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Will Tidey - El Nino terminado? Fernando Torres on trial

Published: 16 Sep 2010 - 06:58:37

For all their exposure to stadium crowds and huge television audiences, Premier League footballers remain a sheltered and insulated bunch.

Behind the scenes egos are rigorously massaged, and everything within reason done to ensure these millionaire superstars have very little to worry about aside from how they'll spend last week's wages.

This cotton-wool culture negates much of the negativity we perceive from a media perspective - and cocoons footballers in a world where everybody loves them and they can do wrong.

For Fernando Torres Liverpool football club have played the role of doting parents in recent months. The psychological blow of a woeful World Cup, from a personal performance perspective, has been countered by a summer of affirmation at Anfield, and an outpouring of love from the fans who adore him.

Liverpool begged him to stay. Roy Hodgson begged him to stay. And so it was.

But is it fair to suggest the Spaniard's failings in South Africa played a role in his decision? Let's be honest, if you're low on confidence is the pressure of justifying a massive transfer fee really a sensible responsibility to take on?

Equally, would Liverpool have got full value from Torres after a widely-acknowledged dip in his share price?

Whatever the context behind El Nino's decision, the 26-year-old has done little to silence the critics this season. A winning goal against West Brom made a statistical impact, but belied the underlying problem.

Torres, on the evidence of what we've seen, appears to have lost all confidence in his abilities. The striker has returned from knee surgery and left the best parts of his game on the operating table.

It's as if the real Torres is locked away in a basement somewhere and a League Two look-a-like has taken his place. That's the problem with being a sensational footballer - if your standards drop everybody notices.

What happens next will depend largely on how Torres copes with the very public battering of his form, and reacts to the notion of the very same manager who begged him stay having to justify his place in the team.

If Torres continues to misfire Hodgson will be faced with a serious dilemma. Leave him out and risk further damage to his confidence, or trust him and risk missed points in an unforgiving league.

Based on the medical expertise available to footballers these days, you have to assume Torres is physically ready. But perhaps the injury that curtailed his season last year left a lasting legacy on his confidence.

For Liverpool's sake, let's hope El Nino gets back in the goals quickly. And what better stage than Old Trafford to make a point.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:Will Tidey
Will Tidey writes on sport for CNN, Eurosport-Yahoo! and Bleacher Report, amongst others. His first book, 'Life with Sir Alex', an account of Sir Alex Ferguson's 25-year reign at Manchester United, is set for release in October this year. Pre-order it now at http://tinyurl.com/6xzl62b. And follow Will on Twitter here - www.twitter.com/willtidey

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