It's finally happening. Chelsea have announced that Fernando Torres will move to Milan on an unusual two-year loan deal that will take the Spaniard who has been the subject of all of the world's jokes, pity, hand-wringing and hope since joining the club in January 2011. The loan will take him to the end of the five and a half year contract he signed upon joining Chelsea in a then British record £50 million deal.
Torres' time at Chelsea began with a run of 903 minutes minutes without a goal that finally ended when he scored against West Ham three months after making the move from Liverpool and leaving their fans feeling unforgivably betrayed. Goals were like Loch Ness Monster sightings during his time at Chelsea — rare, exciting and never believed by those who heard about them second hand. But trophies and attempts to rationalize his sudden fall from being one of the most feared strikers in the world to one of the most spectacularly ineffective proved confoundingly common.
Through all this, there are two lasting images that sum up Fernando Torres' time with Chelsea best. First, the horrible —September 18, 2011 against Manchester United at Old Trafford. After smoothly rounding the goalkeeper to put himself in front of an open net, a Fernando Torres with confidence in its death throes somehow put the ball wide of the target. He immediately crumpled down to his knees as the crowd showered him with mocking laughter.
Then there was the tremendous — April 24, 2012. Torres came off the bench in the 80th minute of the Champions League semifinal second leg against Barcelona to a now customary serenade of sneers and sarcasm. And in the second minute of injury time, he again rounded the goalkeeper to find himself alone with the net, but this time he finished it, scoring the goal that put Chelsea in the Champions League final and prompting Gary Neville to impregnate himself at the same time.
Like at Old Trafford, he dropped to his knees, but instead of curing up in a ball of shame, he clenched his fists and shouted towards the heavens as the devastated Barcelona crowd stared on in silence.
In his three years with Chelsea, Torres scored just 20 Premier League goals in 110 appearances, but he had 17 in just 40 European matches — including the first goal in the 2013 Europa League final. He scored 36 fewer goals across all competitions in 30 fewer appearances than he had at Liverpool, but he helped the Blues win three trophies (the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League) and won nothing at Liverpool.
Fernando Torres' time at Chelsea made little sense and might never be properly explained. It was an anomaly of talent and fortune. And now everyone has reasons positive and negative to be thankful that it's happened and come to a merciful end.
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