Fernando Torres has ended the speculation over his future by committing to another season at Liverpool, citing Roy Hodgson's personal touch and a determination to deliver a trophy to Anfield as his reasons for staying.
As revealed in The Independent a month ago, Liverpool were prepared to prevent the striker, who is under contract until 2013 with an option of a further year's extension, from leaving the club and Hodgson's success in retaining both Torres and Steven Gerrard, his two prize assets, represents a substantial coup.
Unlike Javier Mascherano, who used his first day back at the club's training ground at Melwood to demand a transfer, Torres appears to be settled in. If there was one thing Rafael Benitez lacked, it was the personal touch. Torres, who recuperated after the World Cup near Santiago de Compostela in North-west Spain, said yesterday that Hodgson's determination to fly out to do business face-to-face was an important gesture.
"I really appreciated the fact that Roy came to see me while I was on my holidays," Torres said. "He told me about his plans for the club, what he wanted from me and I appreciated that. This is the best club in the country so the targets and expectations are really high. Hopefully, we can stay at our level. At Liverpool, the aim is to fight for every title. It was difficult last season but I am sure we can improve."
Torres's decision to commit to a fourth season at Anfield, barely a day after resuming, means Hodgson's flight to Spain may be as significant as the journey to Lisbon made by Sir Alex Ferguson after the 2006 World Cup when he persuaded Cristiano Ronaldo to remain at Manchester United, despite the furore surrounding his part in Wayne Rooney's sending off during England's quarter-final in Gelsenkirchen.
Injury has meant that Torres's second and third campaigns on Merseyside were not as influential as his first, which saw him score 24 league goals. Nevertheless, his last two seasons have produced 32 goals in 46 matches, strikes that have earned 23 points.
Those close to Torres pointed out that the groin injury sustained in the World Cup – in which he failed to contribute a single goal to Spain's triumph – gave him time to reflect on his future. His international strike partner, David Villa, observed that, unless Hodgson could engineer a dramatic upturn in Liverpool's fortunes, Torres could still leave in 12 months' time.
"After I spoke to him at the World Cup, I thought he would be signing for Chelsea," said Villa, who moved from Valencia to Barcelona before the tournament. "He is happy at Liverpool in every sense apart from the football. He loves the city, the fans and the players but he will go if he has to. He was promised things at Liverpool that just haven't happened.
"They said they would build a squad that would challenge Manchester United for the title and that hasn't happened. They sold Xabi Alonso last year and they are going to sell Javier Mascherano this summer. This is Liverpool's last chance to keep Nando."
Nevertheless, like Gerrard, Torres appears to have been impressed by Hodgson's first moves at Anfield – especially the signing of Joe Cole, the announcement of which immediately preceded Gerrard's own statement of loyalty.
"I have been talking to Stevie a lot and I also met with Joe Cole," Torres said. "Joe is exactly the sort of player we need to improve the history of this club. We are keeping our best players and it is nice to be back at the training ground with them.
"Joe is the kind of player I like to play with and the kind of footballer who can take the team to a higher level; his passing is unbelievable. I know that one trophy at Liverpool – maybe the Premier League – means more than three or four at another club. This was my target from the day I came and it is still my target."
Torres' Reds record
The 26-year-old has scored 56 goals in 79 league appearances in three seasons.
4 July 2007 Signed for £20m from Atletico Madrid. Scored 24 league goals, recording the most prolific debut season by a foreign player.
February 2008 Scored treble against West Ham, his second successive Anfield hat-trick and third of the season.
2008/09 Hit 17 goals in an injury-ravaged season as Liverpool finish 2nd.
September 2009 Another hat-trick in a 6-1 thrashing of Hull City.
2009/10 Netted 22 goals in 32 games, despite undergoing two knee operations during the course of the season.