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The Meteoric Rise and Astounding Fall of Fernando Torres

31/07/2014 17:15 BST | Updated 30/09/2014 10:59 BST

Fernando Torres - World class striker. Fernando Torres - Deadly finisher. Fernando Torres - 30 goals a season player.

Remember that? It's been a while, but for Torres it must feel like a lifetime.

The long and eventful story of his career took another turn recently and it's hard not to feel sorry for the 30-year-old. Atletico Madrid, the club he joined as a youth player in 1995 and left as a superstar in 2007, want to take him back home to play for them, but they're unwilling to pay Chelsea's £13million valuation.

They want him for less than £10million, by all accounts. His stock has dropped so much that even the club who adore him like no other are only willing to pay 20% of what Chelsea did three years ago.

Ouch.

It wasn't always this way. In 2003, Torres had just finished his second full season at Atletico. Six second division goals in the first campaign, 13 La Liga strikes in the second. On the basis of his potential, Roman Abramovich put in a bid of around £28million in an attempt to make him one of Chelsea's first big signings under the new regime.

The bid was rejected and Torres flourished in his next season. He notched a hatful of goals, finished the season as the league's third-highest scorer and was rewarded by being made club captain. All at the age of 19.

The longer you study Torres' career, the easier it is to understand what's happened to him in the last couple of years. Given the captaincy of his club aged just 19, he had to take responsibility and pressure from the get-go.

At the time, it didn't make a great deal of difference to his personal performance. He kept scoring a consistent (but not astonishing) amount of goals - easily in double figures, but never up to 20. However, pressure like that builds slowly and the now 30-year-old Torres has the mental fatigue of a 36-year-old veteran... at best.

He arrived in England in 2007 to much fanfare after having joined Liverpool. Chelsea tried for him that summer, just like almost every summer before, but lost out to the lure of Anfield.

It is no exaggeration to say that he was, even with high expectations, a revelation in his first season in England, setting a new record for the best debut season by a foreign player in the Premier League and sending Liverpool fans to their feet over and over again.

The next two seasons went much the same way, with Torres' pace terrorising defenders around the country. But then came the injury.

On 18 April 2010, it was announced that the Spaniard would miss the rest of the season to undergo knee surgery. He recovered to play the opening game of the next campaign, but the effects were all-too clear to see. With his pace cut by the injury, Torres began to doubt himself. His scoring rate fell away dramatically, scoring half as many goals as the season previous in the same number of matches.

Then came what ended up being the hammer blow. Chelsea inexplicably shelled out £50 million for a striker who clearly had issues with his fitness and the pressure on Torres became even heavier.

He played 14 games for Chelsea that season. He scored one goal. He was shot to bits.

Confidence at an all-time low, the misses started. The big one, the one everyone remembers, is the one against Manchester United in 2011. Torres timed his run to perfection - that part of his game never went away - and rounded David de Gea, leaving him with a wide open goal from just about the middle of the box. He put it wide.

The press destroyed him. So did the fans. The confidence was gone. The pace was down. The finishing, which had never been exceptional, was now verging on comical.

His highest Premier League goal tally since then is eight. Eight goals in 36 games from the player who netted 24 in his first season at Anfield.

Now 30 years old, Torres is surely nearing the end of his career as a striker. His 'football brain', one of those undefinable ideals, is as good as almost any as he creates for his team-mates and always puts himself in good positions to help the team. But the pace and sharpness that made him special disappeared years ago.

Is it too late for him to reinvent himself as a creator of chances instead of a scorer? He's built up enough goodwill that they'd surely give him a chance to do it there. Will he want to? We might find out soon.

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