Fernando Torres has returned some of the compliments the Liverpool supporters have been paying him over the course of his electric first season in the English league. Torres signed from Atletico Madrid last summer and in scoring his 24th league goal on Sunday broke himself a record. He is now the most prolific foreign player in a Premier League debut season.
He says that a big part of his success is down to the encouragement and support of the Anfield faithful: “The supporters back the players, regardless of who is out on the pitch. They enjoy watching their key players play, because Liverpool has great players, but Liverpool will always be a team.”
There were times this season when it wasn’t the case, as the discontent during a run of poor form could be heard clearly from the stands, but on the whole Liverpool fans don’t turn on their own team: “The fans get behind the side even when things are not working out, and they are always there until the death. That is the major difference with football back in Spain. If a team is not doing well, then it is because the players do not deserve to be wearing the club’s colours.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Torres went on: “At Liverpool, if a player is wearing their shirt, it is because he deserves it. The fans ask for effort and dedication, and their support is something special, something that stays with you.”
He also had some thanks for his team-mates: “I was really looking forward to coming here. It was a challenge and I knew that a lot would be expected from me. Luckily, everything has worked out well from day one, and my team-mates have helped out, and I owe them all an awful lot. I have always believed that you must give and take. Upon arriving at a new place you must want to learn and also be ready to listen to advice. At Liverpool, we all want the same. We all help one another and give our best to reach our goals. It is a very professional working environment here.”
He was asked what he missed of home: “I don’t actually miss the weather, though I do miss a little being around my friends and family, but they are nearly always over so the distance seems far less. At the end of the day, it is only two hours by plane.”
Meanwhile it’s being reported today that Liverpool will play a match against Pepe Reina’s former club Villareal at their El Madrigal ground. This game was agreed as part of the deal that brought Reina to Anfield ready for the start of the 2005-06 season and although no firm date has been set, it is expected to happen in the last week of July. Villareal just finished the season as runners-up in La Liga, earning themselves an automatic place in the Champions League.
The Reds are expected to head to Switzerland again for their pre-season training camp, with friendlies against relatively local teams likely to be arranged nearer the time. No plans are currently in place for any long-haul trips overseas as part of any pre-season promotion of the club.
After calling for action from the board to get his transfer plans moving as quickly as possible, Rafa Benitez has now suggested he may wait until the outcome of talks over a FIFA plan to limit the number of overseas players allowed on the field per team at one time. The ‘6+5’ rule is to be discussed at the FIFA Congress on May 29 and 30.
The Reds boss said, referring to two English players expected to be sold: “We know what are the rules and we will try to do things whatever happens with FIFA. Crouch and Pennant are under contract and they are our players. We are waiting now. We know they have been playing well and a lot of clubs are interested in them so we will wait and see. But they are under contract.”
Rafa isn’t a fan of the proposals: “I feel the key is for the fans to see the best players on the pitch. It is clear – in the past you would talk about a lot of local players but all the teams want to sign players and the best players come from all over the world.”
With the recent hints from Rafa that there may be a solution to the ownership situation on the horizon, some are reading this apparent decision to hold back as based on something other than the risk the FIFA proposals represent. But whether Tom Hicks, George Gillett and DIC are about to settle their differences or not, the FIFA president Sepp Blatter is sure his proposals can’t be blocked by European laws: “Contrary to what may have been said, the ‘6+5’ rule does not contravene the European Labour Law on the freedom of movement. Clubs will still be free to take on as many foreign players as they want.
“When a match kicks off however, they will have to have six players on the pitch who are eligible for the national team of the country in question. Furthermore, the ‘6+5’ rule supports another European Law, namely regarding having the broadest and fairest possible competition and restricting the concentration of finances and economic monopolies.”