MADRID // Spain striker Fernando Torres's decision to have knee surgery yesterday has handed coach Vicente del Bosque another World Cup headache. Liverpool's Torres is expected to be out for around six weeks, which means he should be fit just in time for the finals in South Africa which start on June 11. But with midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Andres Iniesta also recovering from injury, Del Bosque will need to ponder his back-up plans in case he thinks it too risky to take one or more of the trio if they are not fully fit.
Torres, who scored the winner against Germany in the Euro 2008 final, is a fundamental part of the Spain team, covering three roles in one package. His power and pace turn him into a goalscorer, battering ram and decoy who can unsettle the most experienced of defences. The former Atletico Madrid man has bagged a respectable 23 goals from 72 appearances, but he gives Spain a physical presence that allows his more versatile and elusive strike partner David Villa to do even greater damage.
Valencia forward Villa has amassed 36 goals from only 55 games. The explosive nature of Torres's game will make it a particularly tough decision for Del Bosque to make if doubts remain over his knee next month. "Naturally, it is a worry," Del Bosque told Radio Marca in an interview last week when asked about the growing injury list. "We have six or seven players who aren't in top shape, but we hope that in the month remaining before we have to produce our list, they will get themselves back up to full fitness.
"We have 30 or so players that we have absolute faith in and who could potentially come with us." Replacing Torres is a tall order, but Fenerbahce's Daniel Guiza has successfully carried off a similar role over the last couple of years as Spain's 'reserve' striker. Waiting in the wings for a possible call-up are Athletic Bilbao's 'Lion King' Fernando Llorente, who scored against England in a friendly last year, and Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo.
Arsenal's Fabregas cracked a bone in his right leg earlier this month, while Barcelona's Iniesta had a recurrence of a thigh muscle problem last week, but both hope to return by the end of May. Further concerns for Del Bosque include Villarreal midfielders Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla, and Valencia's Villa and David Silva, who have all suffered with a string of injuries throughout the campaign.