Looking back, 2009 was a strange time – a better time, some might say.
Barack Obama had just taken office as the 44th President of the United States on the back of a campaign underlined by hope, Pep Guardiola was ending his first season in charge of Barcelona having won the treble at the first time of asking, and Liverpool forward Fernando Torres was in the conversation for being the best striker on the planet.
How times have changed.
Back then, the Premier League was coming towards the end of its first real period of dominance, with the quality of football in Spain fast becoming the highest standard.
Liverpool, fighting for a title under Rafa Benitez, ended the season second to Manchester United, and exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stage against Chelsea in a 7-5 aggregate thriller.
As was often the case, Steven Gerrard finished the season their top scorer, with Jamie Carragher, reliable as ever, having contributed with the most appearances.
Leaving the club as he did in the January of 2011 under a cloud, the lack of fondness with which Torres is remembered at Anfield has spread to the collective conscious.
The magnitude of his subsequent failure at Chelsea only amplified that sentiment, and the player Torres was in his time at Liverpool hasn’t so much been forgotten as airbrushed over.
If this were Seinfeld, his career story might sound something like: “He was brilliant for Atletico and Spain before going to Liverpool and yada yada yada, he failed at Chelsea and now he’s back where he started”.
In truth, Torres scored 65 goals in 102 Liverpool appearances, which is a significantly better return than one-in-two. What’s more, it’s a better scoring ratio than Ian Rush, Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler, Kenny Dalglish, Michael Owen and even Luis Suarez.
It’s why it hurt Liverpool fans so much when Torres helped force through a move to Chelsea for £50million in the middle of a season.
Torres played for Chelsea on 70 more occasions than he did for Liverpool yet scored 20 less goals. In fact, at the time of writing this in February 2017, factoring in the single goal he scored for Milan in 10 games on loan and the 22 he’s added since in 84 Atletico appearances, he’s only three above his Liverpool total, having played in 164 more games than he ever did on Merseyside – that’s how good he was at that time.
This goal then, back in 2009 – the age of Single Ladies by Beyonce, the death of Michael Jackson and Avatar – is the perfect illustration of everything Fernando Torres was at his very best.
It’s April 11, the title race is going down to the wire and Liverpool have won four games straight, with Blackburn visiting Anfield hoping to hand Benitez only his third league defeat of the season – they didn’t.
During the routine 4-0 home win, the ball it’s pitched down the right-hand channel towards Torres, who’s made a diagonal run between two Blackburn defenders, who look fairly happy to have ushered him so wide away from goal.
Taking the ball down with his chest, Torres is facing away from goal with two defenders on his shoulder and no immediate support.
Rather than hold the ball up, he allows it to bounce while he swivels on one foot, hitting a blind volley back across himself, beating the goalkeeper to his far corner.
He’s only taken two touches since being played in – once to control and another to shoot – and he hasn’t looked up toward goal once.
We all remember the shaven haired, brunette Fernando Torres that sulked around Stamford Bridge with the first touch of a trampoline and the eye for goal of Stevie Wonder, but this is the version that should be immortalised.
Flowing dyed bleach blonde hair, the classic collaboration of Liverpool red and Adidas design, the frightening speed, accuracy and confidence that made him a fantasy team legend – this is the type of goal that should make Gary Neville moan like male talent in an adult film, not some walk in against Barcelona that he’s only scored because he’s too knackered to get back and defend.
Liverpool didn’t lose again that season, winning five of their last six matches but ultimately finishing four points shy of eventual champions Manchester United, who’d managed to win more matches than they’d drawn, which was what ultimately did for Rafa Benitez and his men.
An almost season, spearheaded by an almost legend, one can’t help but wonder where Liverpool would be now had they not drawn against the likes of Stoke and Fulham at home, which would’ve been enough to hand them the title on goal difference.
Liverpool are often mocked for being a club with one foot stuck in the past, but on this occasion, you could hardly blame them.
By Raj Bains