Pero, ¿qué pasa con El Niño?
by Edar Mullan
This article was originally penned on September 16 as a way to keep myself out of the pub on a Friday night. However, two lunchtimes later the subject of this piece managed to out-do himself completely in a fantastic game against Manchester United, whilst simultaneously usurping ‘Rosenthal’ as a by-word for how-the-hell-did-he-miss-that-open-goal in playgrounds up and down the country. I had been gambling on the fact that, in the red half of Manchester, amid a record breaking start to the season and with Wayne Rooney gunning for a third hat-trick in as many games, Oh Fernando wouldn’t get so much as a sniff. Then the goal happened. Then that miss happened.
Having managed to double his entire Chelsea goals tally within seconds of the second half starting, he then enjoyed a thoroughly decent second half showing – until the 83rd minute. At that point pubs went silent up and down the land for a split second before erupting into gales of laughter and ridicule, while the Kid’s forefathers all turned in their graves as one. Running onto an excellent through-ball from Brazilian jungle-survivor extraordinaire Ray Mears, Torres seamlessly executed a step over at speed to wrong foot young vampire David De Gea and leave himself with an open goal. Which he then proceeded to miss. An open goal. As the ball scuttered inexplicably into the open-mouthed crowd, the look on the striker’s face said he just wanted the ground to swallow him up. However, there’s no respite to be found for him down there either presumably, what with all those generations of his predecessors turning in their graves. The miss will doubtless haunt him as long as he fails to find the formula for his past success.
The press after all, has spent most of 2011 seemingly gloating over Fernando Torres’ abysmal form in the six yard box, of late there has been a slight change of tone. As if some reporters were beginning to feel, if not sympathy, then almost pity for the goal-shy Chelsea man-boy. And that was before yesterday’s miss. There have been suggestions that we here in the UK are perhaps being overly critical of el Niño, which in turn could be wrecking his confidence and chances of success even further. Surely they wouldn’t be so uncouth, so impatient in Spain? His homeland, the nation of tiki-taka?
Unfortunately for the Kid, that’s exactly the case. The Spanish fans and press in general have been criticising his form for some time now. One goal in 23 games is simply not enough of a return for a man who cost £50 million earlier in the year, and certainly not enough to justify a starting spot in the World and European champions’ team, even taking into account his name and previous standing across the continent. Torres is beginning to slip further and further down the pecking order for La Furia Roja. Where once he was one of the first names on the team-sheet and scored the winner in the final of Euro 2008, he now finds himself as possibly fourth or fifth-choice striker, behind David Villa, Álvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente and even Roberto Soldado, according to Spanish football daily Marca. If he continues to miss chances at his current rate, you may as well put Manuel from Fawlty Towers ahead of him as well.
Although he has thus far persisted with Torres over the past few domestic games, new Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas’ hand has rather been forced by the severe tooth-battering received by serial high-dive artiste Didier Drogba a couple of games ago. That, along with alleged pressure from the benevolent benefactor/sword of Damocles that is Roman Abramovich, has ensured that Torres is getting enough game-time and chances to score, yet he persists in shanking them wide or straight at ‘keepers. Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque has warned recently that Torres must improve his club form if he is to earn a recall to La Selección, stating that “he is an important player, but the people selected for the national team are those who do well for their clubs, not the other way round”. Clever man, that Del Bosque. Although el Niño has indeed looked sharper (outside the box at least) this season, he has continued scuffing shots in a Bendtner-esque fashion. In England we like to think of our continental counterparts as being slightly more high-brow than us, and perceive that they might therefore appreciate Torres’ other contributions to the team (cutting up the half-time oranges??), but alas no – in Spain, goals make strikers.
David Villa became Spain’s all-time top scorer back in March, overtaking the legendary Raúl, and has been banging them in for his provincial Catalan team as well since signing for them the summer before last. The fact is that he has now racked up 49 goals in 78 international games, while it took the Real Madrid legend 102 games to snaffle his 44 goals. Before Raúl, the record was previously held by the peerless Fernando Hierro, who plied his trade as a centre-back and defensive midfielder, and yet still managed an impressive 29 goals in 89 games. This goes some way to explaining the reason behind Raúl being such a legend and huge name for both club and country; Spain, the perennial under-achievers, had been crying out for a proven and consistent goal-bagger up front for years, and celebrated him once he finally appeared. Villa is definitely liked across the country, but not adored to the same extent as his predecessor in the number 7 shirt. Part of the reason for this may well be the circumstances under which he received the talismanic number, as Raúl had not yet reached the end of his prime while Villa was hitting his. Some in the football-divided country saw it as an affront to take the 7 jersey from Raúl. Be that as it may, Villa still has many more years ahead of him to extend his record further, and as he has said himself, one day in the future he will surely be watching on as the next bright young thing sets his sights on beating it.
Álvaro Negredo is unlikely to be that man, seeing as he is a mere three years younger than his strike partner at 26, but has performed admirably when called up to La Roja nonetheless, racking up 5 goals in 7 games thus far. Llorente’s tally is also impressive- he has 7 in 18. Added to this, the latter represents a completely different style of striker to everyone else in the Spanish squad, being almost a form of the ‘old English number 9’.
It would of course be completely unjust to write about a striker and cherry-pick one set of six poor months from his entire career, but I’m a vindictive sort and don’t want to delve too deep into the numbers, so shall compare strikers’ form since the beginning of the 2010-11 season. Over that period leading up to today, Fernando Torres has scored 11 goals in 42 games for Liverpool and Chelsea. This does not look too bad when taken in isolation, but once totted up against the strike records of those he is up against for selection, it does not make such good reading. Villa has 20 goals in 37 games for his little club, which is all the more impressive considering the annual one-on-one Pichichi competition held between CR7 and la Pulga. Negredo has banged in 23 goals in 40 games for Sevilla in the past 13 months and Llorente 19 in 40 for Athletic Bilbao, while perhaps most impressively of all, the previously unfashionable Roberto Soldado has notched up 23 wage-earners in 37 games since joining Valencia from Getafe. Torres, it would appear, faces stiff competition.
As someone once said, the boy’s got talent, and as mentioned already, Torres has been showing that more of late. He is not however, a Peter Crouch type who is a beanpole to aim at, or an Emile Heskey who does the bull work allowing others to score – he is a goal scorer, always has been. Ultimately the only way to judge a goal scorer, is by their goals.
The one silver lining to be derived from the events at Old Trafford on Sunday however, is that Fernando has given journalists – both here and in Spain – a whole lot more ammunition for future articles about the boy from Fuenlabrada. Hey, I didn’t say it was a silver lining for him…
Edar Mullan was unfortunate enough to be born a QPR fan but doesn’t hold a grudge. His all-time hero is Alan McDonald and he still wakes up in a cold sweat at memories of Georges Santos. Edar doesn’t have a Twitter yet, but if anyone’s interested in his opinions, stick your head out the window – on a quiet night you can hear him when all is still.
Posted on 19/09/2011, in 1. Latest, 7. Special Guests and tagged Alvaro Negredo, Chelsea, David Villa, el Nino, Fernando, Fernando Hierro, Fernando Llorente, football, Fuenlabrada, premier league, Raul, Roberto Soldado, Torres. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.