x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Fernando Torres departure to Chelsea has hurt Liverpool fans but he had his reasons too

The new Chelsea striker will not be remembered fondly at Anfield such as former Kop striker Robbie Fowler, writes Liverpool fan Dileep Premachandran.

Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring on his home debut for Liverpool, against Chelsea, on August 19, 2007.
Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring on his home debut for Liverpool, against Chelsea, on August 19, 2007.

The last chapter of Fernando Torres's autobiography is titled I'll Never Walk Alone. In it, he writes: "It's hard to explain how I feel when the fans chant my name, but I'm going to try. In the first few games I played they sang my surname like they used to do with Dalglish and Fowler …

"But I also felt a real sense of responsibility because they're associating you with the legends of Liverpool. Those guys were everything to this club and always will be. I felt very proud to be treated just as they were."

In December 2007, a few months after Torres had signed for Liverpool from Atletico Madrid, the club he had supported as a boy, The Times pulled off the interview coup of the year, getting him and Kenny Dalglish together.

When it was over, Dalglish told 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."

They did for another three years. Despite his disenchantment at the downturn in Liverpool's fortunes, and the lack of Champions League football, Torres had stayed on at Anfield after the World Cup in South Africa.

But a new dawn never materialised. Roy Hodgson, manager of the year last season while at Fulham, came and went, leaving behind only some of the most sterile football seen on Merseyside in half a century.

It was 40 years ago that Stevie Wonder released I Never Dreamed You'd Leave in Summer. Not many Liverpool fans would have imagined a Torres departure in bleak midwinter.

With Dalglish, a man who Torres had always spoken of as an iconic figure, back in the managerial hot seat, optimism had returned to Anfield. For whatever reason, Torres did not share it.

On Sunday afternoon, he will be in Chelsea blue and up against his old teammates at Stamford Bridge.

Chants of "Turncoat" will rain down from the visiting section, to add to the images from Monday night of a couple of idiots burning the Liverpool shirt with his name on it.

In the space of less than a week, the much-loved player has become a figure of hatred.

The fans and football media need their heroes and villains. In reality, Torres is neither.

Had he been a hero, he would have stayed to spearhead a renaissance under Dalglish, especially once the new owners declared their intent by signing Luis Suarez, the prolific Uruguayan striker, from Ajax, the Dutch club.

But he is no villain either. Since 2008/09, when Liverpool finished second and did the double over both Manchester United and Chelsea, the team has gone backwards.

Torres came to a team that had been to two Champions League finals in three years. He leaves behind a side that will struggle to qualify for the Europa League this season.

The culprits are easy to identify. Tom Hicks and George Gillett, the former owners, built no stadium and they certainly did not provide the funds that would have meant progress from second place in 2009. Rafael Benitez upset Xabi Alonso enough to make him leave for Real Madrid.

Christian Purslow came and went as chief executive, overseeing the recruitment of Hodgson - who had never won a title in the big leagues - when the situation cried out for Dalglish's unifying powers.

Torres, who turns 27 next month, has yet to win a trophy in club football and was faced with the prospect of at least another season outside the Champions League. So his head was turned when Chelsea came calling.

But let's not talk of disloyalty in a business, and that is what football has become, that no longer believes in honour and commitment.

Not when Benitez, the man who signed Torres and was so passionate about Liverpool that he could not stop talking about the club even while at Inter Milan, was sacked after one poor season.

For someone like me, who can recall the despair of Heysel and Hillsborough, this too shall pass. When Kevin Keegan, whose electrifying pace inspired the first European Cup win in 1977, walked away, the club replaced him with King Kenny. There will always be new heroes.

When Dalglish told him during The Times interview that not being able to stand on the Kop was one of his few regrets, Torres answered: "I've stood on the Kop. But also only when it was empty. And I would love it if, by the time I retire, I, too, will also be unable to go stand on the Kop."

He'll get his wish, but not in the way that he or the thousands who once idolised him would have imagined.

sports@thenational.ae