ABU DHABI // Fernando Torres may be looking forward to the prospect of his reunion with Rafael Benitez, but Chelsea’s new caretaker coach is not sure the striker can ever reclaim the level of his Liverpool days.
Benitez was appointed by Chelsea to replace Roberto Di Matteo until the end of the season as he was flying out of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, having been in the Emirates for a coaching seminar.
And one of the factors in his appointment will have been the club’s hope that he can reinvigorate Torres and get him back to the kind of goal-scoring form he showed when playing under Benitez at Liverpool. Torres moved to Chelsea in January 2011, for a record £50 million (Dh293m), but has struggled since, scoring goals in fits and starts.
“I’ve said before, Torres at the beginning of last season was trying very, very hard,” Benitez said during the seminar on Wednesday. “He’s still trying very hard but I still think he’ll improve. Can he get back to that level, I’m not sure but he can improve, especially if he can improve his confidence, he can get back to high levels.”
At Liverpool under Benitez, Torres scored 33 goals in their first season together, 17 in the second and 24 in the third. But at Chelsea, he has only 19 goals across all competitions. He was dropped from the side in the Champions League loss to Juventus on Tuesday night, a decision thought to have played a role in di Matteo’s exit.
After the seminar, Benitez suggested Torres had found it difficult to adjust to Chelsea’s style of play.
“The problem with some players is that they are doing so well in a team and their understanding is so good that it is difficult to replicate in another team,” he told The National. “Sometimes it is just a question of time. He’s a nice man and a good professional, very keen to learn.”
Just how important the relationship could be was clear from the words of Torres in an interview exactly a year ago.
“Rafa Benitez has been the most important coach in my career. He has been the only one who knew how to help me improve. His priority is the team but he adapts the conditions to make everyone fit in the team. That’s his secret. He taught me a lot and thanks to him I matured as a professional.”
One of Benitez’s first moves – other than telling fans, who may be cool to his appointment, that he wanted the same thing as them –was to appoint Boudewijn Zenden as an assistant, according to the Dutchman’s father and agent. Zenden played for Benitez at Liverpool before moving to Chelsea.
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