When the news came out that an All Star Charity game was to be played at Anfield in aid of multiple Liverpool based foundations, I was overjoyed that there would be legends of the game gracing Anfield.
As the names of the footballers began trickling in, the interest grew. Amongst the many names was the one whom I had hoped would be in the invite list. The blonde striker, the one who gave many unforgettable moments for a lifetime and tried snatching it away from us on a not-so-fine January evening in 2011. As a new star arrived at Anfield, the current one, rose slowly towards the exit. Their paths briefly crossed, their eyes briefly met. The career charts could not have been any different. Those two days at Melwood were the intersections of those two career graphs.
That he left for the ‘Plastic Pretenders’ pained us. Personally, I lost the joy of football for a few days. A part of my soul was taken away from me. The Liverpool team from 2007-2009 had great players, world class players in their own right at the pomp of their playing careers. Above all, there was Torres.
No one was like Torres. He understood what Liverpool was. He imbibed what the city stood for. He identified with the fans and their demanding nature. He was made for Liverpool and Liverpool was made for him. The perfect match in an imperfect game.
His debut goal for Liverpool, on his Anfield debut typified the man. The supreme movement from him made it look like the Chelsea defender wasn’t even there, followed by the merciless, unerring finish in the 16th minute. Liverpool’s No: 9, and he was here to stay.
It was not long before he regularly began embarrassing defences on a weekly basis. A slaloming run here, a neat turn and sprint there, every trick a striker needed was in his locker, injected in his blood. There were very few certainties in this unpredictable game, but Torres mercilessly putting away a chance was one of them. The keeper’s presence just did not matter to him. Fernando Torres on the ball, approaching the goal, GOAL. You could write that in stone.
Then that fateful day in January 2011 arrived. At Chelsea, Torres on the ball, GOAL could be written on the sands in the beach, for it to be washed away. Fernando Torres at Chelsea was an impostor. A shadow of the man who left Liverpool. Something changed during that not-so-long journey from Liverpool to London.
At Chelsea, Torres had a miserable career, though he won the trophies he ‘craved’. But he was not happy there, and no self-respecting sportsman would be on receipt of an undeserving prize. He had trophies, but he had no one to share it with. Torres became just a footballer at Chelsea, a speck on the horizon.
And then, he was back amongst us, unsure about the welcome he would receive. There were seeds of doubt before the game in the minds of the fans and Torres. But the song and the bounce of the Kop answered his queries and washed away his doubts. He was again welcome at Liverpool after four miserable years. The smile and the mojo was back.
This was a new beginning and a joyful return for one of the prodigal sons. The blond mane, the Anfield crowd, the Liverpool sunshine, the Torres run. Ah! Those days.
Master Shifu: Remember Dragon Warrior, anything is possible when you have inner peace.
His Armband proved he was a red,
You’ll Never Walk Alone it said,
We bought the lad from sunny Spain,
He gets the ball he scores again,
Liverpool’s number 9