Atletico Madrid plan to make their final home game of the season against Eibar an ‘unforgettable experience’ as they say goodbye, again, to a player who holds the hearts of their fans like no other. This week confirmed the inevitable news that Fernando Torres, now 34, will leave at the end of the season when his contract expires.
Torres netted 126 goals across two spells at the club but has managed just seven in 34 appearances this season. His career has been remarkable: the striker managed 126 goals in England across stints with Liverpool and Chelsea, where he won the European Cup in 2012. With 38 goals in 110 international appearances, he is Spain’s third-highest capped player.
"This will always be my home"
Yet despite becoming a cult hero at Liverpool and having a tough, if often comic, role at Chelsea following a landmark £50 move in January 2011, he has described his boyhood club Atleti as his ‘only home’.
“When I joined Atletico, I was 10 years old and it became my home,” Torres told reporters upon confirming the news.
“I was lucky enough to make my debut here, to play a lot of matches, to score a lot of goals and it was still my home.
“You can have many houses but you can only have one home and that’s how I have always felt about the situation.
“When I had the opportunity to come back I have been able to enjoy Atleti as I always dreamt – a champion who fights for every championship against the big powerful ones.
“This will always be my home.”
Torres will always be welcome back at Atleti
Atletico president Enrique Cerezo has since added: “The doors of Atletico de Madrid will always be open for him, he will forever be a legend of our club.” It has been strongly hinted that when the striker hangs up his boots, a role with the Madrid-based giants will be a formality.
The lasting legacy
Torres had been with the club through their tough times as his first two seasons were in Spain’s second tier when Atleti’s financial problems and off-field chaos eventually caught up with them. His first goal for the club came in 2001 and his 100th arrived 15 years later. As a 19-year-old, he remarkably was named captain for the team and he would go on to be managed, ironically, by one of his players – Diego Simeone.
Reports in the Spanish press this season suggested relations between the two had become frayed and there were even reports he would move to China during the January transfer window, but this never materialised.
Torres has always had an eye for the spectacular and been capable of world-class skill, bamboozling top-class defenders and masterminding quality finishes. His goal against Germany won Spain’s first ever major tournament at the 2008 European Championships and he is one of the few players in Spain who is universally both well-liked and respected, transcending club rivalries.
It now appears unlikely he will remain in Spain after departing Atleti; after all, it may be tough for him to turn out against his club. The rate of his decline may have been much alarming than anticipated but he will be remembered for the good times. Atleti’s evolution during his career from the second tier to major challengers both domestically and in Europe ensures his departure will contain smiles as well as tears.