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Fernando Torres fears he's running out of time at Liverpool

So how long was Fernando Torres to wait, then? He has given Liverpool a raw deal for the best part of a year now and this does him no credit. Yet look at the seemingly inevitable transfer request from his point of view. He is 26. The ensuing four years could be as good as it gets for him. Can he really afford to gamble on Liverpool's next roll of the dice coming up aces? 
The restoration of Kenny Dalglish? It is meaningless to Torres right now. Dalglish might be an excellent influence, but Liverpool's hierarchy cannot even guarantee that he will be manager beyond May because they are yet to back him with a permanent role. 

We all think he will get the job and most hope so. He seems the right fit.Yet the initial intention of New England Sports Ventures was to appoint a younger man, long term, and there has so far been no announcement to the contrary. Torres is currently being asked to throw in his lot with a caretaker. Liverpool are not yet a stable club.

Fernando Torres

Back firing: Fernando Torres returned to form against Chelsea in November, but this column (below right) asked why
Fernando Torres
True, neither are Chelsea. Carlo Ancelotti's future is far from settled if he fails to deliver one of the biggest prizes this season. Yet Chelsea do have visible and finite prospects; not least a last-16 Champions League place and a favourable draw against FC Copenhagen. 

These are the sort of possibilities Torres saw for Liverpool when he signed his contract in May 2009. He thought they were a club that would be in contention for the domestic title and the Champions League; instead, from that moment, the place headed steadily downhill. 

A graph drawn from that date would show Liverpool bouncing around between 11th and third in the early weeks of last season, before flat-lining around the Europa League positions from roughly the 10th match onwards. This season's figures are worse. Liverpool near the bottom and then suspended in mid-table mediocrity. Their present league position is the highest of the campaign: seventh again. 

This was not the brochure, as advertised. Torres signed after a season in which Liverpool finished second to Manchester United by four points and at last showed championship potential under Rafael Benitez. By the end of that summer, however, their great midfield provider, Xabi Alonso, had been sold to Real Madrid and the relationship with Benitez began to sour as results slumped. 

We now know the striker was angling to leave for Chelsea before this season began. He became a lethargic, sulking shadow of commitment under Roy Hodgson - except for one game against his present suitors and we understand the reason for that now - and the fancy that he would be inspired by the arrival of Liverpool hero Dalglish turned out to be just that. 

As Alan Shearer discovered during his brief tenure at Newcastle United, local heroes do not count for much these days when most of the dressing room hold a foreign passport. 

Dalglish's return was a feel-good tale for the romantics at Anfield but the belief that Torres was among them has not lasted. 

As a professional, he will only indulge that side of his nature for so long. Suggs from Madness wrote an FA Cup final song for Chelsea in 1997 called Blue Day. 'We've waited so long but we'll wait for ever,' it goes. That is the difference between fans and footballers. Fans can wait for ever, and do. Footballers, the best ones certainly, have a biological clock that starts ticking with an imperative to win trophies in the late twenties. 

Having dedicated his young life to a labour of love, Atletico Madrid, and then been equally moved by Liverpool's story, Torres is now looking after No 1.

He has not behaved well, there is no doubt of that. His performances this season have been indolent, and the timing of this episode - on the day the £23m signing of Luis Suarez was announced, at the end of the transfer window when there is precious little time for a club to respond to the loss of a major player, and with the match against Chelsea 10 days away - is crass. 

Yet the cynicism of those who presume this means the last four seasons have been an act is overplayed. It was two years ago that Torres was interviewed in these pages. Some of his words are now being recycled to prove a charge of hypocrisy.
Torres talked of Liverpool in emotive terms, saying he had watched DVDs and read books about the history of the club with his girlfriend in their Merseyside apartment. He said Liverpool was now his English club, the way Atletico will remain his Spanish club. 'I would not like to play for another in England or Spain,' he said. 

This is damning stuff, in the present circumstances. Yet I have no doubt he meant it. He did see Liverpool as a cause, much like Atletico, he did appreciate its uniqueness. The club lost its way long before Torres did. Another observation from that day is not being so widely circulated, perhaps because it does not support the party line of Torres as rotten turncoat.
'A player wants to be remembered for what he has won, for the medals, for what he has given his club,' Torres said. 'Imagine 10 years after you stop playing, you go back, you look around, you are not in any picture, you have no medals, no trophies; it is like you played for nothing.' 

He was speaking in support of Kaka's decision to reject Manchester City, but this could be the epitaph for his Liverpool career, too. Torres has won nothing since joining the club. 

The only competition left for him this season is the moribund Europa League and if Dalglish could ensure Liverpool qualify for that competition next season, too, he would be considered to have done a very good job. 

For Torres, it is not enough. He sees his stage as the Champions League, not its scrawny cousin, and how long until Liverpool are part of Europe's elite again? 

Much is being made of the recent back-to-back wins under Dalglish but while Wolverhampton Wanderers were despatched efficiently enough, Fulham were only overcome by a John Pantsil own goal at Anfield. 

Is this any more significant than the run between October 24 and November 7 this season, when Liverpool recorded straight wins over Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Napoli and Chelsea? It is flimsy evidence on which to base such a weighty decision. 

Dalglish and Torres
Dream partnership: Idealists would like to see Dalglish and Torres working together

So now the propaganda war begins. The Holy Grail for every selling club these days is the cash and a crucifixion. They want to be able to take the money but to do so from a position of moral superiority in which the player alone is blamed (think of Wayne Rooney's departure from Everton, or every outgoing transfer from Arsenal, and you get the idea). 

So now we hear that Torres was an unpopular team member with an inflated salary, his own physiotherapist and even had an operation tailored to suit his World Cup commitments. Imagine that? 

Imagine a player so self-obsessed that he prioritises winning the World Cup over the kudos of emerging victorious from the bitter fight for seventh place? Had Liverpool been challenging for the title, one assumes he might have felt differently. 

Fernando Torres
Down-hearted: Torres has cut a lonely figure at Anfield this season
Idealists - and not just Liverpool fans - would like to see Dalglish and Torres together for longer. The manager is a wonderful tutor for any striker. Ask Shearer. He credits Dalglish with a tip that changed his career at Blackburn. 

Dalglish noticed in training that his new signing was having a lot of his shots blocked. So he told him to shape to shoot, but delay striking the ball for a split second. That way, said Dalglish, the defender would stretch out a leg to make the stop, leaving a gap through which the ball could be hit. In turn, the goalkeeper would then see the shot late, making it harder to adjust his position to save. 

Shearer admitted it was a difficult skill to master but, once achieved, he never looked back. One cannot help but think that in their short time together Torres has not yet taken all Dalglish has to give. 

Yet even if Dalglish can improve Torres's game, can he transform Liverpool's before another season passes unfulfilled? It is unlikely and that is the crux of the matter. In a season in which Cesc Fabregas, Rooney and Carlos Tevez have all tried the patience of their clubs, Torres may be the odd man out in actually forcing a move. 

Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City all persuaded their players to stay by convincing them that better times were around the corner. Chelsea did the same with John Terry two summers ago. 

If Liverpool sell Torres, therefore, it means that the management do not think this is a problem that can be resolved. In their minds, the Torres transfer issue will resurface next summer or next season, as a constant distraction. This means they, too, have doubts that they can keep the player happy, short-term. 
So Torres's view, and the executive view, of Liverpool are not all that different. He does not know how long he will have to wait to return to the elite and neither do they. If they did, they wouldn't sell.


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