By Tony Jimenez
LONDON, Aug 31 (Reuters) - For Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the classic 1942 film Casablanca it was a case of "we'll always have Paris" and for Fernando Torres and the Chelsea fans it will be "we'll always have Barcelona".
Both relationships had flickering moments of fire and passion but ultimately they were two love affairs doomed to failure.
In January 2011, amid much fanfare, Chelsea broke the British transfer record by splashing out 50 million pounds ($82.9 million) on Liverpool striker Torres who decided to end his days at Stamford Bridge on Sunday by sealing a two-year loan move to AC Milan.
One of his first goal attempts on his debut for the Londoners, a 20-metre effort against Liverpool that sailed high, wide and not so handsome, was almost a symbol of the trials and tribulations Torres was to endure for the next 3-1/2 years.
It took the Spanish international 14 games, and a host of near misses, to open his account but although it was joyously acclaimed by the Stamford Bridge faithful, his strike against West Ham United proved his only Chelsea goal of the season.
The following campaign was only marginally better for the blond forward, who helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008 and 2012, and he said he was indebted to the fans for their unstinting show of support during the worst spell of his career.
"Since I joined Chelsea the fans have been amazing to me," Torres told the club's in-house television channel in February 2012. "It has been very important to have the fans behind me.
"At the beginning of the season I went through the hardest moments of my career. I went several games without being in the starting lineup and I've never been in that situation before."
Torres said he experienced one of his best moments when the supporters kept cheering his name while he was on the bench for a 3-0 home Premier League win over Wolverhampton Wanderers three months earlier.
"That game against Wolverhampton showed me there is something very important to fight for, the love of the fans," he explained.
"I've never had that feeling from supporters before and I wasn't even on the pitch."
Torres could always rely on the backing of the Chelsea followers and, although that faith was only sporadically rewarded, when it was it came in spectacular fashion.
The Chelsea number nine scored a sublime hat-trick in a 6-1 home rout of neighbours Queens Park Rangers, but he will never be forgotten for his goal at the Nou Camp in the semi-finals of the 2012 Champions League.
Having had captain John Terry sent off in the first half of the second leg, the Londoners had to withstand wave after wave of Barcelona attacks.
Then suddenly, and unexpectedly, Torres ran half the length of the field before rounding keeper Victor Valdes to slot the ball into an empty net and send eventual champions Chelsea through to the final.
A year later the Spaniard scored an almost replica goal in Amsterdam to help Chelsea beat Benfica 2-1 in the Europa League final.
That 2012-13 season, half of which Torres spent working under his former Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez, was his best in Chelsea blue. He was on target 23 times in 64 games and scored in seven different competitions, a club record.
While he enjoyed some great highs during his time in west London, his Chelsea career will still be looked upon largely as a failure.
He was sent off three times and his tally of 46 goals in 172 games represents a stunning fall from grace compared to 81 goals in 142 matches for Liverpool and 38 strikes in 110 games for Spain.
The fans were consistent in their support of Torres throughout his time at Chelsea but a tipping point in the relationship came in the semi-finals of last season's Champions League.
Torres refused to celebrate the goal he scored in the second leg against his former club Atletico Madrid and when he was taken off in the second period, he turned to salute the fans of the Spanish team.
It was an act that did not go unnoticed among the Chelsea faithful, but when they look back on his career at Stamford Bridge they will always treasure that special moment at the Nou Camp. (Editing by Ken Ferris)
- Sports & Recreation
- Fernando Torres