Last season was the longest in Chelsea’s history, with 69 competitive games played in eight different competitions, and for some, the campaign was extended still further by international duty and the Confederations Cup, which came a year after Euro 2012.
It was not until the beginning of July, when most of his club team-mates were preparing to report back for pre-season duties, that Fernando Torres and his colleagues who had played in Brazil finally had the chance for a prolonged break from the game. It was, Torres says, a much-needed one but he is now back with excitement at what is to come.
‘It was a really long, hard season with a lot of ups and downs for the team, and with the national team, so I had a great time resting with the family away from football,’ the 29-year-old, who lifted the tournament Golden Boot in South America, says. ‘I don’t remember the last time I had four weeks off in a summer so it was great and now I am fully prepared for the season, which should be a good one for all of us.
‘You enjoy your holidays and rest, but I was also looking at the website to see how Chelsea were doing, following the games in Asia, seeing about the new signings, and it’s nice to be back and part of the team now, with a new manager and some new players.
‘Everyone is giving everything to be in the manager’s plans. For me, pre-season is a nice time, I like the feeling of finishing training tired, with heavy legs and pain everywhere. It’s a nice feeling.’
Those who have seen him train in the 10 days or so since he returned from his holidays have noticed a sharpness to the forward’s game and a determination to impress new manager Jose Mourinho, but the player himself believes there is plenty more hard graft needed to catch up with the rest of the squad.
‘From the first day until now training has been great, high intensity, very fun, and so you are working hard but using the ball in every exercise, so it’s very good,’ he says, relaxing in the team’s Washington DC hotel after a tough session. ‘It’s good everyone is involved together, and the manager and his assistants do small things to make you enjoy the sessions.
‘From this you can see everyone is giving everything. Everyone wants play in the first 11, so people are working even harder than even in the middle of the season when they know if they are playing regularly or not. Everyone is playing well, the manager is mixing everybody well, making everyone sharp for competition. We only have two more games until the first Premier League game, and so far everyone is looking great.
‘Some of us are behind but we are trying to get fit as soon as possible. It’s difficult for us guys from the Confederations Cup to fit into the team now because the other guys have had 22 days more than us,’ Torres continues. ‘In pre-season that’s a huge difference and you can see they are much fitter than us, so we have to work even harder to fit in because the season is right there, in two weeks’ time. We have to be ready for that and we know how important it is to start well.’
Tonight we face Real Madrid in our penultimate pre-season game, with only Roma to come on Saturday before we meet Hull City in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday, August 18.
Meeting Real still means a lot to Torres, a former Atletico Madrid captain and supporter.
‘It is always a big game for me. I grew up in a city where Real was the biggest team, one of the biggest in the world. We were always in the shadow of Real Madrid so I know what it is like,’ he says, his face becoming focused and serious.
‘I never beat them playing for Atletico, it was nearly 15 years without beating them until the last Copa Del Rey. I had the chance to beat them with Liverpool, and this is the third time I will play them after leaving Spain, so even though it is a friendly to me it is very important and I know a lot of Atletico fans want us to win, to see that Real lost, and even more if I am playing on the other team.’
Tonight’s game is live on Chelsea TV, and also available online to viewers in the UK and Ireland. Click here to find out more…