From the minute his armband revealed ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, you knew Fernando Torres was destined for Anfield.
He quickly became a hero on Merseyside – though that status was just as swiftly rescinded when he jumped ship for rivals Chelsea three-and-a-half years later, and never quite hit the same heights at Stamford Bridge.
Injuries no doubt took their toll on a striker whose career was blighted by a number of problems, but Torres still went on to win some of the biggest honours available.
So, to celebrate Fernando Torres’ 37th birthday on Saturday, Mirror Sport takes a look back on the highs and lows of his career.
Liverpool’s hero and Vidic’s nemesis
It took just a few games for Torres to take to the hearts of Liverpool fans when he left Chelsea skipper John Terry for dead to score his first goal for the club.
That proved to be the first of many as Torres terrorised defenders at every turn each time he pulled on the red shirt – though none more so than Nemanja Vidic.
Torres was a real thorn in the side of the Man Utd centre-back, who was sent off twice against the forward – most notably in a 4-1 drubbing at Old Trafford where Liverpool’s No.9 run ragged.
Vidic’s defensive partner Rio Ferdinand told The Beautiful Game podcast : “There’s always going to be that one player in your career who’s difficult. He might not be the best player on the planet, but his style is made to hurt your style. And Torres might have just been that for Nemanja.
“He’s someone he found difficult to play against. And he’s probably the only player I’ve seen consistently give Vida a hard time.”
Ferdinand conceded Torres was a “devastating” player to come up against, and Vidic even admitted the Reds’ frontman stopped him packing on the muscle in the gym.
“Torres was a top player,” Vidic told beIN Sports. “At the time, he was probably the best striker in the league. He scored a few goals against United.
“I played well against Torres one week, then one game bad, that’s the Premier League. You’re not going to be on top of your game every week.
“It’s why I never got bigger because I knew the next week I’d have Torres or [Sergio] Aguero, so I never spent as much time in the gym as you have to adapt to players.”
From hero to villain
While Torres’ star was shining bright, Liverpool’s eventually started to fade.
He had arrived at the club off the back of their second Champions League final appearance in three years in the hope of further success.
But by the turn of 2011 he was still yet to land a trophy with Liverpool, who were in the midst of a takeover, and soon pushed for his exit.
“They were about to be sold. They needed five or six years to create that winning team. I didn’t have that time,” Torres justified.
Steven Gerrard told the Robbie Fowler podcast: “I didn’t play with Torres long enough because he went to Chelsea and broke my heart.
“I was really, really gutted. I’ve told Fernando that. I tried to get him to stay. I told his agent the same.
“They were both at Melwood but they made a decision and that decision was out of my hands. It hurt a lot.”
Chelsea troubles but trophies
Liverpool received a handsome figure for their star man as Chelsea splashed out £50million to sign Torres on deadline day of the 2011 January transfer window.
Few could argue with his decision given the Blues were regularly competing for major honours.
But things didn’t pan out quite as Torres would have hoped.
After hitting 81 goals in 142 appearances at Liverpool he managed just over half that in 30 more matches and was largely a disappointment.
“It was maybe my fault for not being able to adapt quicker,” Torres told talkSPORT. “I had good moments but I wasn’t consistent. If you are not performing every week then someone will come in.”
Torres did realise his “dream” of winning the Champions League with Chelsea – even scoring the goal to seal the semi-final victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp – but is ultimately considered a flop for the club.
“I always said it was my fault. I was old enough to find solutions but I didn’t do it. I won the trophies but I didn’t do it every week.”
Torres may have been somewhat harsh on himself on reflection of his time in west London, given the glut of injury problems he faced.
But one more than all the rest stood out, and caused him irreversible damage.
After suffering a slight tear to the meniscus in his knee, Torres opted for a second operation at the end of the 2009/10 season in order to try and be fit for Spain’s World Cup squad.
“It is not true I put Spain before Liverpool,” he said at the time. “We looked at all the options before agreeing we had to look at surgery, which was very much the last resort.”
Torres had been the hero at Euro 2008, scoring the winning goal in the final vs Germany.
But in his efforts to work his way back to fitness in time for the World Cup, Torres rushed his rehabilitation and was not at full tilt for the tournament in South Africa.
In an Amazon documentary about the striker’s life and career, called The Last Symbol, Torres admitted he was not the same player after that summer.
And he revealed he could not even fully enjoy Spain’s triumph in the final as he suffered another injury shortly after coming on as an extra-time substitute, and credits those problems as the start of his injury hell to follow.
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After leaving Chelsea Torres took in spells at AC Milan and his return to Atletico before ending his career with Japanese outfit Sagan Tosun.
Yet his peak was undoubtedly his time at Liverpool where he was adored by fans, and later described the atmosphere at Chelsea as “more cold”.
He quickly became public enemy No.1 at Anfield and has since admitted it was not the farewell he would have wanted.
“One of the regrets I have is the way I left the club,” Torres told Liverpool’s official website. “With time, I think I could explain the reasons.”
Despite turning his back on the club though, the hatred towards Torres has diminished and he is largely remembered fondly.
And he still looks back on what might have been.
“I will always regret not having tried to stop the team from falling apart, demanding that they (ex-Liverpool owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett) sign players.
“But I don’t regret having left because they didn’t fulfill the promises and expectations that the club had offered me. What happened during that period was that nobody was bothered about Liverpool or their fans.”