Liverpool are facing an uphill battle to hold onto their top striker after Fernando Torres handed in a transfer request almost immediately after it was reported that his club had agreed a fee with Dutch club Ajax to sign Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez.
It is said that just a matter of hours after a fee of £23 million was agreed between the two clubs, Torres handed in a transfer request. Although the request has been rejected by the club, it would none the less appear that the Spain striker now has his heart set on departing the Anfield club.
Liverpool, owned by Fenway Sports Group which is headed by John W Henry, earlier this week turned down a bid from Premier League rivals Chelsea which was rumoured to be as much as £40 million. Such action on behalf of the club shows the level of expectation that still slows through the corridors of Liverpool FC even if they may have slipped to a current position of seventh in the league.
It would have been hoped that the signing of Suarez would have given Torres the sign that he requires to stay put; that Liverpool are a club who can compete with the best clubs in the world, both on and off the pitch. Instead it seems that the agreed signing of Suarez has been seen by Torres as the window of opportunity for which he has been craving, so much so that it would appear that the World Cup winner is already attempting to climb through it before it has been flung fully open.
Torres’ apparent intention to leave is understandable however. In the last season-and-a-half he has seen the slip from being Premier League and European contenders to also-rans who are this season competing in the Europa League. Back to back wins in the league against Wolves and Fulham will hardly have changed his mind however.
With the two close fought victories against clubs currently placed 19th and 15th respectively does not on its own count as a turn around, and although the club are currently in and around the Europa League qualifications positions, by the end of the campaign they could be but a distant memory.
Liverpool will attempt to sway Torres; who has scored nine times this season after a lacklustre World Cup in the summer where, despite lifting the trophy, the striker failed to notch a single goal; into staying by pointing to the fact that captain Steven Gerrard has time after time extended his contract and, they will claim, is considered a club legend as a result. Although Gerrard is considered a legend, he will forever be considered so even if he were to pack his bags and leave for more successful climes.
Furthermore, Gerrard, like his fellow team mate Jamie Carragher, is Liverpool born and bred. His ties to the club and with its fans run far deeper than any contract ever could. Equally so, any change in manager will have little effect upon their intentions to stay. Torres on the other hand has no remaining link to the club. The manager that signed him, Rafael Benitez, has departed, as have many of his once Spanish team mates at Anfield. Although the fans love him and wish for him to stay, if Suarez were to start firing in goals at will then the Kop would soon be singing out his name where they once sang Torres’. After all, he may be loved by the Kop, but in their eyes’ he will never reach the heights that Ian Rush or Robbie Fowler once did.
With the news of Torres’ transfer request being released, Liverpool are bracing themselves for another bid for their star striker from Chelsea, who have been in the hunt for him since as long ago as 2008. It therefore seems likely that Liverpool will have to resign themselves to the fact that their prized asset will be leaving. The question is, will he follow Ryan Babel out of the club in the January transfer window after the winger signed for Bundesliga side Hoffenheim for £6 million, or will he agree to stay put for the rest of the season.
There would appear to be little reason for Torres to join Chelsea in January. The current champions are a struggling in the league and currently lie fourth, ten points behind first placed Manchester United in the league. The other option would be for the former Atletico Madrid player would be to put in a shift in the second half of the season for Liverpool and leave the club with something to remember him by, a Champions League place for next season and a hat full of goals.
Of course, there is one other option for Torres. The striker may be becoming disillusioned with life in the Premier League and may instead prefer a move back to his native Spain, where he has not played in La Liga since the 2006/7 season when he scored 14 goals in his final season for Atletico.
Torres will have seen David Villa, his strike partner in the Spanish national team, move from Valencia to Barcelona last summer, and he could well be hankering for a similar move. However, on his current form and that of Barca, it is unlikely that a move to the Nou Camp would be on the cards. Instead a move to Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid might be a more likely move. The Portuguese manager has signed Manchester City’s Emmanuel Adebayor on loan for the remainder of the season. If that move is not made permanent in the summer or France striker Karim Benzema is sold following a poor season, Real could well be in the market for a striker of Torres’ pedigree.
Although Torres will surely be on his way out of Anfield despite the best efforts of Liverpool, the timing of any such move could well be a key factor in deciding which club’s shirt the striker dons next.