The 2003-04 season had ground to a halt on Merseyside, as Houllier’s Liverpool breathed its last monotonous, mediocre breath. Unaware that an inspired Spanish successor would lead the club to the European crown twelve months later, I headed south for the final weekend of the French/Spanish leagues: Bordeaux V Togel Hongkong Monaco preceded by Athletic Bilbao V Atletico Madrid.
Monaco were European Cup finalists four days later, but the memory of that weekend is dominated by the performance of one man: Fernando Torres. Unfazed by the prospect of playing away from home, the 20-year-old captain won the game on his own, scoring all three Atletico goals.
When Fernando Torres signed for Liverpool three years later, memories of that Basque evening basking in the brilliance of El Nino came flooding back. A substantial fee was justified by an even more substantial return. £24m Torres went on to score 65 goals in 102 games for Liverpool.
Output aside, the cultural assimilation of Liverpool’s number nine was a process that began even before his famous signature graced a Liverpool contract. Rumours began to circulate about the club’s motto appearing on his armband in his final days at Madrid. This is Torres’ autobiographical account: “It happened in San Sebastian when I was playing for Atletico Madrid against Real Sociedad. I was battling with a defender, and the captain’s armband I was wearing came loose and fell open. As it hung from my arm, you could see the message written on the inside, in English.”
The resultant song in celebration of an overnight Liverpool hero almost wrote itself: “His armband proved he was a red, Torres, Torres. ‘You’ll never walk alone’ it said, Torres, Torres. We bought the lad from sunny Spain, he gets the ball he scores …