When Fernando Torres demanded a transfer from Liverpool in January of 2011, he was one of the most valued footballers in the world. A leading scorer on a good squad, Chelsea previously tried to acquire him for the sum of nearly 40 million British pounds. It was rejected until an agreement was reached four days later for an undisclosed amount of money, reportedly a British record nearing the 50 million mark and placing him sixth behind five Spanish transfers all time, including moves to acquire Cristiano Ronaldo and the incomparable Zinedine Zidane.
The assumption was that Torres was the missing link for Chelsea, who at the time was trying like hell to catch Manchester United for the Premier League’s top slot. A world class striker, he had the ability to fly through the air and use quickness and smarts in front of the goal, ultimately meaning he could add that final, lethal goal scorer to the Chelsea side. But that never happened, and it took Fernando until April to score his first goal for the team, a span of what amounted to over 903 minutes. The player that scored nine goals in 23 matches for Liverpool before the transfer and who never scored less than 13 goals since 2001-2002 scored exactly one goal in 14 matches for Chelsea.
His struggles continued into 2011-2012, with just three goals in 28 league matches. He fared slightly better in the FA Cup, scoring twice in six matches, but it never amounted to what Chelsea hoped for when they paid such an exorbitant amount of money for him. At times, Torres looked lost on the pitch, unable to mesh with players like John Terry in the midfield, and he was relegated to the bench.
Then came Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg between Chelsea and resident incumbent champion Barcelona.
Barcelona is one of those clubs that needs even less introduction than the Premier League teams. Chelsea might have talent and big names, but Barcelona is the best of the best. They walk into matches with the expectation of winning every single one of them, and they don’t come any bigger when referring to proverbial “fish in the pond.” On top of everything else, Barca has one major piece to the puzzle of winning that can sometimes amount to the entire thing – Lionel Messi, the world’s best footballer.
So when Barca took a 2-1 lead on Chelsea in the second leg of their Champions League semifinal match, it was assumed that they’d be able to hold onto the lead. In front of the home crowd, Messi had a penalty kick attempt to make the score 3-1, which on aggregate would’ve come from a one-goal deficit (having lost the first leg, 1-0) to vault past Chelsea and into the final to be held in May in Munich. There wasn’t a single football fan alive that didn’t know what was going to happen.
But the Hand of God swatted Messi’s strike into the post, and Chelsea remained alive. They remained alive when Torres substituted into the game in the 73rd minute. And they remained alive when, in stoppage time late in the 2nd half, Torres found the back of the net in the 92nd minute. It was his biggest goal to date for Chelsea, arguably his biggest association goal of his career, and it tied the score at 2-2, good enough for Chelsea to win, 3-2, on aggregate, and qualify for the Champions League Final.
Chelsea is going into the final completely depleted. Terry received a red card, forcing the squad to play with 10 men for most of the match. They’ll be missing Ramires, Terry, Raul Mireles, and Branislav Ivanovic. While the match isn’t until mid-May, the cards affecting the players are only for the Champions League. That means Chelsea will have a month’s worth of Premier League matches to fit the right players and get the right men hot in anticipation of their trip to Munich and the Allianz Arena.
But that’s not the story. The story is the resurrection of a man that single-handedly turned into the worst transfer signing of all time in the United Kingdom. Chelsea had spent so much money to acquire Torres that they needed him to play well in order to compete. In need of money, they sold Alex for 4.5 million pounds to French club Paris Saint-Germain, and of the three players they brought in, one was loaned right back to his old club and one just got injured. Chelsea is out of the top four, will not be in the 2012-2013 Champions League, and they’re headed for the third round qualifying spot of the Europa League unless Everton, who’s been unbelievably hot, catches them.
Chelsea’s season is disappointing this year, and most fingers are pointed directly at Fernando Torres as the example of why things have gone wrong. In the year of disappointment, Torres coming off the bench late to tie the game in dramatic fashion, against the defending Champions League champion and arguably the best club in the word, salvaged everything.
Evertonians can relate as their team, which struggled mightily out of the gate this year, rode a wave of positive energy and victories to the FA Cup Semifinal against Liverpool, a match they probably should’ve won. Now Chelsea fans can reap in the same energy as they go for the Champions League championship with a team that, admittedly by most, has no business being there. They have purpose and something to play for, something that not even the mighty Manchester clubs could do. They knocked out Barca, the best in the world, with their Football God, Lionel Messi. And even though they’ll be depleted, they’ll be drawing either Real Madrid or Bayern Munich in their home arena.
If it’s Bayern, who won the first leg, 2-1, then Chelsea will have a chance to walk into Munich, against the German team from Munich, and reclaim glory for England. Yes, they’ll have to do it without a strong foursome of players, including the captain, John Terry. But, as we learned, nobody can sleep on this club because they still have Fernando Torres, the lost footballer who was once a waste of millions of millions of Pounds.