One of the biggest challenges any manager can face is bringing a player “back to life”, or in the case of Chelsea and Fernando Torres, making him an efficient goalscorer again. As with everything Jose Mourinho is involved with, there’s not a doubt in his mind he can turn the Spaniard’s career track around.
Torres has been a part of some big moments for Chelsea over the last couple of seasons, especially in Europe. He scored the final goal in their 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp, passing Barcelona on their way to a Champions League title. He thrived last season in the Europa League, scoring six goals in nine matches, including in the final which Chelsea beat Benfica in 2-1.
But the rest? Overall disappointment, not to mention failure. He has scored 15 league goals in 82 matches; 34 in 131 when you count all competition. Not what you pay £50 million for; not what you pay £15 million for as well. Torres couldn’t have been doing any worse, but like Mourinho always does, the blame falls on his previous managers, not on the player itself. In an interview with ESPN, he explained his plan for the 29-year old.
I work based on his qualities and I try the team to play for his qualities because sometimes it is easier to say the player failed, the player is not playing well, the player is not performing. But if you ask players to play in a way where they are not playing for their qualities, it is a bit difficult. Fernando is not a player to play with the ball at his feet, for that we have other players. Fernando is a man of depth, he is a man of movement, he likes to go and get the back of defenders, so this is Fernando. So if we can adapt our game and give him what he needs, I think he will get success again.
Digs at previous manager? Check. Building up himself and the difference between him and those that went before? Check again. Jose Mourinho doesn’t know any other way to enter a job but trying to belittle everything anyone achieved before him, and talking about how anyone who has been managing Torres since he arrived at Chelsea failed isn’t out of character for him.
But just like last season, it’s not about Torres himself, but about how the trio of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Oscar, if the three will actually play together, will make him work. Torres can’t create for himself, not anymore, and in order to score needs enough quality build up work from the midfield to give himself the space to operate behind enemy lines from.
At his best, which doesn’t happen too often anymore, Torres is still a huge problem for defenses to catch up with, especially when high defensive lines are involved. Is Mourinho the man to bring him out of his three-year funk? It probably has a lot more to do with how good and gracious Hazard & Mata will be.