Fernando José Torres Sanz, El Nino – the fella that made me fall in love with
football. Always has and always will be my favourite player. I'd honestly let him move in with me if he was up for it. Would be well up for chilling out with him on Sundays playing FIFA 09 in our nice little Casita. That would be quality.

Mo Salah has just scored 50 Premier League goals, equalling the amount of time it took Torres to do the very same. So, I thought it might be a good time to write about why that man was one of the best strikers the Barclays has ever seen. As a Liverpool fan, I’m usually torn between throwing darts at pictures of him on my bedroom wall and wanting to give gim a great big hug. On balance, I reckon we got the best of him. And that's why I can still love El Nino.

Image credit: Abhisit Vejjajiva, via Flickr

As the dust begins to settle on his career, it seems as though he might be
remembered as one of the Prem's nearly men. He was rightly labelled a flop after never really living up to his reputation after leaving Liverpool. But it’s still worth remembering the form that at one point made him the most banging striker in the Barclays.

Torres grew up in sub-urban Madrid and inherited his love for Atletico from his
Grandad. He joined the Los Colchoneros academy at age 11 and eventually ended up making his first team debut in 2001. 75 goals in 174 appearances later, Liverpool came sniffing. His bags were packed and he was swapping the Calderon for Merseyside.

That year there was big Thierry Henry sized whole left in the Prem. He'd just jumped ship to Barça. In return, Spain had spat out a gangly, bleach-blonde striker that looked like the kind of guy who wears surfer beads and watches Kelly Slater DVDs on the weekend. Turned out alright though, didn't he. He scored 33 goals that season - including that screamer against Boro - and became the first player to score 20+ goals in a season since Fowler. Pretty mind-bending, that.

Image credit: Will Nemao/Wilhk, via Pixabay

Growing up, I loved watching my Fernando. He was a 12 year olds wet dream of a stiker. Every touch he made was effortless. Always in the right place at the right time. Clinical too. Every now and then at 7 a side on a Tuesday night, I still try and round the keeper like he used to - just before remembering that I’m not a tricky little Spaniard nor am I actually that good at football.

Every now and then I go on one of those youtube binges and end up watching Torres compilations for a hour or so. What's better than watching a 23 year old Fernando Torres receive the ball from Stevie G against Chelsea, take it past Ben Haim and slot it home past a hopeless Peter Cech. Honestly, not a lot.

Oh yeah, even better: remember that game at Old Trafford? That time he broke Nemanja Vidic and ran around Old Trafford with his five fingers up like madman? Or when he scored that goal against Barça to send Chelsea to the Champions League  final and made those noises come out of Gary Neville? At his peak, Torres was one of Europe's best. 65 goals in 102 appearances puts him up there with Suarez, Salah, Owen, Fowler and Rushie. And he rounded the keeper better than any of them.

I’d be lying to you if I said I’m glad he left, but I don’t really blame him. Liverpool at the time were a club that had, for lack of a better word, shit. Woy had just taken over and the banter era was in full force. Paul Konchesky was playing at left-back, for Christ's sake. Makes me feel all wobbly just thinking about those days.

But all I really care about is that Torres never again recreated his Liverpool form. He was only good for us and not them. My dads bigger than your dad sort of thing, you know? But it’s worth remembering that we as football fans only ever called him a flop because we all know what he was capable of. I know that I saw the best of Fernando Torres, and I'm going to wear that badge for the rest of my days. A badge like the ones you used to wear to school on your birthday. A proper big, fuck off badge.

Here's a toast to El Nino. My El Nino.

Header Image Credit: Myo Kyaw Htun, via Flickr