Just what does Jose Mourinho think of Fernando Torres?
It seemed pretty clear-cut at StamfordBridge: Chelsea need a striker. Mourinho had no faith in his current crop of forwards - Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba - as the goal-scorers he needed to win the Premier League.
Mourinho admitted as much just weeks ago, indeed, he was surprisingly scathing in his assessment of Torres. “Some strikers are players with fantastic individual qualities and they can by themselves do what their team is not able to do,” he said. “Our strikers are not individual players with this kind of quality, this potential.”
Mourinho effectively wrote off Chelsea’s £50 million signing as a player who can’t score goals. So it will be a surprise to many Chelsea fans this week to see the manager complete an about-turn – actually, the Spaniard IS the right man to lead the line…
He said: “The strikers are the goal-scorers. If you have players in other positions, who can score an important number of goals – better. If you have a Frank Lampard – better. If you have Eden Hazard – better. But the strikers are the ones who normally score the goals. Fernando knows we are not going into the market now. In the summer, a club like Chelsea is always trying to improve and get new players, but he knows we like him and knows there is no problem.”
Mourinho seems to change his stance on Torres on a weekly basis. So what has changed? There are probably three factors: first, Mourinho was certainly in the market for a new striker, but no move has materialised. Big names have been mentioned – Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain among the most prominent – but they have remained rumours.
Mourinho has, in all likelihood, suffered from the same problem as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal. Good (available) strikers are hard to come buy in January, it is often a fruitless search, and it is better to keep your powder dry than waste money on a dud.
Secondly, Torres has shown tentative signs in recent weeks that his goal-scoring touch is returning. His strike against HullCity, clinically taken, was his eighth of the season in all competitions, and his third in his last six. Mourinho will be hoping that more will follow.
The third factor is the form of Hazard, who gets better and better for Chelsea. Not only is he capable of creating goals, but he is scoring them as well – 11 so far – and alongside Oscar the Belgian is a potent threat from midfield. That eases the pressure to find a new striker, at least until the summer, when more significant changes can be made under less pressure.
All of which is pretty good news for Torres, who despite a chronic lack of goals remains a key figure in the side.
You get the feeling however, that Mourinho remains unconvinced, and the likelihood is that Torres will still be seeking new employers come the summer, but if his manager can keep his confidence up until then, he may just get away with it.
image: © wshjackson