Good luck Fernando


Today marks the retirement of Fernando Torres, the player they call ‘El Niño’.

Moments like this are made for reflection and I remember the summer of 2007, when I was manager of Liverpool and we decided to invest in bringing Fernando to Anfield.

The hiring process was an example of how to do things, both from the perspective of Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. I had travelled to Madrid when an agreement was close and nobody knew about it and when everything was finalised, Fernando came back to Merseyside, waiting a couple of days to make it official, without the news breaking anywhere. With all the leaks that exist, it is a difficult thing to do these days.

Anyway, as they say in England, Fernando was a big step in the right direction for Liverpool. His speed and movement, together with the rapport he forged with Steven Gerrard, were lethal to Premier League defences, who were less tactically drilled than their Spanish counterparts. His first goal at Anfield, against Chelsea, was an example of that; defenders could not stop him.

When we won 4-1 at Old Trafford the following season, Fernando scored once, but he also shattered Manchester United’s entire defensive system. Nemanja Vidic, who was sent off that day, could not deal with him. There would be many other victories like that.

Later, I met up again with El Niño at Chelsea, in a difficult season for them and for him. Roman Abramovich had signed Fernando with huge enthusiasm, but it hadn’t worked, and the owner thought that my relationship with him could re-energise his favourite player and his team.

In that regard, everything went perfectly. Fernando came to the fore in the Europa League, scoring many goals on our way to lifting the trophy and contributing to our third-place finish in the Premier League, which had been the club’s target when I arrived.

For lovers of statistics, in the seasons we worked together (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2012-13), Fernando scored 33, 17, 22 and 22 goals, which includes his three most productive campaigns. In other words, we didn’t do too badly together.

Time gives you perspective on things and I am sure that when Fernando looks back he will remember those days with love and affection. As one of his coaches, I hope I helped him over the course of his successful career.

I know that Fernando tells the story of one of his birthdays, which fell the day after him scoring some goals for us. Instead of offering my congratulations, I gave him some technical and tactical corrections, although in my defence, I hadn’t realised what day it was! In spite of that, I’d like to think we always maintained a good personal relationship.

Fernando has been a wonderful example of humility, of unstinting support for his teammates. He was a big player with a big public image, but he was never a problem in the dressing-room. On the contrary, he went out of his way to help others. And he could have difficult conversations with other players if they were doing something he didn’t like because he had earned their respect. He was a decisive figure in the successes of both Liverpool and Chelsea.

Fernando, I know you will continue to inspire young people by your example and through your experience. I wish you good luck in the next stage of your life and career.

Best wishes,