Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is close to saying adios to Spaniard and £50 million record signing, Fernando Torres. At just 30-years-of-age, Torres has spent what should have been his “peak years” in west London, but has little to show for his time there. Now the Russian billionaire has to finance the signing of a new striker, but he should been given enough warning about meddling in first team affairs when he bought Ukraine legend, Andriy Shevchenko.
For those unfamiliar with Abramovich’s attempts to sign his friend Shevchenko back in 2005, it was reminiscent of Robert Redford’s attempts to bed Demi Moore in Indecent Proposal. Not only did he offer the Ukraine striker a record monetary sum of €75.2 million, Blues’ striker Hernán Crespo was also part of the deal. Although Milan refused the cash, they took the Argentine on loan.
The Rossoneri were desperate to keep hold of the Ukraine legend by offering him a six-year contract, but eventually took €43.875million in 2006 as Chelsea broke the record figure paid by an English club for a player. Shevchenko later revealed it was Abramovich – and him alone – that attracted the striker to London. Yet once Shevchenko arrived, he could not be further removed from the former Dynamo Kyiv and Milan striker. A loss of form demonstrated by Shevchenko and the weight of the price tag combined with the fact boss José Mourinho barely spoke to him, meant Chelsea fans were faced with an expensive flop. Had Mourinho managed the relationship the way he wanted to, Shevchenko would have been on the first plane out of London. Yet such was the influence of Abramovich, Mourinho felt obliged to play the Ukrainian even when he knew it was not right.
The same can be said of Torres. Abramovich chased the Spaniard when he was at Liverpool. Had he paid attention to the fact Torres had a poor last season at Liverpool, he may would not have pursued him. That is another story. The Russian paid £50 million for his services in 2011 and to this day – barring a decent strike rate in European competition – Torres has only found the net 19 times in over 100 league appearances for Chelsea. Many a Chelsea fan will say Torres should have gone by now and Shevchenko should have given the Chelsea board enough warning.
Then Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti could not get the best out of him so after he, André Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo (he won the Champions League for Chelsea and Torres scored against Barcelona in the semi-final) were dispensed of, fellow Spaniard Rafael Benítez was brought in as interim manager. Benítez was and is hated at Chelsea because of the history between the clubs in Europe, so why bring him in unless it was to motivate a flagging Torres? Again, the plan failed and now Torres is heading into his twilight years with a series of bad seasons behind him. If Abramovich behaved like an owner should, he would have had enough of a warning following the debacle of Ukraine legend, Shevchenko. Now history has repeated itself and the Russian only has himself to blame.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd