurbish the current one, as the Boston Red Sox did at Fenway Park, Henry declared: "The Kop is unrivalled, the atmosphere... We've heard so much about needing a new stadium [but] we were surprised at how beautiful Anfield was, both viewing it as an empty stadium and then with the first game. It would be hard to replicate that feeling anywhere else."
These words resonated in ways that even Henry could not have anticipated. They were a reaffirmation of what Liverpool once stood for, not of what they have come to stand for. As Dalglish put it: "The most important thing is the way we reacted [this week.] We didn't mope around. Our lives will all move on. In different directions – but they will all move on."
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