Monday, 5 July 2010

So that's why Fernando Torres is playing like an Englishman in South Africa

So that’s why Fernando Torres is playing like an Englishman in South Africa. His not-so-secret agent thinks he’s James bloody Bond. The rumoured £70m move from Chelsea to Liverpool appears to under discussion DURING the World Cup.

The soon-to-be ex-darling of Anfield has produced a series of performances here which nearly defy belief. As Spain prepare to take on Germany in Durban on Wednesday for a place in the World Cup final, he must reflect on five games without the merest sniff of a goal.

Torres and his new haircut have lasted a total of 268 minutes so far as frustrated boss Vincente Del Bosche offers him the cushion time and again, preferring to rely on Barcelona-bound David Villa.

The comparisons with Wayne Rooney are fascinating. Roon, so off form for England it was embarrassing, managed six shots on goal in four games. Torres has achieved that many in five. Rooney hit six on target, Torres just two. Villa? He’s had 23 shots, 14 on target, and scored five goals including the quarter-final winner against Paraguay, after Torres had resumed his usual role on the bench.

The general diagnosis of Sampsonitis can now be dismissed. Cutting those flowing blond locks has nothing to do with his sudden loss of virility as Spain battled their way through to the last four at this World Cup.

Instead, we learn that his agent, Jose Antonio Martin, has been negotiating a move away from Liverpool - while his client should be focused on helping his nation to an historic global triumph. After their shock opening loss against Switzerland, the European Champions have fought back manfully – with talismanic Torres relegated to the role of onlooker.

Today Martin finally admitted: “We are working on Fernando’s future. It is very likely he will stay in the Premier League, but I cannot say that it will be with Liverpool. You cannot guarantee that he will stay at Anfield.” If you look carefully between the lines of this statement, you may just make out the words: “Please, Mr Abramovich, I’ve been begging since May. Spend your roubles on my client and give me ten percent”.

It’s no surprise of course. Liverpool suffered their worst season since the Beatles had long hair last season. They finished seventh in the Premier League, crashed out of the Champions League in the group stages and were generally laughable rather than lethal.

With those two charming Americans Hicks and Gillette squabbling over a price for the historic footballing jewel they picked up on the cheap, European conqueror Rafa Benitez has departed, pulling out what's left of his Portuguese hair. Roy Hodgson, though he is hardly the new Bill Shankly, has been asked to pick up the pieces, presumably on a tight budget given their reported debt of £472.5 million. That’s what he did best at Fulham. Hodgson’s previous attempts at bigger clubs – Inter Milan and Blackburn – have hardly sparkled.

Given the need for profit rather than pride, Yossi Benayoun has already left for Chelsea, Torres will join him if owner Roman Abramovich can afford it ... Javier Mascherano and Albert Riera are in the shop window too. And then there are all those desperately denied rumours about Stevie Gerrard needing to flee the city. Tough times.

Of course Liverpool fans will be outraged. At the crux of their winter of woe, Torres hobbled off for a second bout of ankle surgery, ensuring he was fit and fresh for the World Cup campaign.

As the spotlight turns full glare on the 26-year-old Atletico Madrid product, he says: “Hopefully Mr Del Bosque is happy. And the team too. It is a difficult tournament for me.

“I didn't arrive in the best moment in terms of fitness, especially after two operations but I'm happy with the things I am doing. Everyone has to try to give a bit to the team to get the best."

Despite his appalling form for Spain, the locals are insisting on a move to Barcelona. But special agent Martin is licensed to kill that rumour. He said: “I can rule that out. Barca have signed Villa and now they want to invest the money they have in other players.”

With his agent doubtless on the phone most nights, Torres says in public: “The World Cup is too important to think about what happens after that. I was happy Roy Hodgson got the job at Liverpool. He did really well at Fulham. I have a contract. After the World Cup, I'll have time to talk with him.”

The Germans must be loving every minute of this particular transfer saga.

Neal Collins is in South Africa to mourn England’s departure and promote his first novel A GAME APART. See

He will be speaking at the World Journalism Education Congress in Grahamstown tomorrow morning at 11am.

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