Fernando Torres turned 35 today, so, naturally, I spent all day reading stories about El Niño and his career. That got me thinking – I consider Torres to be a legend and I’m born in 1999, so I never got to see players like Shearer, Fowler and even Raúl, despite him playing professionally until 2015, in their prime – these three are clearly Millennial legends, but who are their Generation Z equivalents?
The three I could think of? David Villa, Robert Lewandowski and obviously Fernando Torres.
Shearer, Fowler and Raúl weren’t on the level of R9 Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Zidane, the same way Lewandowski, Villa and Torres were never *really* on the level of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – so I think picking these three is quite accurate.
Lewandowski was my ‘first love’, I support Liverpool because of Torres (and Gerrard) and David Villa was at the peak of his powers around the same time.
I remember watching the 2006 World Cup as a 6-year old with one of my football-loving relatives, but apart from the German national team, I did not have a team to support. Later, my grandfather – who doesn’t love football as much – got me into following local 2nd/3rd division yo-yo club Dynamo Dresden, but I never felt connected to that team, especially not these days (*cough* hardcore right-wing fans *cough*).
Then in 10/11, Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund burst onto the scene, capturing the hearts of millions in Germany and around the world, mine included. High-pressing, highly energetic, nay frantic, football, a likeable manager, who was willing to promote youth and success on the pitch made BVB one of the hottest commodities in all of football.
One of Jürgen’s youngsters was a 21-year old Polish striker from Lech Poznan. This youngster had already won the Polish league, the Cup, the Supercup and the Golden Boot. I’m obviously talking about Robert Lewandowski.
Despite Dortmund dethroning Bayern, the Pole somewhat struggled during his first season, ‘only’ scoring 8 times in the Bundesliga and never really cementing a starting place ahead of 16-goal striker Lucas Barrios. To put his ‘struggles’ into perspective, Lewandowski scored as many Bundesliga goals as Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Großkreutz, 2 more than Nuri Sahin and 18-year old Mario Götze and 3 more than defender Mats Hummels.
The following season, Lewa nearly tripled his Bundesliga goals, scoring 22 league goals and helping Dortmund to a historic double. In 12/13, he scored 24 Bundesliga goals and his 10 Champions League strikes inspired Dortmund to reach the final of the competition.
Another 20-goal season followed and then he made the incredibly controversial free-transfer move to Bayern Munich and that’s kind of where I stopped paying attention to Robert Lewandowski, but he didn’t stop producing numbers. He has scored a stunning 181 goals in his 231 appearances for the Bavarians and he’s won countless trophies along the way.
Let’s go back to 2010. David Villa had just made the switch from Valencia to Barcelona, coming off a 28-goal season for the Bats and a World Cup win with Spain. I feel as though Villa was never really appreciated at Barca, perhaps because he only managed to score 48 goals in 119 appearances or maybe because he was overshadowed by the likes of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi. Eventually, he made the switch to Atletico Madrid, where he scored 15 times in 47 games.
I always loved David Villa and I was absolutely over the moon when it was announced that he would join 2015 MLS expansion side New York City FC and rightly so. Boy, did he prove his worth in Major League Soccer.
Yes, one could say that MLS defenders and goalkeepers are not as good as they are in Europe, but that doesn’t change the fact that here we had a man in his mid-thirties, who isn’t a physical specimen like Zlatan or Ronaldo, absolutely annihilating defences. After the 2018 season, Villa announced that he would leave NYCFC. Four years, 126 games and 80 (EIGHTY) goals after arriving in the US, Villa left as an absolute legend and one of the best to ever play in MLS.
Now, at 37 years old, David Villa is plying his trade in Kobe, Japan. We’re only four games into the J-League season and he has already scored twice for his new team. There is one problem though and it’s the one thing that could always be used as a stick to beat Villa with. Was he ever good enough? A Valencia legend, a Euros and World Cup winner, he played for Barcelona and Atletico, with whom he won La Liga – but will he ever get the appreciation and recognition of someone like his Vissel Kobe teammate Andres Iniesta? I don’t think so.
As I said, I think he was criminally underappreciated at Barcelona, then he played for NYCFC and besides winning the MLS MVP Award, he never won anything with them. Now he’s playing for Vissel Kobe, a team which, despite having a ton of talent, has never won a single trophy. And I won’t even mention his loan spell at Melbourne City, mainly because I wrote about it here (cheeky plug).
Now that we’ve covered Lewandowski’s betrayal and David Villa’s East Asian adventure, let’s finish this thing with the guy that has experienced both – Fernando Torres.
Torres, who captained his boyhood club Atletico at the tender age of 19, left the Estadio Vicente Calderon in 2007 to join Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool, who came off a Champions League final loss to AC Milan.
El Niño was an instant success, scoring 33 goals in his debut campaign and forming a frightening partnership with Steven Gerrard – one that can only be rivalled by Gerrard’s partnership with Luis Suarez. During his three-and-a-half years in Liverpool, Torres racked up an incredible 81 goals in 142 games.
Gerrard himself said that the key to Torres’ success was confidence, so when Torres left Anfield to join bitter rivals Chelsea in January 2011, that confidence was shattered and never rebuilt in his time down south. An unsuccessful loan spell at AC Milan, who themselves weren’t what they used to be, followed and he soon rejoined his boyhood club Atletico. But he was now on the wrong side of 30 and mostly used an impact sub for Diego Simeone’s side.
I think his second spell at Atletico could be seen as a success, considering his age and the level of Atleti, but nevertheless, El Niño was a shadow of his former self. So in 2018, he left Atletico again to join J-League side Sagan Tosu – one of the worst teams in the league.
I don’t think playing alongside Victor Ibarbo in Japan was what a 10-year old Fernando Torres was dreaming of back in the day, so you can’t help but feel for a guy, who had the potential to become one of the best ever. Injuries, betrayal, money and a lack of confidence were Fernando Torres’ downfall and it is really sad to see him struggle in Japan. So far he has scored 4 goals in 24 games for Tosu and his team have lost 3 of their first four games of the 2019 season.
What have we learned today? Don’t join Chelsea if your name is Fernando Torres.
Looking back on Torres’ career has made me sad, so I’m going to end this here. Do you agree with my three picks for Generation Z equivalents of Fowler, Raúl and Shearer? Let me know.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FERNANDO TORRES
love you x