Fernando Torres vowed to ‘never, ever give up’ in his effort to recapture the goal touch which once made him the world’s deadliest striker.
Torres scored twice in Chelsea’s 3-1 win against Rubin Kazan in the Europa League quarter-final tie on Thursday in what was arguably his best game since a £50million transfer from Liverpool two years ago.
In an exclusive Sportsmail interview, he issued a defiant response to critics who suspect the striker is a spent force at 29-years-old.
‘I want to do the things I used to do all my life,’ said Torres. ‘I did them at Atletico, I did them at Liverpool and I am not doing them at Chelsea. I am working on it. If I knew the reason, I would fix it in one minute. But the only way to fix these things is to work at it.
‘I am training every day and I will never, ever give up.’
True Blue: Fernando Torres gets dressed up in paint as part of adidas' new kit launch
Fernando Torres has been discussing Chelsea, trophies and goals, when he turns to Spain and the origins of the team who rule international football.
‘I remember what people said when we first started playing with all the little ones,’ said Torres. ‘They said you cannot play this way. They are small, they are not strong. They said when you go to England or Germany, they will kill you. No-one believed in us — our own fans had their doubts too — and at the World Cup in 2006 we lost to France in the first knockout round. But it made us stronger.
‘We thought we could do something great and look what we did over time.’
Belief and trust are recurring themes in the Torres story and his reflections on Spain connect with his views on this transitional period at Chelsea and the emergence of a new team built around small, technical footballers such as Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard.
‘We have to realise how good the players are in our midfield,’ said Torres, pictured here covered in blue paint as part of a campaign to promote Chelsea’s new kit for next season. ‘They are the heart of the team now. Eden, Oscar and Juan Mata have been doing well. Oscar is 21 and it has been a great season for him. It is not easy to come to Chelsea at 21 and be an important player. OK, he’s a Brazilian international, a great player, but he is 21 and has never played in Europe before.
‘We have to think about these things as we build for the future. If this is something we believe in, we must stick with it.’
Posing: Nine Chelsea players were covered in the paint, including David Luiz (left) and Eden Hazard (right)
Submerged: The £50million striker takes a dip in the blue liquid
As a boy in Madrid, Torres did not dream of winning the World Cup. ‘Spain never got past the quarter-finals,’ he shrugged. ‘How can you grow up thinking you’re going to win the World Cup? It was impossible.’
In Madrid, boys pictured themselves lifting the European Cup as did Torres when his beloved Atletico won the Spanish title in 1996 and the Vicente Calderon stadium crackled with the energy of top European football. ‘I am very lucky to have been born in Spain in this generation,’ said Torres. ‘To win the European Championship twice and the World Cup is massive. To win for your country is bigger than the Champions League.
‘But when Atletico Madrid won the league and went into the Champions League I went and watched the biggest teams in Europe. I was 13 years old and that was the first time I felt I wanted to win this trophy. Last year we did it and it was an amazing feeling. It didn’t matter what had happened during the season. Everything was worth it when Didier scored that penalty. To lift the trophy was a dream come true.’
Back among the goals: Torres (second right) scored two as Chelsea beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 in the Europa League
It was an astonishing night in Munich as Petr Cech saved three times from the spot and Didier Drogba settled the penalty shoot-out. ‘It was our game,’ said Torres. ‘It was meant to be for us.’
Drogba’s winner was his last kick in a Chelsea shirt. Off went the hero to China and Turkey and Torres rejects the theory that he was glad to see the back of him. ‘We wanted to play more together,’ he said. ‘We did sometimes, particularly at the beginning with Carlo Ancelotti and we were fine. With a different manager we didn’t find a way to play together which was a pity for us. But there was competition because we both wanted to play.
The man in the mask: The goals were the 17th and 18th of the season for the Spanish striker
‘I don’t know who played more games — maybe it was 50-50 — but the relationship was great. He helped me a lot when I came and he still does. It was the perfect end to a Chelsea career for him. Giving the Champions League to the team you have played for, for so many years. I was so happy for us, for him, for everyone.’
It is the day after an FA Cup quarter-final victory against Manchester United. Torres only featured for a few minutes and has had a rigorous training session, followed by a long massage. His head is still pounding from the mask worn in training to protect his nose, broken last month by the boot of a clumsy defender moments after his vital Europa League goal against Steaua Bucharest.
Have we seen that before? Torres pulls a familiar pose
HOW THEY PAINTED FERNANDO
Why is Fernando Torres covered in blue paint?
It’s part of a Chelsea and adidas advertising campaign for next season’s kit. The idea is that fans buy the kit without seeing it because they know it will be blue, so what else matters?
Is it not computer trickery though?
No, Torres is covered in real paint. It’s a type of glycerine, which is often used as a food thickener. It’s edible, washes off easily and Torres was plunged into a bath of the stuff for the photoshoot (after he had been tested for paint allergies first, of course). He wore shorts to protect his modesty but nothing else.
Sounds messy. Did it take long?
The shoot took two hours and was done in a film studio close to the club’s training ground in Surrey.
Can I see any more pictures?
Yes, there are behind-the-scenes shots of Petr Cech, John Terry, Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and Juan Mata HERE.
‘It wasn’t too bad thankfully, just a lot of blood,’ said Torres. ‘I didn’t need surgery but the mask is uncomfortable, it is too tight. It’s a good idea because they leave a space between the mask and the nose so if someone hits you it doesn’t touch the nose.
‘This means it is tight around your head. It has to be like this because if it’s moving, it’s doing nothing. But after 90 minutes or after training you have headaches.’
The Chelsea striker appears in shorts and a T-shirt, pauses to scribble an autograph and poses for a photo. In conversation, he searches with his deep brown eyes and smiles often. He speaks quietly yet fluently and confidently, even on the thorny subject of his goal record. ‘I am happy here,’ said Torres. ‘I am enjoying London and happy at this club. I know my statistics at Chelsea have not been the same as in other years in my career. But I am fighting to get back to those statistics and I will never, ever give up.
‘I want to do the things I used to do. I did them at Atletico, I did them at Liverpool but I am not doing them at Chelsea. If I knew the reason, I would fix it in one minute. But the only way to fix these things is to work at them.
‘I will try my heart out for this club. There are too many things I have to give back to these people and I want to show my thanks to them. Hopefully this season we can give them two more trophies and next season we can fight again for the biggest ones, the Champions League and the Premier League.’
All smiles: Torres is kept warm in front of a heater
Torres has 18 goals, including two on Thursday in the 3-1 home win against Rubin Kazan, in 52 appearances this season. In all, since signing from Liverpool two years ago, he has 30 in 118. In three-and-a-half years at Anfield, he scored 81 in 142. ‘I will ask more of myself,’ he said. ‘I am getting better but I’m still not at the level I want.’
Seven goals in six games soon after the decision to replace Roberto Di Matteo with Rafa Benitez suggested Torres would prosper from the reunion with his former Liverpool boss.
‘I felt really sorry for Robbie,’ said Torres. ‘He had a great time here and helped us win the Champions League. He helped me make my dream come true. I only have good memories of Robbie. I played a lot of games for him.
Sympathy: Torres talks with former Chelsea boss Roberto Di Matteo after last season's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona
‘It was a pity and a really strange situation but when I knew it was Rafa, I was happy. I had some great times with him and I thought it was good for the team.’ Since signing Demba Ba from Newcastle, Benitez has alternated his strikers in an attempt to negotiate the congested fixture list without running his players into the ground.
Denying the manager treats him differently to other players, Torres said: ‘Our relationship is professional. I know we were together in the past but that doesn’t mean he’s going to give me special treatment. As you can see, he’s not. Many people say maybe he’s here because of me but that’s stupid.’
Ba has played in successive games once and Torres twice since the new year. In 23 games in 2013, Torres has started 12 and Ba 11. ‘Everyone wants to play, always,’ he added. ‘We know we cannot and we have to change players. No-one can play this number of games and play at 100 per cent.
False dawn? Torres initially flourished under new Rafa Benitez (right) before losing his form
'More than ever we have to learn to be a team. We have to be good team-mates. Maybe when we are managers we will understand better. ’
On Sunday, Chelsea play their fourth game in eight days. After the FA Cup and Europa League it is back to the Barclays Premier League, at home to Sunderland and three points are essential in the bid to finish in the top four. ‘I’m sure we have learned from last season,’ said Torres. ‘We finished sixth and we know what happened. We started to focus on the Champions League, forgetting the Premier League. Things were OK because we won the Champions League.
‘But we don’t want to play in the Europa League next season. We want to play in the Champions League. We have to focus and finish in the top four. At the same time we have to try to win the FA Cup and the Europa League.’
Record setter: Torres' goals in the Europa League means he has become the first player to score in seven different competitions in a single season
The tie against Steaua is heading for extra time when a flash of vintage Torres sends his team into the last eight and he sets a record as the first player to score in seven different competitions in a season.
It was not a record he savoured, especially not the Europa League part. But it has been another complicated campaign at Stamford Bridge. When is it anything else?
New boy: The January arrival of Demba Ba has seen Torres' starting alternate matches
‘One year you’re the best in Europe and the next you’re out in the group stage,’ said Torres. ‘When we sat down to watch the Champions League this week it was killing us. It has been a strange season but we can still win two trophies. We are still fighting to finish in a good way. This is what Chelsea means. We always fight for trophies, whatever the competition.’
In almost a decade under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have won 10 major trophies. They have lost in two major finals and finished runners-up four times in the Barclays Premier League. A winning mentality has become engrained in the club.
‘There are different ways to do it,’ said Torres. ‘Chelsea have won trophies their way and Manchester United have won trophies keeping Sir Alex Ferguson in charge. Chelsea have been winning trophies since before I came to England and they are still doing so.
‘We won the Champions League last season for the first time in the club’s history. Something is going right.’
It is true. The appetite for silver at this club is insatiable, as if making up for eight major trophies in 98 years before the Russian takeover. Where others give the impression they would sooner throw in the towel when the Capital One Cup or the Europa League rear up, Chelsea climb off the stool for another challenge.
‘Many teams don’t want to go through in the Europa League, they want to focus on the Premier League but we’ve shown to everyone we want to win it,’ said Torres. ‘This is another European trophy; you cannot be disrespectful to these competitions.
‘At the start of the season, if someone asks which you want to win, you say the Champions League or the Premier League. Now the reality is we’re fighting for different ones.
‘It’s been a very, very hard season with many difficulties in the way. But if we win the Europa League, the FA Cup and finish in the top four it will be not bad.’
Rolling back the years: Torres scores for Atletico Madrid against Barcelona
Torres believes English football is strong and healthy. ‘English fans should be very proud of the players who come here to play and England has some very talented players,’ he said. ‘Everyone is thinking why England aren’t winning but it’s a matter of time. Don’t be worried.’
EL NINO SEASON-BY-SEASON
2012-13: 51 appearances, 18 goals
2011-12: 49 apps, 11 goals
2010-11: 18 apps, one goal
2010-11: 26 apps, 9 goals
2009-10: 32 apps, 22 goals
2008-09: 38 apps, 17 goals
2007-08: 46 apps, 33 goals
2006-07: 40 apps, 15 goals
2005-06: 40 apps, 13 goals
2004-05: 49 apps, 20 goals
2003-04: 40 apps, 21 goals
2002-03: 31 apps, 14 goals
2001-02: 37 apps, 7 goals
2000-01: Six apps, one goal
101 Caps, 31 goals
But ask him to name his favourite non-Chelsea players in the Premier League and he comes over all patriotic. He loves to watch Wayne Rooney, Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard, of course, but he has enjoyed the Spanish invasion.
‘Michu, a big surprise for Swansea,’ said Torres. ‘Santi Cazorla and Mikel Arteta for Arsenal are great and David Silva. I admire Silva for his ability. He is the best player in the Premier League.’
These Spanish players represent a family to Torres, as team-mates in an international side who have developed together, won the last two European titles and will defend their World Cup in Brazil next year.
Growing up in Madrid, he dared not dream of winning the World Cup but things have changed. Spain lead the football world with the little players no-one believed in and Torres has found that holding down a place in Vicente del Bosque’s squad is not easy. ‘When I watched the game against France in Paris, I felt this was still my team and they were still my team-mates,’ said Torres, who was not selected for last week’s World Cup qualifiers.
‘I will do everything to get back into the squad because this generation can win the World Cup in Brazil and I want to be involved.
My place in the Spain team is important to me but the first step is to do well for Chelsea. If I want to be there, I have to play well for my club. Everything is connected.’
Viva Espana: Torres scores in the Euro 2012 final (above) and celebrates his win (below). But he has not been in the Spanish squad since playing against France in October 2012
Fernando Torres was speaking as part of the new adidas ‘It’s Blue, what else matters?’ Chelsea FC campaign. For more information visit adidas.com or follow @adidasUK to join the conversation using #allincfc