Let’s face it, we all knew things weren’t right for Fernando Torres under AVB didn’t we? I mean, it didn’t take a genius to work that out at the time, one look at his body language was enough and that was without the sort of below par performances we got from him at the time.
Things are clearly different now. Whilst some will inevitably still knock him, the vast majority kept faith with our Spanish striker and he’s started repaying that faith now his head is where it needs to be. Under Roberto Di Matteo, this season Torres is definitely looking hungrier and happier – and that is reflected in his work-rate.
Obviously though, as much as some of us willed it to be the case all along, it wasn’t as Torres explains “Halfway through last season, I distanced myself from the values I had grown up with. I had team-mates who didn’t care if the team won or lost because they were not playing. I never wanted to be like that. (But) one day I discovered that I was like them, that it didn’t matter if we won or lost if I was not playing. I wasn’t part of the group. I discovered that I was not happy because I had stopped being what I had always wanted to be. In the dressing room, you can never lose that group concept. But I learned to look at myself and to realise that the only person that can change is you. The only person who can say: ‘You’re making mistakes, you’ve got to do something’ is you.”
As we know, a large part of his frustration – and not only his – was down to not only the manager but also the system, with Torres saying “I became a different player because I was serving the team. It was to my personal detriment but it was the only way to play. At times I thought: ‘I’m going to run in behind the defender, I’m going to offer myself and go into the space.’ And I could go 70 minutes without touching the ball. If I played in my (natural) position, I wasn’t involved in the game. What do I do? It was so different to what I was used to with (Rafa) Benítez that I was not happy and you could tell.
When we changed coach (and Roberto Di Matteo took over) it was a bit more similar (to Benítez’s style). That had a good side to it, which was that I learned: I became a better player. I can now do things that I was not able to before. You can be the player that your coach wants but you’re not the player that people expect you to be. I spoke to Steve Holland, the (Chelsea) assistant, a lot and we worked hard on it. I became more mature, I came to know myself better and became conscious of the fact that it depends on me. I learnt to be more self-critical, to understand everyone better and to accept the situation.
I learnt that if we won it didn’t matter that I hadn’t played. I had to keep working. You can settle into a comfort zone or you can accept your role and (Paulo Ferreira) taught me to say to myself: ‘This is the situation now.’ He always trains as hard as anyone, he always has a smile, he is always close to the young players. He has taught me a lot.”
And now, with Torres having come through a really difficult season and the selfless play we’ve seen from him of late demonstrating he’s very much a team player, he says “When I retire the only thing that concerns me is that no one can say that I was a bad team-mate or disrespectful or self-important.”