Gracias, Fernando

Oh, how time flies. It feels like only yesterday that Torres was making his Anfield debut. Or scoring THAT goal against Germany in Vienna. Or lifting Chelsea’s first ever Champions League trophy. Or filling the Vicente Calderón on his return to Atleti.

But it’s not. It’s been almost 20 years since El Niño made his debut against Leganés in Spain’s second division. And it’s been one hell of a ride.

His first year of professional football was played in the silver league due to Atletico’s relegation a few years prior. Torres seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel for many Colchoneros, and they held on so tight to that simmer of hope, that even today they find it hard to let go of what once was. This kid that suddenly appeared from nowhere, just towards the end of the 2001 season as they missed out on promotion, finally gave the fans the faith they needed.

Despite only netting 6 goals the next season, Atletico managed to make it back to La Liga, and Torres quickly became a club hero. At the end of the day he was only just a 17 year old kid that had been sitting in the stands like them a few weeks before. And it just kept getting better, Torres scored 13 and 19 goals in the next two campaigns, and was named club captain at only nineteen.
It only took a few more successful seasons, in which El Niño proved to be playing at a different level to his teammates, for Atlético’s president, Enrique Cerezo, to announce that the club was open to offers for their star player. Liverpool finally won the bidding war and he set off on a new adventure in England.

It’s likely most will agree that it was Anfield that saw Torres’ best football to date; 29 goals in his debut season and a lot of club records broken.

During his time at the Red’s, Torres also became a regular call-up for the Spanish National Team, making his mark in 2008 as he scored the only goal of the game against Germany in the Euro 08’ final, earning Spain their first silverware since 1964. This, joint with his incredible form at Liverpool, put him in the running for the FIFA World Player, which he came third in, losing out to Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi.

On the 14th August 2009, he signed a new deal with Liverpool that would be shortly lived as just a year and a half later, he handed in a transfer request ahead of a £50 million move to Chelsea.

His time at the Blues wasn’t nearly as successful personally as it had been at Anfield but he did start to win his first real titles, and in what manner. 2012 saw Chelsea win their first ever Champions League in which Torres came on as a substitute in the second half. He also won a Europa League and FA cup in his time at Stamford Bridge, as well as the World Cup in 2010 and the Euro 12’, completing the “treble” with a history-making generation of Spanish players.

However, El Niño’s time in a Chelsea shirt came to an end in the summer of 2014 after a string of injuries and not much luck in front of goal. He was sent on loan to AC Milan where he didn’t only not find his feet but seemed to be slipping more and more downhill as the weeks went by.

After only 4 months in Italy, Fernando saw his career totally turned around again thanks to Diego Simeone, who brought him back to the place that saw him take the first strides of his career. It’s almost as if his return was written in the stars ever since the day he stepped foot outside the Vicente Calderon; and he stepped back in as if nothing had changed. The stadium filled up on a warm winters morning for nothing more than to welcome back their hero. The kid that never really left, in front of 55,000 fans that knew exactly what this moment meant. After almost a decade away from ‘home’, Simeone managed to find a way to make Torres a more than valuable player in his squad, playing a key role in Atleti’s 15/16 Champions league campaign.

In 2018, El Niño put an end to his time in Europe, bowing out with a victory in the Europa league and finally being able to lift a trophy with his boyhood club.

Now it’s Japan that gets to bid farewell to him for the rest of us. Torres has hung up his boots, said his last goodbye to the game and maybe, just maybe the kid in all of us has realized we’re not so young anymore.
Thank you, Fernando.

By: Carla Fernandez