LONDON – Jose Mourinho did not mention Fernando Torres by name, but had what he said been in flashing neon lights the Chelsea manager’s message could not have been clearer.
After the 3-1 Champions League defeat by Paris St-Germain, Mourinho bemoaned the lack of “a real striker.” The Special One has a special way of putting the boot in, no matter if he is referring to one of own players.
Mourinho is a football writer’s dream because he guarantees headlines. What he does not do is subtlety or sympathy. This is a man who, when Ramires committed not so much a red as a crimson-card tackle on Aston Villa’s Karim El Ahmadi, which thankfully, but surprisingly, did not break the Morocco international’s leg, ran onto the pitch to remonstrate with the referee.
Torres’ fall from grace has been alarming and shows no sign of stopping. During his first two seasons with Liverpool, he scored 33 goals in 46 games followed by 17 in 38, and the Spain international was as lethal and clinical as any striker in the world. He was pure class, rapier fast and a deadly finisher.
But then injuries became more frequent and in January before the 2010 World Cup he underwent knee surgery. Three months later, a second operation was needed and the suspicion is Torres tried to do too much, too soon to be fit for the finals. He returned to help Spain win the World Cup in South Africa, but this was when Torres’ graph also began to move downwards.
In January 2011, Chelsea paid Liverpool a British-record £50 million for Torres, a wonderful deal for the Merseysiders because in 18 appearances for the Blues that season, he scored just once. The alarm bells were ringing and became louder and louder. Torres is now a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge, a figure of fun whose place in Spain’s squad for Brazil is in serious doubt.
Mourinho has continually lamented the lack of a “real” striker, but he had the opportunity to do something about this last summer. As much as anything, his constant public moans have hardly help the team and if he has been looking for a reaction to his outbursts, it is late in arriving as Chelsea has lost three of its last five games. There is motivational criticism and there is negativity. Mourinho has overstepped the mark with his aggressive comments.
To ensure Chelsea has a real striker for next season, Roman Abramovich will once again play the role of sugar daddy during the summer transfer window and reports claim Chelsea is apparently going to offload around 10 players as Mourinho refreshes his squad. That may be easier said than done because Chelsea pays its players more than most clubs.
Many players are happy to pick up mega-bucks playing occasionally rather than taking a drop in salary for regular football.
Torres, 29, has two years of his contract left and earns around £150,000 a week. The Blues would lose at least £30 million if they can find a club willing to buy a player past his best earning such a vast salary.
Victor Moses cost Chelsea £10 million from Wigan two years ago. Last August, the striker joined Liverpool on loan, but he has started just six league games, scoring one goal for the Reds.
German international Mario Marin joined Chelsea from Werder Bremen for £7 million in 2012. He played six times for the Blues and is on a season-long loan with Sevilla.
Demba Ba arrived from Newcastle in January 2013, yet the Senegal international has failed to hit the heights he reached on Tyneside and has started just two league games for Chelsea this season.
More players destined to be given away as Mourinho’s search for a real striker gathers pace.
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BEFORE Manchester United’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, David Moyes spoke of the need for the referee to be aware of simulation in the wake of Arsene Wenger calling Arjen Robben “a great diver.”
As it happened, the only incident of such controversy involved a United player, Wayne Rooney, after he was tackled by Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was already on one yellow card. There can be little doubt the Germany international was ill-advised, having been cautioned earlier, to go in as he did, and referee Carlos Carballo was correct to send him off for a second cautionable offense.
But the dramatic, theatrical tumble by Rooney was exaggerated given the less-than bone-crunching severity of the challenge. Rooney just wanted to make sure the referee did what he wanted him to do, which was to dismiss Schweinsteiger.
Though television evidence is damning, surprise surprise, Rooney protested his innocence.
“I tried to stop myself getting hurt,” he said. “The referee had a decision to make and it’s not my decision. I didn’t try to get him sent off.”
Having drawn 1-1 at Old Trafford, United is in a better position to reach the semifinals when the second legs are played next week than Chelsea, which has a two-goal deficit to pull back against Paris Saint-Germain.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.