No trophies in 11 seasons at Atleti: Torres’ final fantasy
Fernando Torres’ love story with Atletico Madrid is reaching its end. The Spanish forward is preparing to walk away in the summer, having won an array of prizes in his career, but no major honours with the club closest to his heart.
A World Cup winner and two-time European champion with Spain, Torres also claimed the Champions League, the Europa League and an FA Cup during his time with Chelsea. In two spells at Atleti, however, the top trophies have evaded him.
He has won one piece of silverware for the Rojiblancos, having helped the team win promotion back to La Liga after shock relegation in 2000. Torres made his debut in Spain’s Segunda Division and, in his second season, the capital club won the second-tier title.
“Torres already has a trophy with Atletico Madrid,” club president Enrique Cerezo said recently when asked about the possibility of the striker signing off with some silverware in the Europa League final, in which the Rojiblancos meet Marseille on Wednesday. “He helped us win the Segunda Division and that was an important title for the club.”
However, for a player of the calibre of El Niño, an Atletico legend, a second-rate honour is not really reward enough.
After Atleti gained promotion in 2002, Torres was the top scorer for the next five seasons at the Vicente Calderon. Two seventh-placed finishes in La Liga were the pick of those campaigns, however, along with a couple of semi-final appearances in the Copa del Rey. At that time, Atletico were one of Spain’s biggest clubs, but still recovering from their spell in Segunda. There were constant coaching changes, plus a string of sub-standard signings. Torres, a local lad who had emerged through the youth system, was a shining light.
Even he grew frustrated, though, and after a 6-0 defeat at home to Barcelona in 2006-07, the striker decided that it was time to move on. In the summer of 2007, he joined Liverpool for a fee of around €28 million, with Luis Garcia going the other way. But the fans never forgot him and when he came back in 2015, it was a big deal. The prodigal son had returned and more than 45,000 fans flocked to the Calderon for his unveiling as an Atletico player for the second time around.
“When I left, I won the trophies I was looking for,” he said upon his return. “But I was always missing something – winning them here. I still want to win many things and I hope to achieve that here.”
It looked like he would have a good chance. After all, Diego Simeone had led Atletico to five trophies between 2012 and 2014, revitalising the club’s fortunes after two decades of under-achievement on the pitch. Torres and Atleti came close as they lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League final on penalties in 2016, the former Spain striker having been at Chelsea when the Rojiblancos missed out against their city rivals in the 2014 showpiece.
“Torres has won the Champions League and we would like him to show us what it’s about,” Simeone said later in 2016. But that campaign ended in semi-final defeat to Los Blancos and this season, Atletico dropped down to the Europa League after finishing third in their group.
That was a huge disappointment, but now it is an opportunity as they have progressed to the final of the Europa League. “Fernando is the most successful player in club history at the moment and that title would be the icing on the cake,” Simeone said last month of his former team-mate. And at the media open day at Atletico ahead of the final last Wednesday, Torres said: “Winning a trophy at home is what I have always dreamed of. It would be a perfect ending.” A fairytale ending, even.