Despite how I may feel about the way Fernando left my beloved Liverpool, there is no argument that he was arguably one of the best strikers in the world at his prime, and really put himself into the spotlight for many who hadn’t been tracking him before his move to Liverpool, with that spectacular debut season in English football.
Rafa Benitez had been lusting for a potent goalscorer ever since he joined the club. He never had a striker that netted over 20 goals in all competitions, with Crouch, Garcia and Milan Baroš all producing above-average seasons in Benitez’s reign. All very good players, but after the loss to Milan in the 2006/07 CL final, the penny finally dropped for the Spanish coach. If he wanted to turn Liverpool into a full-fledged European powerhouse, he needed someone who would leave the opposition’s defence quaking in their boots.
In the Spaniard’s system, a proper goalscorer would allow the burden to be taken off Gerrard’s shoulders and free up the versatile Dirk Kuyt to take up a supportive Inside Forward role on the left, a sort of early iteration of the ‘Raumdeter’ role Thomas Müller essentially created.
Torres was a product of the Atlético Madrid youth system and was named captain of the first team at the tender age of 19. Imagine what most teenagers are doing at that age. It was clear that Fernando was a special player, who led by example. In Torres’ two seasons in La Liga, he tallied up 13 and 19 goals respectively.
Before his move to Liverpool, Abramovich and Chelsea were potential suitors on multiple occasions, and so was the Toon army, but Torres stayed loyal to his boyhood club until Liverpool came calling. It was clear Torres felt Liverpool was the place to take his career to the next level.
It didn’t take long for El Niño to settle in, his first goal coming against Liverpool’s enemy of the decade so far, Chelsea. They had fought many a battle against each other, so leading up to the 2nd Premier League game of the season and Torres’ Anfield debut, this really was an opportunity to get some loving from the Scouse lads, and boy did he capitalise…
In the 16th minute, Torres latched onto a Gerrard through ball down the left flank during a swift counter-attack, turning Tal Ben Haim inside and out before proceeding to slot the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal. Anfield and I erupted, imagine that feeling of scoring on your home debut, in one of the biggest games of the season, and of that quality. Something only one could dream of and you can see by Torres’ reaction in the picture (below) that it was a great moment for him. A look of pure joy, nothing fake here. You can tell he was relieved, as it would have been hanging over him if he did not get off the mark. Moments like that really do stick with people, and I am sure when Fernando hangs up his boots, that will be one of the top 5 moments in his career.
We then went onto to see many more great moments from the Spanish talisman as he went on to score 33 goals in all competitions. Some of the more memorable moments were his hat-trick to carry Liverpool through a tricky League Cup tie away at Reading in September and his vital goal in the second leg of the CL Quarter Final against Arsenal, which set up an enticing tie against Chelsea, once again.
After scoring his 24th league goal in the final game of the season, a 2–0 win against Tottenham Hotspur, he set a new record for the most prolific foreign goal scorer in a debut season in England ending up with 24 league goals, shading Dutch goalscoring machine Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 23 goals. An impressive record, and many would not have predicted it, even the most hardcore Liverpool fan, as there was too much evidence these Spanish strikers were not able to cut it; Exhibit A – Fernando Morientes.
Many accolades and nominations were on his way after an outstanding season. He was nominated for PFA Player’s Player of the Year, PFA Young Player of the Year, named in the PFA Team of the Year and in the FIFPro World XI, finished second in the FWA Footballer of the Year, and more importantly, he finished 3rd in FIFA World Player of the Year.
An endless list I know. It just shows how good he was, and even if he did depart a few seasons later, which left me heartbroken, El Niño finally grew up and proved he was no longer just a prospect in European football. He had arrived, and was here to stay…