ON THIS DAY: Fernando Torres’ Chelsea career was largely forgettable, but the Spanish striker had a memorable week in April 2012 with four goals in six days for the Blues
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For a player briefly considered one of the worst signings in Premier League history, Fernando Torres didn’t have the worst goalscoring record.
The Spain international has scored 45 goals for Chelsea in 172 appearances. It may not be a great return for a £50million player, and it might pale in comparison to the Liverpool comeback that prompted the Blues to spend big in 2011, but he still posted a better record minutes per goal than Gianfranco Zola or Eden Hazard during his time at Stamford Bridge.
There were low points, including the long goalless run immediately after leaving Anfield in January 2011. But there were also moments that will live long in the memory.
No Chelsea fan will ever forget Torres’ goal at Camp Nou that secured the club’s place in the 2012 Champions League final. However, fewer people will immediately remember the hat-trick he scored just days later. that goal in Barcelona.
“It was a mental block last season and I had it very badly,” Torres said after the Barcelona goal. “When I wasn’t scoring, I always felt very good on the pitch because I feel like I’ve become a more complete player.
“I went away and watched a lot of videos to study the movements of other strikers, including those of me when I was at Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. It helped me a lot because I lost fear of being in the area I was playing with.”
It was in late April 2011 that Torres finally broke his Chelsea duck, converting against West Ham on a soggy Stamford Bridge ground. Maybe we should have known, then, that the end of April would also be a fruitful time for him next season.
It helped that QPR weren’t on the run, with Daniel Sturridge’s long-range effort and a simple header from John Terry from a corner putting Chelsea two inside 15 minutes. However, you have to take your chances in addition to making them, and Torres did just that.
Blues fans still haunted by the Spaniard’s failure against Manchester United earlier in the season might have been surprised to see him calmly around Victor Valdes before bringing home the biggest goal of his career at Chelsea a few days earlier, but it seemed to give him the motivation to do the same when R goalkeeper Paddy Kenny dove at his feet. It was in the 19th minute, and in less than 25 minutes he had his second of the afternoon.
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The second was just as hard to mess up, but Torres had no complaints. A mix-up between Kenny and defender Nedum Onuoha left him with goal sight, and he made no mistakes.
He had scored harder goals, of course, but that wasn’t the issue here. A first hat-trick since 2009 was within reach, and it would come midway through the second half.
QPR had clearly not learned from their mistakes in the first half. They kept pushing, leaving space behind for Torres to exploit, and he did just that before opening his body to roll the ball into the far corner. All of that criticism, all of that claim that he was the worst January signing ever or the worst Premier League buy ever, has finally been blown away.
It’s easier to say you always knew you would turn things around after doing just that, but Torres insisted he still had that confidence. “I had a very difficult year here, going through a very, very difficult time, where things weren’t going well,” he said.
“When you work hard – it’s the only thing you can do – the rewards have to come, and it’s time to enjoy them now. A long time ago was the last[hat-tricksoI’mgladthatthingsarelookingup”[hat-tricksoI’mhappywiththatThingsaregettingbetter”[hat-trickdoncjesuiscontentdeçaLeschosess’améliorent”[hat-tricksoI’mhappywiththatThingsaregettingbetter”
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Those goals would end up being Torres’ last of the 2011-12 season, but the following campaign would be his best in the Chelsea blue. 22 in all competitions, including six in the Europa League round of 16 as Chelsea became the first team to win the competition a year after winning the Champions League.
“My decision to come to Chelsea was justified by the medals I won,” said Torres after scoring against Benfica in the Europa League final. “It hasn’t all been as bad as people have said. I’m happy for this season and winning trophies with Chelsea is what I wanted to do when I arrived.
“I feel more important than in the past, so I think the future will be even better. When you’re involved and you feel like you’re an important part of the team, you feel a lot better.
Just over 12 months before that game, the idea of Torres playing a key role for Chelsea still seemed a long way off. However, thanks to Barcelona’s goal and QPR’s hat-trick, he was able to change his story.