John Gibbons: Torres won medals in blue, but he was happier at Liverpool

Wasn’t he bloody brilliant to watch in Liverpool red?

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There is nothing like a player you think of as young retiring to make you feel old.

It doesn’t help when they are called “El Nino”, or “The Kid”, of course. But Fernando Torres was a baby-faced assassin who made you feel a kid yourself when you watched him play.

For three years we had that joy at Liverpool.

We are lucky to have been blessed with so many top strikers at Liverpool. Even in my lifetime, there was Rush then Fowler then Owen then Torres then Suarez and now Salah. It is hard to know where Torres ranked really.

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In simple terms of those listed he scored the least, bar Mo Salah who scored quicker and is still going. But, Torres just had a certain something about him. Whatever the Spanish is je ne sais quoi, he had that.

Star quality. X-Factor. Hollywood Box Office.

He might have arrived with doubts and left under a cloud, but in between, he was genuinely world-class. From that first goal against Chelsea 16 minutes into his first Anfield appearance, you knew we had something special.

The way he ghosted past top defenders like they weren’t there and finished into the smallest gaps.

He went on to score 33 that season in all competitions. His best return in a Liverpool shirt.

That was a really good Liverpool team, but even with the likes of Carragher, Alonso and Gerrard at his peak, Torres was the star. He was the footballer everyone wanted to be. Fast, strong and with film star good looks to boot.

The Kop fell in love with him and he seemed to fall in love with The Kop.

There were Nike adverts showing the city of Liverpool turning into a Spanish municipio. Chip shops turned into tapas restaurants and lads and lasses were learning Spanish and Flamenco. It wasn’t far wrong.

Each week the stadium reverberated to one song more than any other. “Fernando Torres, Liverpool’s number 9”.

For a year or more, we were always just about to “bounce in a minute”.

Of course, it didn’t last. He ended up moving to Chelsea and breaking our hearts.

Looking back now it more pains me that Torres, along with many of his other talented teammates felt they had to leave Liverpool to win trophies. He achieved that, winning the Champions League at Stamford Bridge, but he always looked happier at Liverpool. More at home. Certainly more loved.

But that was the time at Liverpool under Hicks and Gillett, unfortunately. We stopped being seen as a club who competed at the highest level. We stopped looking for the type of players who got you there.

Signings went from Javier Mascherano to Christian Poulsen. It’s no wonder the best players got fed up.

Fernando Torres finishes his career with some lovely medals and lots of goals for club and country.

He started and pretty much ended his career at his boyhood club. He scored the winning goal to make Spain European Champions, then two years later won the World Cup. Any suggestions that his career had ups and downs needs to recognise that there were a hell of a lot more ups than downs.

It’s just a shame there is a big gap in his club honours board at Liverpool.

But, we still had brilliant nights and so much fun. When it felt like Liverpool were about to take on the world and we beat them all together.

Though we never thought that we could lose, there’s no regret. If I had to do the same again, I would, my friend, Fernando.

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