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Torres prepared to carry weight of expectation

Torres prepared to carry weight of expectation

By Andy Hunter

Published: 05 July 2007

The umbilical cord with Atletico Madrid finally cut, Fernando Torres grasped the mantle of Liverpool's record signing and new number nine yesterday claiming there was no reason to dwell on the past when the next six years of his career appear so clear.

Yet he still broke the self-imposed media rule. Not in answer to questions concerning last summer's rejection of Chelsea or his emotional bond to his boyhood club, but at the suggestion his talent could be submerged beneath a £26.5m transfer fee and the mammoth weight of expectation at Anfield.

"Looking back at my career, I've shown a lot of maturity, I've been captain of my club for a number of years so I've had a lot of responsibility from a young age and that augurs well for this extra responsibility. I know the expectations are extremely high," said the 23-year-old, who can offer the despair now felt at Vicente Calderon as testament to that argument. "I don't have any fear of responsibility and it's not something that worries me. I know that with hard work, and that typifies any team of Rafael Benitez and Liverpool throughout their history, you can reach your targets with it. The fact Liverpool have given me the legendary number nine shirt shows they have confidence in me and that in itself brings responsibility without even talking about the fee."

There may be no point lingering on what has been left behind in Madrid but Torres made a valid point when he did so. A La Liga debutant at 17, he became Atletico's youngest captain at 19, the year he made his international debut for Spain, and has finished top goalscorer in each of their past five seasons. With 75 goals in 173 league games, 82 in 212 in total, his record is impressive rather than prolific, although at a club in desperate need of a prodigious marksman and where too many "final pieces of the jigsaw" have failed during their 17-year title drought, there are reservations amid Anfield's justifiable sense of a coup.

The last Fernando that Benitez brought to Liverpool, £6.3m Morientes, saw his previously impeccable reputation tarnished during a troubled 18 months and he returned to Spain complaining about the rough-house English tactics and a lack of protection from referees. "Let's hope that happens to me," was Torres' bold response to the problems of becoming a marked man, while the inability of previous Spanish forwards to prosper beyond their natural borders also held no concern for the most ambitious Premiership signing of the summer thus far. "Somebody has got to be the first," he reasoned.

The manager who helped entice Torres from his boyhood club was equally sure of the striker's ability. As he should be, for a sizable part of his reputation now rides on that hope. Benitez said: "He's 23 and desperate to win trophies, plus he is more physical than Fernando Morientes. Morientes had great ability and is showing that now again in Spain, but Torres is more physical and he is used to fighting by himself up front. He can play isolated by himself or alongside another striker no problem. He has been fighting against the best defences in Spain by himself for seven years. He was seven years with Atletico and every day, every game they were always talking about him. He knows all about pressure and he has shown he can handle it."

Torres has signed a six-year deal worth £90,000-a-week at Liverpool and will now resume his holiday before returning for a pre-season training camp in Switzerland on 11 July. He can count his first day as an Anfield employee an unqualified success.

The man they called "El Nino" - The Kid - in Spain (and no wonder, he looks 16 only without the acne and talks with the authority of one well acquainted with a life in the spotlight) instantly struck a chord with the Liverpool faithful when he explained that, despite strong interest from Chelsea last summer and regular rumours of a move to Old Trafford, he only ever considered leaving Atletico when Benitez and Anfield beckoned.

"It's true I've had offers in the past but this is the very first time I've been tempted or asked my ex-club Atletico to listen to an offer," revealed Torres. "It's a good moment for me. I think the confidence shown by the manager and club was a great motivation because Liverpool are a massive club who could literally approach anyone in the world of football so to have chosen me was very special.

"I think that 23 is an ideal age to be making a move like this. I was ready and had reached a ceiling at my old club, I'd gone as far as I could. I wanted to set myself new targets and new goals, play at the highest level, the Champions League for example. So I think it's a very positive step forward I need to make at this time in my career."


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