You’ve all probably seen the film, either when you were young or watching it with your kids. You know the one. It’s about the little elephant with the big ears – “Dumbo.” The plot is that he’s an elephant that can fly but he doesn’t have any confidence, so some clever crows trick him into believing that if he holds this ‘magic feather’ as he jumps, he will fly. You know what – it works! Of course, the moral is that he could fly all the time really, but just didn’t believe in himself. The feather actually wasn’t magic. All the magic was already inside Dumbo. He just needed a placebo to convince himself that all would be fine and his abilities would shine through.
Now, I don’t know if there’s a Spanish version of the story or whether it was just a translated film that Rafa Benitez has seen, but could it be that the Chelsea manager has worked a similar oracle on goal-shy striker Fernando Torres. You can imagine the conversation between Benitez and his coaches. “Look guys, we’ve tried everything else. Fact! I’ve got an idea……” Well, perhaps something along those lines anyway.
Here was a guy with barely two goals to his name in the calendar year to date, relegated to playing second fiddle to Demba Ba in any big game, looking more and more forlorn as the season wore on. Suddenly we hear that Torres has broken his nose, and the next time he rocks up on the pitch, he looks like a duck doing a poor impersonation of Batman in The Dark Knight Rises. It’s not cool. It’s not elegant, but neither is carrying a feather with your trunk, I guess.
Suddenly, it’s like turning the clock back a few years, and putting him in a Liverpool shirt. In the game against Southampton – a generally poor performance, the Spaniard was one of the few bright lights. Coming on for a few minutes against Manchester United was fairly irrelevant, but against Rubin Kazan, Torres looked confident, purposeful and potent. He scored two goals and led he line in the grand manner. Now, I can’t say for sure that it was the face wear that did the trick, but if the mask fits…
There is of course another possible explanation for the coincidence between donning the mask and the upward surge in form for the guy in the number nine shirt. Perhaps it was just a ruse to get someone else to play with the mask and Torres’s shirt on. Chelsea had brought in a ringer, and played him whilst hiding the Spaniard in a laundry basket – I heard that’s been tried before with someone else from the Iberian peninsula. OK, I guess that’s a little outlandish, but is it more outlandish than the ‘magic feather’ theory? Perhaps, but what’s certainly just as difficult to believe is that suddenly Torres has lost his feet of clay, and shed his cement overcoat, to be the player he once was. Hmmm. As they used to say at the end of episodes of “the Lone Ranger,” who was that masked man?