It’s nearly a year since Fernando Torres returned to boyhood club Atletico Madrid in a move which set the romanticists of the footballing world into a frenzy.
It meant that El Nino had come full circle – he had scored 91 goals in his first period at the club after coming through the youth team and was named captain at the age of just 19 years. He captured the heart of Los Rojiblancos fans, with performances replete with vigour and a commitment to put himself on the line for the Vicente Calderon faithful. Essentially, he had done enough to warrant a move elsewhere – Atleti were not in the stable state that they’re currently in under Diego Simeone, and therefore the prospect of moving to England with Liverpool was a much more promising one than staying put.
Upon his return though, the outlook was a much more auspicious one. Torres’ homecoming saw him join the club during a triumphant period, and it was clear that the 31-year-old wanted to work with the man who had steered his club towards security and success. These are things that Torres never experienced during his first spell with Los Colchoneros, where he had actually started his professional career as they fought for promotion from La Segunda.
It seemed as though the return of El Nino was Hollywood movie material when, in his first start after signing on loan from Milan, he scored twice at the Santiago Bernabeu in the Copa del Rey. He had announced his arrival in emphatic fashion in his cross-city rivals’ backyard, but it became increasingly apparent that Torres was no longer capable of leading the line for a club of Atleti’s ilk.
Overall, he has only scored eight goals since coming home and. after the victory over Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday evening that s,aw fellow forwards Angel Correa and Antoine Griezmann get on the scoresheet, it’s 18 games since he has got himself on the scoresheet, coming against Eibar on September 19th. His Coach is behind him, though, and backs him to eventually score the elusive 100th Atleti goal which continues to evade him.
“I always expect more from all of them, Fernando loves the club and is an idol,” Simeone told reporters. “He always has chances, so he has to continue working as he is and forget the pressure which I don’t think is a big problem for him. Things will change and go right for him, I’m sure, when he least expects it.”
At 31, however, Torres has a whole lot more to offer Los Rojiblancos than goals. His mere presence in the dressing room is enough to inspire the players around him. This is a man who is Atleti through and through, a man who is Spain’s third all-time leading goalscorer and who has scored in the finals of Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, playing a pivotal role in the greatest period of success that not only his country has ever seen, but the world has ever seen.
He may only be playing a bit-part role at the club where he grew up, but the fact that he is back where he belongs after a time of misfortune where confidence was lost and not many goals were scored is exactly what he needs. He may have lost the yard of pace which used to see him slip his marker so speedily, but he still possesses the killer instinct that saw him bury his chances in years gone by.
The nickname El Nino was given to Torres when he broke into the Atleti first team, and although he is no longer ‘The Kid’ that he once was, perhaps he is in a footballing sense. The forward has had to rediscover himself as a player and adapt his style in accordance with his loss of pace, so in some ways, he has had to start all over again. But one thing is for sure – Torres will score his 100th goal for Los Colchoneros, and he will continue to write himself into the Atleti history books.