Fernando Torres: Return of the Prodigal Son

It’s the usual cliche – with the new year, comes new aims, new beginnings and new resolve. People change jobs, make major decisions, commit to long term goals and react to everything that metaphorically connotes a fresh start. You have to wonder if it’s all a knee-jerk reaction due to the holiday season. I certainly hope not, especially for Fernando Torres and his return to Atletico Madrid.

By now, anyone who has been following the fascinating career (and struggles) of El Nino would have caught the online videos posted up by Atletico Madrid of his stirring unveiling. The crowd that made up the odd 40-thousand fans inside the Vicente Calderon, the little pep-talk to his kids in the player’s tunnel just before he walked out, even his daughter Nora scoring a playful goal against him. They were all endearing and set in the right tone to play up his return after nearly 8 years to the day he departed the club and city to “grow.”

Not many footballers are afforded such an overwhelming welcome back after deserting the club that kickstarted their professional career, the club that got them famous, made them sought after, a household name. And even less get a chance to end their career at their ‘alma mater’ so to speak – Bayern’s Paul Breitner, Benfica’s Rui Costa, Marc Overmans, Frank Rijkaard at Ajax and Santos’ Robinho are only some names that popped up during my research. That’s one reason why the overwhelming response to Torres’ homecoming was surprising. In this case however, I think it’s the player who needs the club more, instead of the other way around.

After all, a startlingly impressive debut season at Liverpool was followed by another and then some. Torres successfully repeated this feat for 3 consecutive seasons at Merseyside to become a fan favorite. But then, something happened. Everything beyond that ill-fated year of 2010 paled in comparison. Theorists pondered on how such a talented front-man could transform so quickly from hero to zero, contender to pretender.

And then, less than 6 months into the appointment of Roy Hodgson at Liverpool, Torres declared he wanted out of the club. It was to become a decision he’d live to regret, or at least that’s what Kopites would like to think. Still, if the Spaniard had made this return to Merseyside instead of Madrid, I’d expect a similar reception of the cult hero at Anfield. Not so much at Stamford Bridge though, and now the San Siro.

So, what can we expect from the 30-year old at Atleti?

Something tells me the next 18-months are meant to be a wind-down of his 15-year playing career. Yes, he has been around for that long. His honor roll is missing a few league titles but what better way to draw the curtains on your career than by winning La Liga with your boyhood club, right? Atleti are also still competing in the Champions League which makes the move far more beneficial to Torres, than the club itself surely. After all, his numbers are not necessarily anything to boast about currently. It hasn’t been much to flaunt about for the past half a decade. Besides, if he’s planning to throw his name in the hat for a place in the Spanish squad to the 2016 European Championships, what better way than to be competing in the most prestigious tournament of the continent, right?

Fernando Torres
What do Atleti stand to gain from his addition? They have been doing fine without him all this while. Diego Simeone was never in dire need of a striker prior to this loan deal. Sitting pretty in 3rd place in La Liga and through to the round of 16, they will be faced with a congested fixture list but they’ve been there and done the impossible. Remember last season? They had Diego Costa then, some might argue. Good thing Antoine Griezmann and Mario Mandzukic seem to be coming along just fine then.

In hindsight, there might be something to be thankful for in Torres’ initial farewell from the Calderon in 2007. If he hadn’t left, one wonders how long would it have taken the world of football to be introduced to the talents that are Sergio Aguero, Falcao and Diego Costa? Let’s just hope Torres’ latest transfer finally breaks the monkey on his back that has been seemingly impossible to shake off since that move to London.

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