Fernando Torres left Anfield a £50M traitor. He left as a player who pushed for a move to a rival club at a time when Liverpool were just trying to find their feet again after a tumultuous 18 months when the dysfunction of Tom Hicks and George Gillett’s ownership had exploded from the backrooms and into the public sphere.
Yet looking back on it five years on, Torres insists that behind the scenes, things didn’t go quite how they were presented to the outside world. Behind the scenes, the striker says, the club had discussed his sale as something best for all parties and begun negotiations with Chelsea before leaking that Torres had requested a move.
“It changed the view of everybody, including myself,” is Torres’ recollection of events in Anfield Wrap writer Simon Hughes’ new book on the club’s recent history. “It was presented as if I was a traitor. It was not like this in the discussions. Liverpool could not admit they were doing something wrong. They had to find a guilty one.”
As Torres retells it, after the turmoil of the past season and a half that had seen Liverpool fall out of the Champions League and Rafa Benitez fired and the fans’ fight against Hicks and Gillet widely publicised and, finally, new owners arrive, he was told the club wanted to rebuild. That they had a plan, but a long-term one.
That seemed to leave little room for Torres, who was 27 years of age and struggling to rediscover his old form following a string of injuries. A multi-year rebuild didn’t make sense for Torres, and keeping Torres around for that rebuild didn’t make much sense for the club, either. But that wasn’t the narrative fans were given.
“[Damien] Comolli told me that the new owners had an idea how to spend their investment,” Torres added. “They wanted to bring in young players, to build something new. I was thinking to myself: this takes time to work. It takes two, three, four, maybe 10 years. Here we are five years later and they are still trying to build.”
His departure, then, began as a conversation between the club and the player—without, according to Torres, an agent or other parties involved on his behalf—about the possibility of moving him on being in the best interest of everyone. When it was leaked that Torres had verbally requested to leave, the player felt betrayed.
Feeling that his relationship with the club had been broken beyond repair and in order to ensure the deal got done, Torres then submitted a written transfer request, confirming the traitor narrative in the eyes of many fans but helping to achieve his new priority: getting himself out of what had become a toxic situation.
In the years since, views of his departure have at least mellowed. At Steven Gerrard’s testimonial, Torres was given a warm welcome by fans and his old song was sung. If Torres’ recollection of events is the accurate one, then perhaps that’s how it should have been from the day he departed Liverpool Football Club.