Fernando Torres wants to put the small southwestern city of Tosu on the soccer map, the former Atletico Madrid and Liverpool striker said Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference shortly after landing at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, the new star for J. League side Sagan Tosu said he aimed to make the Kyushu-based club a force, while also contributing to the development of Japanese soccer.
“With my play, I want to help raise the level of football in Japan. My goal is to make Sagan Tosu a major club,” said Torres, whose club career has also included stints with AC Milan and Chelsea.
After announcing his departure from Atletico earlier this year, Torres received interest from clubs around the world, but Sagan was the first to make a genuine offer, he said.
The striker had a taste of Tosu during a preseason trip with Atletico in July and August of 2015. The Spanish side played a friendly against Sagan, winning 4-1 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.
“At the time I thought I wanted to come play here in the future. I wasn’t sure it would happen, but I’m glad it did,” the 34-year-old said.
The striker, who scored 38 goals in 110 internationals for Spain, said the rest of his “close-knit family” — his wife and two elementary school-age children — were also excited about the move to Japan.
“We wanted to try living in a different country and experiencing a different culture. I’ve already played in England, Spain and Italy and we thought it would be nice to live in a new country,” said Torres.
The striker said he was also looking forward to meeting old friend and former teammate Andres Iniesta on and off the pitch in Japan, following the former Barcelona midfielder’s signing with Vissel Kobe.
“Andres is a great friend who I first played with when we were both 15. We have the same motivations and we both love Japan. I’m looking forward to playing him. It should be a good game,” he said.
According to Torres, becoming a J. League powerhouse will be a game-by-game process for Sagan, which finished eighth last season but is currently 17th out of 18 teams.
“First we’ll focus on winning one game, then the next one,” he said. “I want to score goals, of course, but more important than scoring goals is winning games.”
With the J. League first division set to resume Wednesday following the World Cup recess, Torres said a decision on the date of his debut would be up to the Sagan coaching staff. However, he said he looked forward to meeting his new teammates as soon as possible.
“For any footballer to play well, they need the help of their teammates, so it’s important to build good relationships,” he said.