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Sid Lowe on Torres' transfer

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Sid Lowe's take on the transfer. Good article which doesn't paint the saga in black and white.

Torres' exit leaves a bitter taste

By the time Fernando Torres actually signed his contract with Chelsea on Monday, there were less than 15 minutes of the transfer window remaining. The clock was ticking, and when he put pen to paper, there was relief more than joy. His situation had reached a point of no return, he was in a corner, and yet the risk of having to return felt real. At times during deadline day, Torres had doubted the deal would go through. But a tense and difficult day -- a tense and difficult few months -- finally ended well for Torres. He got what he wanted.

Well, sort of. This was not the way that the Spaniard had pictured it, nor the way he planned it. He didn't want to leave this way. Under different circumstances, he would have preferred not to leave at all. But the circumstances were what they were. They were not good. Liverpool was not what he thought Liverpool should be and he was not prepared to wait for the club to be once more. That, in a nutshell, is why he wanted to depart Anfield. In the end, the desire simply to leave -- and leave as soon as possible -- overshadowed all else.

Monday was a day of helicopters, tears and arguments, with obstacles to overcome. With each hurdle cleared, the finishing line drew nearer. The first and most significant, the price. Then there was the wait while Liverpool sought a replacement. Few were happier that Andy Carroll was joining Liverpool than the man whose No. 9 shirt he would take. Then there were negotiations over Sunday's clash -- the Reds didn't want Torres playing for Chelsea against them. Legally, that was impossible, but Liverpool sought an informal agreement. That was the one concession it did not get.

If Torres had any doubt as to the way Liverpool fans would receive him on Sunday, confirmation came with the images breathlessly beamed live by Sky Sports News and reproduced in newspapers everywhere. There they were burning his shirt, flames flickering around that No. 9.

The burning of a shirt is perhaps the ultimate in mob cliché, a powerful image gleefully seized upon by hungry cameras. You almost imagine the man behind the camera handing over a bottle of petrol, a box of matches and the shirt. And the chance to be on the telly. A smile and a How about it, lads? It is also an image that is more powerful, more symbolic than its real significance -- it only takes a couple of people, after all, yet it speaks for thousands.

While the image was manipulated, the anger and the hurt were genuine enough. And when Torres ill-advisedly used the phrase "big club" upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge, Liverpool supporters could hardly have been more annoyed, their pride pricked. Not least because they had elevated him to the status of a hero. It is always the ones you love who hurt you the most. Despite being disabused of the idea daily, despite players kissing the badge and declaring undying love only to move on, football fans want to believe that players are as loyal as they are. With few exceptions, that's impossible. It is also hard to take.

And yet with that phrase, Torres had actually uttered words of truth. His truth, for sure, but a truth. This move was not about money or betrayal. In fact, Torres himself felt betrayed. Wrongly, perhaps, but the sense of letdown was real. The frustration and anger had eaten at him for ages. Paradise was not what it first appeared. He has the move he wanted but he feels that he has lost the propaganda battle. He has certainly come out of this as the bad guy.

For Torres, this move was about ambition and desperation. It was about Chelsea being, in his words, a "big club" -- and a big club right now. It was about Liverpool not being one. Not anymore. And maybe not in the foreseeable future. It was about Torres' fear that his career could slip away from him. And indeed, if Liverpool does emerge stronger now, bolstered by the arrivals of Luis Suárez and Carroll, it might be Torres' departure that made that possible.

Torres knows that his connection with the Chelsea fans will not be what it was with Liverpool. Anfield had a greater impact on him than he could ever have imagined and vice versa; he was handed the kind of welcome he could only dream of.

As his brother admitted this week, in that sense, Chelsea is different. He did not say "not as good" but he might as well have done. Torres knows that. He is not lying when he says he watched videos about Liverpool's history or when he notes a connection between the club and his boyhood team, Atlético Madrid. When he dedicated his autobiography to "the best fans in the world," it was not entirely an act of cynicism -- even if it looks like it now.

But from Torres' point of view, the bottom line is very simple: Liverpool is not the club that he joined. And he is not the player. He is no longer a potential star of 23 years; he is a World Cup winner soon to turn 27. That is in part down to Liverpool, but he thinks he deserves better; Liverpool fans think they do too.

When Torres signed, he was a hugely talented striker but one about whom there were significant doubts. Liverpool had just reached a second Champions League final in three years. And with Torres in the side, it would finish fourth and reach the Champions League semifinal. The following season Liverpool finished second in the league -- closer to the title than it had been in almost 20 years. Then it started to go horribly wrong.

In December 2009, Torres was already warning that the club needed significant investment.

"This year should have been a turning point for us," he told the English magazine FourFourTwo. "Manchester United sold Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo, while Chelsea didn't sign anyone. We finished second last season; this season was a chance for us to do something great. But we have reached December and we're out of the Champions League, out of the Carling Cup and out of the league. We have virtually no chance of winning the title now."

"It's frustrating. It's now the owners' turn. They have to sign players so that this does not happen again. If we want to compete with United and Chelsea, we need a much, much more complete squad, we need more genuinely first-class players and we can't let our best players leave."

But they did leave. That warning went unheeded. The financial reality did not allow for investment. Liverpool had slipped out of contention and into debt. Spending on the squad reduced rapidly. The Reds no longer had a Champions League place and the pessimism, even resignation, took hold. Xabi Alonso had gone. Javier Mascherano had, too. Manager Rafa Benítez had gone. Some relationships had soured; in many eyes within the squad, Jaime Carragher went from inspirational defender to problem player. Captain Steven Gerrard was frustrated and injured. Even Torres had suffered an injury -- an injury whose handling had also caused a degree of friction. There was massive uncertainty, battles between manager and board, fans up in arms. The club would ultimately slip into a court battle over ownership.

By last summer, the situation was the opposite of what it had been when Torres signed. He had proved himself one of the best strikers in the world, the kind of player that Chelsea thought was worth £50 million ($80 million). The kind of player that should not have been playing in the Europa League. In his mind, his own culpability for that was not an issue. He had won a European Championship, scoring the winner in the final, and a World Cup (although that was tempered slightly by his limited role in South Africa). Liverpool hadn't won anything. The second-best side in Europe he'd joined was no more.

Bluntly, the Reds weren't very good. Even more bluntly, they weren't good enough for Torres. When he joined Liverpool, he looked up at the Anfield club. Now, he looked down at it and wondered what had happened. Yes, he had embraced the club, its history, its fans, its culture, but he wanted to win. Desperately. He was 26 (he will be 27 in March) and he had won nothing as a club player. Time was running away from him. He could not see how he would win anything with Liverpool.

Already in the summer, there had been two bids for Torres. One from Chelsea and one from Manchester City. The striker was told that he could not leave. Liverpool was in a sales process and could not lose its key assets. There were also bids for Pepe Reina and Steven Gerrard. They, too, were told that they could not depart. Torres was told that if things did not improve, he would be allowed to go; that in return for waiting a future departure would be facilitated, if necessary. But that assurance came from chief executive Christian Purslow -- who no longer has that role with the club. There was no written agreement.

When the sale of the club went through at the High Court in the autumn, there was hope. There was a renewed sense of collectiveness about the club, but some of the players did not necessarily share that. There was also frustration, sparked by the utter failure of the previous owners and still simmering. And those new hopes threatened to go unfulfilled. Under Roy Hodgson, a manager whose decisions Torres and other players could not understand, things were getting even worse on the pitch. Off the pitch, Liverpool's new owners were moving slowly. Sensibly, you might say.

But for a player who wanted more, already frustrated and irritable, already watching time slip away, it was not enough. Torres could see no reason to stay and no one was trying to persuade him to do so. Hodgson's sacking was not enough either. Where, Torres asked himself, was the investment? His perspective became strikingly short-term. There was no patience. What, he asked, am I going to be doing for the rest of this season? Fighting off relegation? That's not what I signed up for.

Chelsea's bid arrived late in the winter transfer window. The fact that Torres asked for Liverpool to negotiate and did so late, thus making securing an alternative harder still, is one of the reasons why supporters have been so angry with him. But the timing was not really down to Torres -- and while the transfer request ultimately was, even that is not as clear-cut as it appears.

The reason it all happened so late was simple: Chelsea feared that Manchester City would become involved and prompt an auction. It waited until City had signed Edin Dzeko, satisfying the club's striking needs, before making the bid. When Chelsea did, Liverpool told Torres. It would be naive to assume that Torres had no idea that there was a bid coming, no inkling of what was being cooked up. But he could not control it. Liverpool, for its part, could have rejected it and carried on regardless. Instead, it told the striker about the bid. To which he said: "OK, well, let's negotiate then."

Instead, Liverpool went public -- and it was Liverpool, not Torres or Chelsea, which went public -- to say that it had turned down the offer. In doing so, Liverpool forced Torres' hand. And rather than frightening Chelsea away for good, the Reds also forced up the price.

Torres was not sure he would get another chance to move to a club as competitive as Chelsea. He had not initially anticipated the bid this winter. Now he was being presented with an opportunity. If he turned it down, he feared being trapped. Would that train pass through the station again? If he waited until the summer and there still wasn't any optimism at Liverpool, if he had endured a mediocre season, would anyone come in for him then? Would he be stuck? Between a Champions League campaign or a relegation battle, the choice was obvious -- if shortsighted. If Alonso and Mascherano had gone, why shouldn't he?

Torres had hoped for a negotiated departure. He had no interest in forcing an exit that brought flames to his shirt. Alonso remains popular. Going to Chelsea made that impossible for Torres, but he hoped to be tolerated and understood.

Liverpool's owners, on the other hand, saw no reason why they should allow him to leave as a victim. A sale might not be a bad idea -- but on their terms. They were sensitive to the reaction of fans. They needed it to be clear that it was the players' fault, that they had had little choice but to sell, even if they wanted to. They would have preferred to keep him, for sure, but this was not a bad option. By revealing that there was a chance to leave and then taking it away, they flushed him out. They forced him to make the next, potentially damaging move.

That, certainly, was Torres' perception. He felt promises had been broken about investment and that there was little reason for optimism. There was just inertia. He felt that Liverpool should have convinced him to stay, enthused him with their plans. But they never did. Luis Suárez's arrival was viewed from the outside as a exactly that, as a gesture -- a symbol of the club's ambition. A way of convincing him. But it didn't: it was viewed by Torres merely as confirmation that they club were already counting on the money from his sale. That, in fact, given that he no longer appeared committed to the club, they didn't mind the idea of him moving on.

Make no mistake, Torres wanted that sale too and there was only one way to make it happen. He handed in a transfer request. The cards were on the table.

Ultimately, Torres got what he wanted: a move to Chelsea. But so did Liverpool's owners: they sold an unhappy player, raised £50 million in return, and had themselves a bad guy. They acted quickly and effectively to replace him, reinforcing their status in the eyes of the supporters. For just £8 million ($13M), they looked bold and ambitious where before it had been precisely the apparent lack of ambition and decisiveness -- or, perhaps more accurately, economic capability -- that hastened their demise. There were no U.S. flags burning this time as there had been under Gillet and Hicks -- the real villains in Liverpool's recent history. Instead, there was a Torres shirt.

Fernando Torres, Liverpool's No. 9. Now Chelsea's. It doesn't really have the same ring to it. He had become such an idol; now he is a fallen one, loathed where once he was loved. In the end, everyone was happy. But deep down, no one was.

Read more: http://sportsillustr...l#ixzz1CwTbliMw

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Good thing I skipped down to the last paragraph before reading all this stupid shit. Who cares about what Sid Lowe has to say anyways? Most of his writings are biased pieces of favoritism. Journalists are the clowns of the writers community.

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Not too bad an article really.

No, it's not a bad article at all, mainly due to the fact that it states the obvious. Understandably, Liverpool fans aren't going to love him like they once did - at least for a short while, he'll be seen as a traitor in their eyes. Calling Chelsea a "big club" was taking way out of proportion; he meant in today's sense - talking about the now, not the past. Liverpool are still a big name, but not a big club. That's obvious, and anyone with half a brain could interpret Torres' comments in the right manner; the way which he meant it to be. I haven't gained any knowledge from the article, though, which is what I look for when I read an online article. What's the point making an article including information that everyone already knows?

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I'm sure some of the scousers will dismiss the points here too because they run counter to their Torres is a twat agenda. Pity for them because he gave them some memorable moments and now he has been demonized even though the club was a joke for the last 3 years. Best fans in the world my ass. A bunch of cultists cling to defending their big club rep over really analyzing how they've lost their best players over the last couple of years. Nope, let's lay into the evil lad from Spain while repeatedly claiming "disrespect" to their history and big club stature. I wish you the best and many medals at Chelsea, Nando. I also wish Liverpool will, in 10 years time, still be waxing lyrical about their 18 league titles and 5 CLs.

'Too many broken promises'

The ill-fated Anfield era of Tom Hicks and George Gillett has yet another victim, writes Dion Fanning

By Dion Fanning

Sunday February 06 2011

L ast Friday, Fernando Torres tried to explain what happened. How he had meant the things he once said about Liverpool. Yet his words had ceased to have meaning when it turned out that others didn't mean what they told him.

Liverpool supporters' sense of betrayal will be expressed at Stamford Bridge today but even on Friday, even with his excitement at the opportunities at Chelsea, Torres' feeling of betrayal was also palpable.

"There were too many things to think about, too many broken promises, too many false hopes -- but I am not responsible for that," he said during a compelling day of press obligations at Chelsea's Surrey training ground. "The only thing I have to do is play football and I accept that my performances were not the best, I realise that."

Torres' dissatisfaction began the summer Rafael Benitez sold Xabi Alonso and discovered that most of the profit would go to feeding Tom Hicks and George Gillett's debt. Torres recalled those years of promise when Liverpool finished second and reached the latter stages of the Champions League. Soon there would just be promises, then eventually a battlefield of broken promises.

At that time, when Liverpool promised so much, he said he never wanted to play for another English club. But he watched as the club he said he would never forsake became another club, torn apart by dysfunction and Shakespearean intrigue.

"I said that at that moment, I didn't think I would play for another club -- because at that moment Liverpool were giving me what they promised, but not now. I think one of the important points is in my first two seasons at the club, they played in the semi-finals of the Champions League and finished second in the Premier League, four points behind Man United. We were very, very close to being one of the top teams for a long time because everyone was together and everyone was moving in the right direction."

In the summer of 2009, that stopped. Football wants heroes and villains, supporters demand them as much as the media, but if Hicks and Gillett were the obvious bad guys, many others were playing a part, including those generally regarded as heroes.

In Benitez's final year, Torres became dissatisfied. The manager was blamed by those who spoke of dressing room discontent. The chain of command had been broken by Christian Purslow, who was close to some of the players who were unhappy. Torres wavered. Benitez knew who the unhappy players were and he knew who were more content. With Torres, he was never sure.

Many have been persuaded that Benitez was the problem but when he left it turned out that, imperfectly, he had been holding things together. Torres knew when this season began that it was getting worse.

In the summer, Liverpool had appointed Roy Hodgson after Kenny Dalglish's ambitions for the job were dismissed by Martin Broughton and Purslow. Off the field, Torres kept hearing stories that never came true. "The old owners were talking about selling the club too many times and during that time the team was being weakened because they were not focused on it."

Torres reflected on Friday that things might have been different if Dalglish rather than Hodgson had been appointed instead of patronisingly dealt with last summer. Dalglish's appointment last summer might have changed things.

"I don't know, that never happened. He came in the last month. It's always difficult to change the manager. Benitez was five years at Liverpool with a different style, always doing the same things. Hodgson came with his ideas about football, his tactics and methods. I think the fact is maybe we never understand what Hodgson wanted or Hodgson never understand us. I think that is not his fault, he's a great, great man and great manager."

Dalglish's arrival made a difference but by then it was too late. Liverpool had dropped into the relegation zone during Hodgson's time and Torres had spent the first half of the season chasing long balls, adapting to the tactics of a coach some of his team-mates were convinced was the solution. Now they were a club without Javier Mascherano and Xabi Alonso, key departures in Torres' view which pointed to a long transition. With Hodgson in charge, it began to look like an eternal transition.

"When Kenny Dalglish came, especially for the fans, there was some new hope because he knew the club. As a footballer and as a manager, he did great things for the club. I don't know, if he was manager in the summer, maybe it would have been different, maybe not."

There were moments on the field this season that left many convinced that the dissatisfaction with the owners and the broken promises had now fractured the dressing room. During the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park, Torres made a dismissive gesture towards Jamie Carragher which was, some believe, a reflection of their personal relationship.

Carragher was vocal again last week. Torres' sale might have been for the best if "he didn't 100 per cent want to be here". Nobody can question Carragher's desire to be at the club but many now have to ask if he should be.

It was "time for a change" he said when Benitez was sacked, even if the change only made things worse. Then, like now, he made some conciliatory public noises, but his private view reportedly was different.

Most, if not all, of those who contributed to the psychodrama at Liverpool have left. Carragher is the issue that needs to be confronted by Dalglish who has the powerbase to do it, a powerbase that may have intimidated those who felt he shouldn't get the job last summer.

"There is no romanticism in football anymore," Torres said on Friday but those who believed he had seen something more than success in Liverpool had made him the vessel for their dreams.

Last week, he seemed to trample on them. On Monday night, it was reported that he said he had now joined a big club. Football had its villain.

"Everyone is trying to turn my words. I will never say anything bad about Liverpool. I left a great club with the best history in the country and I come to another great club. In the last years, Chelsea has proved that they are one of the best clubs in the country and I have the possibility to join them. Liverpool has more history, it is a massive club but right now I think Chelsea have more options to win everything and are building a great history and future."

Certainly, he has decided that he had to be ruthless in his choice of club even if there was a sense of the romantic in his explanation for leaving Liverpool. Torres cared about playing for Liverpool but the club was no longer the club he loved.

Torres' sense of betrayal was profound but he also had to realise his own ambitions which, until Dalglish arrived, seemed further away at Liverpool. He thinks the club is building for the future while as a footballer he has to think of now.

Footballers sitting at a podium are never at their best. Usually they keep their heads down and roll through the platitudes. Torres didn't do that on Friday. He wanted to explain what had happened, he said, and there will be a time when he wants to do more explaining. "I have nothing to prove," he said, "I only want to win trophies."

Things had gone wrong for him at Liverpool and his unhappiness was profound and on this, if on little else, he agreed with Jamie Carragher that it suited everyone for him to leave.

"I'm sure it was the best option for both. Obviously I was not playing the same way because I was feeling the apprehension about everything that happened, the sale and all those things. I am sure they have spent the money well. There is no reason to keep one player who wants to leave."

Liverpool were left with those familiar conflicting feelings of hope and despair. The signings of Luis Suarez and Carroll made them feel good again. But Purslow's signing of Joe Cole last summer had made them feel good too. Cole's arrival was seen as a statement when in fact all it did was demonstrate again Purslow's arrogant clumsiness when it came to meddling in football.

Carroll is worth the price Liverpool paid for him if he delivers on his potential. His potential is not the problem, his personality is the danger. Carroll too made an impressive debut in front of the media last week. He explained himself and said he was a straightforward man who liked a drink "at the right time". The right time for a footballer to have a drink was about 1985. Any player who begins a career explaining when and why he likes to drink may be in danger of fulfilling some old stereotypes of the English footballer.

His progress is astonishing. Towards the end of Rafael Benitez's time at Liverpool, the club were working on a deal to sign Carroll for about £5m. Then Benitez was sacked and Purslow entered the transfer market.

John W Henry's explanation of the way Liverpool worked in the market last week made sense. Liverpool may have overspent but when the Hicks and Gillett years involved even greater sums going out of the club in interest payments, Andy Carroll becomes a risk worth taking. Henry explained that Liverpool wanted "Carroll plus £15 million for Torres". Yet in pointing out that the sale of Torres and Ryan Babel financed the purchase of Carroll and Suarez, he may have revealed that the club were preparing for Torres' departure long before last weekend.

Torres informed the club, as he said, ten or 12 days before the story broke last Thursday. According to informed sources, Torres was told by the club that any release of the information at this stage could increase the price for Suarez so only when that deal was close to completion did the story come out. Torres, with the last-minute request, was easily cast as the villain, but this was just another contortion he had to absorb and he had become used to them.

The decision to sign for Chelsea seemed to make little sense. Torres sees it differently. He sees Chelsea as a rejuvenated team because they have Fernando Torres. The stunning self-belief may not be misplaced. "They were the only club I wanted to fight for."

In the long-term, he will be Didier Drogba's replacement. In Benitez's final year, the statistics available to the manager showed that Torres was working less and when his former manager spoke last week of how clubs wanted to buy Torres last year for £70m, he might not have been speaking in the abstract.

Torres says he was surprised by the friendliness at his new club and again that might have been the change from the previous months of isolation when he became disconnected at Liverpool. He was the only Liverpool player not to attend the Christmas party, which was seen as an example of his isolation, or he may have just decided not to go where he wasn't welcome.

Torres' mistake was to leave Liverpool when the club were feeling good again and put in jeopardy the supporters' fragile sense of hope.

He believes he can win the trophies at Chelsea he wanted to win at Liverpool. The years of discord and destruction by Hicks and Gillett and others are still claiming victims. Torres may not be the last to decide that if he wants to fulfil his ambitions, he will have to leave.

"If the promises had been true, Liverpool would have been fighting with Manchester United and Chelsea so you never know, maybe I would still be there. We were very close to fighting with these teams but two years after, we were not."

Torres is closer now and he may be closer to the player Liverpool signed nearly four years ago. But he is not the player the fans turned to for hope.

"In time they will realise what I did for the club. I couldn't get to the target we had to win trophies with them. I'm sure I did my best for the club. Maybe now they can start a new era."

Last week, the old one claimed another casualty.

- Dion Fanning

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If I was a Liverpool fan the Dion Fanning article would be damn depressing. Too many won't be bothered to read it because it doesn't cast 100% blame on Torres.

Some will offer up more of the same --he disrespected Liverpool! He disrespected King Kenny! He said we are not a big club! Others will be embarrassed but will only say--oh it's time to move on, he's a plastic chav now. It's sad because in denying Torres they deny their own enjoyment of his talent.

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