Prime Fernando Torres was an absolute joy to behold.
Blonde locks blowing in the wind, headers, volleys, Nemanja Vidic flat on his face, rounding keepers, latching on to Stevie G throughballs… glorious.
El Nino’s Liverpool years are the stuff of legend and one of the primary reasons behind his success at the time was the guidance of Rafa Benitez.
Given the crisis of confidence that so impacted Torres’ time at Chelsea, Benitez deserves much praise for motivating his compatriot while they were together.
Speaking to Marca, Torres has revealed how a message the Spanish gaffer once wrote on one of his hat-trick balls summed up the pair’s relationship.
“I remember everything was going great,” he said. “I had just scored three goals, they [his team-mates] all signed the ball for me.”
“They all put ‘You’re the best’ or ‘Congratulations’, things like that.
What Rafa Benitez put on the ball was: ‘Today you lost eight balls'”
While obviously a tongue-in-cheek message, Torres states that this was typical from a manager who demanded constant improvement.
There’s no denying Benitez’s methods.
Torres scored 81 goals in 142 games for Liverpool, including 65 in 102 league games.
Compare that to 45 in 172 games for Chelsea after Roman Abramovich paid £50million for his services…
Torres turns 34-years-old next month and there are rumours of a final payday in the Chinese Super League before a retirement that will be met with great sadness from the footballing world.
We love you, El Nino.