Torres has silenced the doubters and made scoring simple


Last updated at 21:04 20 March 2008

Fernando Torres will be the usual study of concentration when he steps out against Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

A fixed look will suggest nothing matters beyond adding to his 20 Barclays

Premier League goals and

taking Liverpool a step nearer fourth place and another Champions League mission.

Fernando Torres

On a higher plain: Torres has been superb for Liverpool in his debut season

Behind the steely exterior, though, a purely personal motive may well be jostling for position and urging him on in his efforts to dent the title aspirations of Liverpool's most bitter rivals.

Last summer, before Torres received his first call from Rafa Benitez while out walking his dogs in Madrid, United and Chelsea were both in dialogue with intermediaries about meeting Atletico Madrid's

asking price.

Atletico chief Miguel Angel Gil wanted 24 million euros up front, rising to 30 million, ideally with a player thrown in. Tempted though they were, Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho both arrived at the same conclusion. 'El Nino' had lots of attributes, but finishing wasn't one of them.

He was too erratic with the posts in his sights, and would not score enough goals, especially against Premier League defences who were not only tight but tough as teak. Both managers thought long and hard but came back with the same answer. Not interested. Not at that price.

Nine months on, both would surely conclude that for once their judgment may have been flawed after one of the most spectacular debut seasons by an overseas signing. El Nino is Spanish for The Kid, and Liverpool's £21million record buy has made scoring look child's play, even in a league reputed to be the best in the world.

The Spain striker, 24 yesterday, goes into Sunday's showdown as Liverpool's first 20-goal marksman in the League since Robbie Fowler 12 years ago. He is a genuine contender for the Golden Boot after moving into fourth place behind Ajax's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (28 League goals), United's Cristiano Ronaldo (27) and Sevilla's Luis Fabiano (22).

He is in his element at Anfield, thriving on the service from midfield and the flanks and revelling in Rafa Benitez's recent decision to move Steven Gerrard forward into a new, advanced role. If Benitez deserves credit for his perception, though, Torres can be as thankful for his persistence.

Torres recalled how the Liverpool manager stepped in while others held back and revealed how he almost jeopardised his dream move by ignoring his fellow Spaniard's initial call. The striker also provided an insight into his recent prolific form by admitting it was down to escaping the shackles of carrying his home club on his own.

"We had been among the European places all last season but lost out on the final day," he said. "I was so wrapped up in what had happened, I almost missed the chance to speak to Rafa. I just wanted to get away from it all and I remember taking my dogs for a long walk near home.

"While we were out my mobile rang and I saw it was a foreign number. I was still lost in my thoughts and had no interest in finding out who it was. It rang again the next day and I answered this time. When I heard Rafa's voice and what he was saying, I froze. I had no inkling he wanted to speak to me and it turned out it was his call I had ignored.

"He wasted no time explaining his plans and ideas. I

listened intently and quickly decided it was not just any offer. It was an opportunity to join a great club with a great tradition and it was too good to miss. I told him he should speak to Miguel Angel Gil but added that if it was fine by the clubs it was fine by me.

"Atleti had always been my life, but the time was right. Joining Liverpool was not just a privilege, it was a relief. The last few years at Atleti were difficult. I might not have felt it at the time because I was so preoccupied with trying to drive them on to better things but there was pressure. Plenty, when I think back.

"At Liverpool the pressure is shared by a lot of players, not heaped on one. We have lost so few games, too. Here you grow used to winning. It becomes second nature and I had forgotten what that felt like."

Ferguson may have had his doubts but Torres could claim he has always had an eye for an opening, after hurling his parents' savings through one at just two years old.

Looking back on his childhood days in a working-class suburb of Madrid and reflecting on how they helped shape his future, he said: "For some reason, I had a habit of throwing things out of the window at home," he said. "It was just unfortunate that one day I grabbed hold of a model truck my parents had been using as a money box. It was full of cash but out it went. No-one realised until much later and by then it had gone. They weren't too pleased at the time but it has become one of their favourite anecdotes.

"I was six when I first started kicking a ball around. My brother used to take me out on to the street and I would always be in goal. One day, a shot smacked me in the mouth and knocked a couple of teeth out. It was a great save but as I looked at them on the ground, I thought: 'That's it'. From then on I was only interested in scoring goals rather than stopping them.

"My grandad talked about nothing but Atleti and playing for them was always the

ultimate aim. I grew up as a fan, so I lived the dream there. But all my attention is on

Liverpool now. I have already met Kenny Dalglish and

Robbie Fowler and heard them explain what the club means to everyone here.

Trying to follow in their footsteps is a beautiful and emotional challenge for me."

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