The last time Roman Abramovich interfered so personally and dramatically in Chelsea's transfer business, it all ended in tears. The £30.9m capture of Abramovich's favourite player Andrei Shevchenko from Milan in the summer of 2006 was a total disaster for Chelsea – he was close to useless, and his presence in the squad served to destabilise manager Jose Mourinho, a man whose insecurity is never far from the surface.
Chelsea's current incumbent, Carlo Ancelotti, now has the task of trying to shoehorn a stellar signing into his championship-winning team, and he will have to make a better fist of it than Mourinho did five years ago.
Fernando Torres has in part been earmarked as the eventual replacement for Didier Drogba, who has been Chelsea's main man for six and a half seasons. Torres is 26, the same age Drogba was when he joined from Marseilles in 2004. However, for the remainder of this season at least, Torres and Drogba will both expect to play, which will mean Ancelotti, like Mourinho before him, must amend the 4-3-3 formation that has proved so successful.
In the early stages of last season, following his move from Milan, Ancelotti attempted to impose a midfield diamond formation on the team, but it proved too narrow and suffocated the space around Frank Lampard, nullifying his goal threat. As a result, Ancelotti is likely to favour something different this time to accommodate Torres.
Chelsea's recent interest in Steven Pienaar, who instead chose Tottenham Hotspur, and French winger Dimitri Payet of St Etienne, hints at a possible change of tactics in the second half of the season.
One formation could be a 4-1-3-2 system, with Michael Essien deployed deepest in midfield, behind a line of three including Ramires on the right, Florent Malouda on the left, and Lampard in the middle. Torres would then play as the main striker, with Drogba in support, drifting deeper or wide to help provide support to his colleague.
It would mean a change of role for Drogba, but moving to the flanks is something he has been doing more this season already, which in part explains why he has been scoring fewer goals. Whichever way Chelsea play, it seems inevitable Nicolas Anelka will be sacrificed to make way for Torres.
The key thing will be that whatever tactics Ancelotti adopts, the new formation is in place and working in time for the resumption of the Champions League in three weeks' time. Torres could make his first appearance on Sunday at home to Liverpool, giving the opposition supporters an immediate chance to voice their disgust at his recent antics. However, more important games are to come.
The Champions League is the stage that Torres craves, having missed out at Liverpool this season and probably next as well, and it is the one trophy to have eluded Abramovich since he bought Chelsea in 2003.
Chelsea have an easy draw against FC Copenhagen in the first knockout stage of the Champions League, so the big dates are likely to arrive in April, with the quarter-final stage.
At 26, Torres is the right age for Chelsea, who created room in their squad last summer when they released five seasoned internationals – Joe Cole, Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Ricardo Carvalho and Deco. Of the young academy players, only 17-year-old Josh McEachran has convinced Ancelotti he is ready to cope with first-team football, prompting Abramovich to open his chequebook again.
There are major differences from 2006, however. Then, the signing of Shevchenko was a disaster but Torres is a very different proposition.
He is much younger (Shevchenko was almost 30 when he signed for Chelsea) and he is already used to English football. It is down to Ancelotti now to find a formation that will bring out the best in both Drogba and Torres, in time to allow Chelsea to make an assault on the Champions League.
* Joined Atletico Madrid aged 16 in 1999. Scored 55 goals in five seasons in La Liga. Became Atleti's youngest ever captain at the age of 19.
* Signed for Liverpool in July 2007 for a fee of around £25m (plus Luis Garcia). Has since scored 65 goals in 102 league games for the Reds.
* Has represented Spain 82 times since 2003, with a total of 26 goals. Hit the winning goal in the 2008 European Championship final against Germany and helped his country win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.Reuse content