The success of Fernando Torres’s career thus far is such that the Spanish striker has competed in some of the biggest games imaginable, but few, if any, will be able to match tomorrow night’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Atletico Madrid for personal emotions.
Having signed his first professional contract with Atletico, his hometown club, at only 15-years-old, Torres went on to represent them for the majority of his early career before making the switch to Liverpool in 2007, and tomorrow’s game will be the first time he has played against the team he used to watch from the stands as a youngster.
‘It couldn’t be more special, since I left I’ve always felt the support of the fans, they know I was one of them,’ said Torres.
‘I spent more than 12 years of my life at the club, they are not just my former club but the team I support. Tomorrow is so special, but I have to leave all these things in the past.
‘My only commitment is winning the cup, we are here to win, that’s our only aim, after the game I will be an Atletico supporter like I’ve always been.’
It’s no exaggaration to suggest that Torres has endured a difficult time since moving to Stamford Bridge from Anfield at the beginning of 2011.
However, after finishing last season well, scoring crucial goals as the Blues secured both the FA Cup and Champions League, and walking away with the Golden Boot as Spain won the European Championships, he has started this campaign in similar fashion.
Two goals in the opening three league games, coupled with impressive, selfless displays playing as the lone striker have seen his stock begin to rise once more, but as the player himself admits, sometimes you have to go through bad times in order to truly appreciate the good.
‘I would change nothing from last year,’ said the 28-year-old. ‘It taught me a lot of things, both good and bad. The end of the season was brilliant for me, the club and everyone. It made me a better person and I’m stronger for it.
‘It was a difficult change from Liverpool to Chelsea, the adaptation takes a long time, but that’s part of the past. The present time is brilliant and hopefully the future will be even better. All these things make you stronger and a better player. I realise things now which I didn’t know before, that has helped me a lot and I can use that.
‘In football things change so quickly, last season was a difficult one, I can’t say it was bad because I was lucky to win all the trophies. At the beginning everything was so bad but by the end it was amazing and that’s why football is so good and you have to enjoy those moments, because it won’t be like that forever.
‘We are enjoying a good run at the moment, the team is playing well, the new players have settled in and if we can win the first trophy tomorrow, hopefully there will be many more to come.’
Last season’s Europa League winners, much like ourselves, have started the new campaign in a rich vein of form, and there is little doubt that a side containing Thibaut Courtois – currently on loan from the Blues – and midfielder Thiago, who was part of our 2004/05 title-winning squad, will pose a serious threat.
A 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao last weekend ensures they head into the match full of confidence, and while Radamel Falcao, scorer of a hat-trick that night, will understandably be pinpointed as the man to watch, Torres believes they have quality all over the pitch.
‘They are a very balanced team, and since [Diego] Simeone has been in charge they have improved a lot,’ he said.
‘They have found their mentality, when you have players with the quality they have everything becomes much easier.
‘They have shown everybody that the Spanish league is not just about two teams. Atletico are the third team in Spain and won the Europa league. Now they have a chance to win the Super Cup and they should be proud.
‘In the last few years the winners of the Europa League have gone on to win the Super Cup, and we need to be wary of that, but we will work hard and try to win the match, that is our target.’
With Daniel Sturridge waiting in the wings, Torres is aware of the importance of maintaining his recent reversal in fortunes.
However, the Torres of this season feels secure, stable and the confidence of his manager, and that, ultimately, has been the key.
‘I was in a difficult situation last season; I’d never been on the bench eight games in a row before, and when it’s like this you begin to understand the players who are not playing all the time and the situations they are going through, I learnt a lot and it made me a better teammate,’ he explained.
‘When you feel the confidence of everyone and you are in the team it’s easier. You know you will play and you get more time, that’s the main difference between this season and the last one. I’m playing more and scoring more. I have become a better player, it’s a different way to how I played at Liverpool, I can play outside the box more and provide assists.’