Why, why, why, Fernando?
WHY now, why them?
They're the questions on the lips of Liverpool fans as Fernando Torres tries to engineer a move to Chelsea.
That the Spaniard is looking to leave Liverpool is not a shock in itself. The endless will he-won't he of last summer was testament to the fact he was ready to quit Anfield with Chelsea waiting in the wings.
As it was, he was talked into staying. He was promised things would be different under the new owners. The club would spend, compete and buy talent from the very top table rather than scrounge for scraps at football's back door.
During the takeover saga, there was even talk that Torres was asked to list players he would like to see in a red shirt by one interested party. The message from all concerned was that if Torres wanted to win things at the highest level, he didn't need to quit Liverpool. He just needed to be patient.
The Reds were in a financially perilous position and Tom Hicks, George Gillett and executives at Anfield were desperate to window dress. Keeping Torres sent out a message that all was well, even when it wasn't.
It made the club more attractive to buyers, and it kept one of the club's biggest commercial money-makers on board.
With all that in mind, Christian Purslow allowed Torres to add a caveat to his Liverpool deal. A £50m escape clause triggered at the end of this season if the club had failed to qualify for the Champions League. The clause has been reported on several occasions in the media. It's a dead cert it was common knowledge at Stamford Bridge.
It was then the seed of doubt was sown in Torres's mind. If it all went wrong he could go. If things didn't develop to his liking, or move fast enough, he could quit the following summer with Chelsea waiting with open arms.
If he was having serious doubts about staying at Liverpool in the first place, where was the motivation to try once things started to go off the rails? Add the mediocre, short-sighted and unambitious decision to make Roy Hodgson manager, and was it any wonder things went backwards quickly for Torres?
Shocked, stunned, dismayed
Had Hodgson still been at Anfield, Torres's decision would barely have raised an eyebrow among the dwindling match-day support. But with the former Fulham boss sent on his way, Kenny Dalglish in place, and Torres seemingly reinvigorated, the news of his transfer request shocked, stunned and dismayed in equal measure.
So what changed? According to Guillem Balague, Torres wasn't happy with how things were progressing under owners Fenway Sports Group. Bearing in mind they have just broken the club record to sign Luis Suarez, does that really stack up as a reason?
OK, FSG have dragged their feet – both in the delay in axing a clearly out of his depth Hodgson and in signing transfer targets. But on the other hand, Hodgson has gone, Suarez has arrived, the football has improved and, until Torres made his ill-advised decision, there was a genuine feel-good factor surrounding the club for the first time in a long time.
That's not to say there aren't still issues. The blood stains from the reign of Hicks and Gillett will remain for some time yet.
With Dalglish as a caretaker manager, uncertainty remains over the future direction of the club. FSG's January haggling has suggested progress will be measured and long-term rather than sudden and soon.
There is still lingering hopes of securing a European spot, but the Champions League looks unlikely, particularly with a squad that is still screaming out for reinforcements.
Add continuing talks of dressing-room rifts, a facet that seems to be evidenced by on-field events this season – Carragher and Torres arguing at Goodison, barely an acknowledgement in games between Torres and Gerrard – maybe Torres had just had enough. But why leave one dysfunctional club to walk into another?
Just this season Ray Wilkins was bizarrely sacked – a decision which seemed to impact on results – and replaced by Michael Emenalo, a man not thought to be the choice of the manager Carlo Ancelotti.
That was a move apparently driven by Roman Abramovich, as it seems is the persistent chasing of Torres. That alone should set alarm bells off - hasn't Torres seen enough of an interfering boardroom member who thinks he is a football manager for one lifetime?
After everything that has gone before with Torres – his talk of a bond with the fans, his love of the city and the club, his admiration and respect for Dalglish, his promise to never play for another English club - it is hard to stomach that he has made such a cold, calculated decision seemingly without a thought for the club, the fans, or the manager.
Not only has he left Liverpool in a situation where they will lose their number one striker so late in the transfer window that there is no time to search and secure a replacement, he has potentially lessened Dalglish's chances of landing the manager's job on a permanent basis.
It makes his position untenable at Liverpool. Should Chelsea fail to secure his signature by the transfer deadline he will surely endure a leper's existence at the club until the summer.
Change of mind
Some say he could make a Steven Gerrard-esque u-turn, but on what basis? At least Gerrard could say the pull of his home city, the lure of winning with the club he supports, prompted a change of mind.
Torres has picked his side. He is part of what could be perceived as an effort to extract him from Anfield on the cheap. Did Chelsea bid low knowing it would be rejected? Knowing Torres would put in a transfer request? Knowing it would upset the fans? Knowing it would leave Liverpool backed into a corner?
And what about the new financial fair play rules which mean that clubs competing in Europe will only be able to spend what they earn?
This transfer window is clubs' last opportunity to buy big without impacting on accounts that will be scrutinised by UEFA. Did Torres know that? Did he fear that come the summer, no-one, not even Chelsea could afford to meet his clause?
Looking at the other big-spenders in Europe, there could be something in it. He rejected Manchester City, Barcelona don't need him, he surely wouldn't play for Real Madrid, Liverpool wouldn't sell to Man United who are held in the financial cuffs of the Glazers anyhow, so who does that leave who could cough up £50m and balance the books?
Perhaps these questions will answered in time, perhaps not but there's something desperate about the whole sorry affair. Chelsea and Abramovich are desperate to throw their weight around one last time, while Torres is so desperate to leave to play at the top level he seems blind to the deficiencies of the club he looks certain to join.
Whatever happens over the next 24 hours, Torres has sullied the memories Liverpool fans held of him. He's pulled a knife, stabbed deep and it's hard to see those wounds healed quickly, stay or go.
In 2007, The Times interviewed Dalglish and Torres togther. Both had kind words for the other, the mutual appreciation clear.
Torres said: “I’m very proud that I’ve been able to spend time with him. And I’m honoured that he took the time to talk to me. Seeing someone like him makes me even more hungry to continue to work hard and, perhaps, some day, reach his level.”
You'll never make it now, Fernando. Not after this.
And what does Dalglish make of it all? We'll probably never know. But it's a fair bet his opinion has changed from that day four years ago.
Kenny concluded that interview speaking directly to Torres: “Fernando, this is a special club with special fans. They love people who love to wear their shirt. But they’re not daft, they know when it’s real and when it’s just for show, kissing the badge and all that. They love to identify with people on the pitch. And I think they will identify with you very, very easily.”
We did. We don't any more.
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 30 January 2011 23:01 )|